Williams: THE FIRST CHRISTMAS — A Poem

Gerard van Honthorst/Wikimedia Commons
Gerard van Honthorst/Wikimedia Commons

Long, long ago in a land we call holy,

Was born a great king in a manner most lowly.

The King’s name was Jesus, his mother was Mary,

To neighbors and friends it seemed quite ordinary.

 

But this birth was different, it had been foretold,

By sages and prophets and seers of old.

A virgin would bring forth a child, said Isaiah,

Out of Egypt the boy would emerge, wrote Hosea.

 

And thus did an angel to Mary proclaim,

“Hail to thee, full of grace, and blest be thy name!”

A maid was this Mary, no more than sixteen,

And puzzled by what such a greeting could mean.

 

The angel continued revealing God’s plan,

She would be a mother while knowing no man.

“The power of God will enfold you, fair one,

And thus your sweet child will be known as God’s Son.”

 

And Mary replied to the message she heard,

“Be it done unto me as announced by your word.”

“I am but the handmaid of God,” she confessed,

“Yet all generations will hence call me blest.”

 

Now Caesar had called for a census from Rome

And all were required to return to their home.

So Joseph took Mary, betrothed and with child,

To Bethlehem town to be properly filed.

 

Arriving at last Joseph learned with chagrin,

There was for his family no room at the inn.

The only choice now was to lodge in a stable,

And take care of Mary as best he was able.

 

So Jesus the savior was born in such straits,

With no trumpet fare or festoons on the gates.

Swaddled in blankets and laid in a manger,

The Christ child came unto his own as a stranger.

 

Yet shepherds nearby who were tending their herds,

Were greeted with splendor and angelic words.

“Fear not,” spoke the host, “we bear news of great joy,”

“The Lord, mighty God, has become a small boy.”

 

The herdsmen went down and found Christ with his mother.

And smiled and rejoiced and embraced one another.

“He came down to save us,” they said with delight,

“And all future peoples will speak of this night.”

 

Both awed and amazed they returned to their flocks,

After nodding farewell to the ass and the ox.

To all on their path they proclaimed the great news

In Bethlehem town’s born the king of the Jews.

 

And then from the East came three men pure and wise,

They’d seen his star’s birth as they scoured the skies.

Bearing gold, myrrh, and incense, before him they bowed,

An act of the humble quite unknown to the proud.

 

As princes and powers in ignorance slept,

In her heart the young Virgin these mysteries kept.

For on that still night the world shifted course,

A babe in a manger its unlikely source.

 

The first Christmas, you see, was a simple affair,

With no rockets red or bombs bursting in air.

No Santa, no holly, and no Christmas tree,

It happened in silence, with few there to see.

 

Yet nothing thenceforth has been quite the same,

No redemption, no heaven, apart from that name.

So this is the reason we wish well and right,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

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