“Mary’s Song” by Luci Shaw

Mary’s Song
By Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

–Luci Shaw, “Mary’s Song,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 29.

“The Psalter” by Martin Luther

“The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book, if for no other reason than this: it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly—and pictures His kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom—that it might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible.

In fact, I have a notion that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble Himself to compile a short Bible and book of examples of all Christendom or all saints, so that anyone who could not read the whole Bible would here have anyway almost an entire summary of it, comprised in one little book…

A human heart is like a ship on a wild sea, driven by the storm winds from the four corners of the world. Here it is stuck with fear and worry about impending disaster; there comes grief and sadness because of present evil. Here breathes a breeze of hope and of anticipated happiness; there blows security and joy in present blessings.

These storm winds teach us to speak with earnestness, to open the heart and pour out what lies at the bottom of it. He who is stuck in fear and need speaks of misfortune quite differently from him who floats on joy; and he who floats on joy speaks and sings of joy quite differently from him who is stuck in fear. When a sad man laughs or a glad man weeps, they say, he does not do so from the heart; that is, the depths of the heart are not open, and what is in them does not come out.

What is the greatest thing in the Psalter but this earnest speaking amid these storm winds of every kind? Where does one find finer words of joy than in the psalms of praise and thanksgiving?

There you look into the hearts of all the saints, as into fair and pleasant gardens, yes, as into heaven itself. There you see what fine and pleasant flowers of the heart spring up from all sorts of fair and happy thoughts toward God, because of his blessings.

On the other hand, where do you find deeper, more sorrowful, more pitiful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation? There again you look into the hearts of all the saints, as into death, yes, as into hell itself.

How gloomy and dark it is there, with all kinds of troubled forebodings about the wrath of God! So, too, when they speak of fear and hope, they use such words that no painter could so depict for you fear or hope, and no other orator so portray them.

And that they speak these words to God and with God, this, I repeat, is the best thing of all. This gives the words double earnestness and life. For when men speak with men about these matters, what they say does not come so powerfully from the heart; it does not burn and live, is not so urgent.

Hence it is that the Psalter is the book of all saints; and everyone, in whatever situation he may be, finds in that situation psalms and words that fit his ease, that suit him as if they were put there just for his sake, so that he could not put it better himself, or find or wish for anything better.

This also serves well another purpose. When these words please a man and fit his case, he becomes sure that he is in the communion of saints, and that it has gone with all the saints as it goes with him, since they all sing with him one little song. It is especially so if he can speak these words to God, as they have done; this can only be done in faith.

There is in the Psalter security and a well-tried guide, so that in it one can follow all the saints without peril… For it teaches you in joy, fear, hope, and sorrow to think and speak as all the saints have thought and spoken.

In a word, if you would see the holy Christian Church painted in living color and shape, comprehended in one little picture, then take up the Psalter. There you have a fine, bright, pure mirror that will show you what Christendom is…

To this may God the Father of all grace and mercy help us, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be praise and thanks, honor and glory, for this German Psalter and for all his innumerable and unspeakable blessings to all eternity. Amen, Amen.”

–Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 35; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 254–257.

“Perseverance” by George Herbert

My God, the poor expressions of my Love
Which warm these lines, and serve them up to Thee
Are so, as for the present I did move,
Or rather as Thou movedst me.

But what shall issue, whether these my words
Shall help another, but my judgement be;
As a burst fowling-piece doth save the birds
But kill the man, is sealed with Thee.

For who can tell, though Thou has died to win
And wed my soul in glorious paradise;
Whether my many crimes and use of sin
May yet forbid the banes and bliss.

Only my soul hangs on Thy promises
With face and hands clinging unto Thy breast,
Clinging and crying, crying without cease,
Thou art my rock, Thou art my rest.

–George Herbert, “Perseverance,” in Complete English Poems (London: Penguin, 1991/2004), 192-193.

“Mary’s Song” by Luci Shaw

Mary’s Song
By Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest…
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by doves’ voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

–Luci Shaw, “Mary’s Song,” in Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 29.

“Love” by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert, “Love” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 253.

“The God of love my sherpherd is” by George Herbert

The God of love my shepherd is,
And He that doth me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass;
In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He doth convert
And bring my mind in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear:
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
To guide, Thy staff to bear.

Nay, Thou dost make me sit and dine,
Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oil, my cup with wine
Runs over day and night.

Surely Thy sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.

–George Herbert, from “The 23rd Psalm” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 226.

“Jesus held by the wood” by Mark Dever

“Delivered and delivering.

Jesus held by the wood.

Witnesses on either side.

Mary stood waiting,

quietly gazing,

with great feeling,

on her Son.

The sky dark above.

As at the beginning,

so at the end.

Jesus held by the wood,

delivered and delivering.

Jesus held by the wood.

The scene of Christmas and of Calvary.

Of the cradle and the cross.”

–Mark Dever, The Christmas Thingamabob (Leyland, England: 10Publishing, 2013), 26.

“In the Holy Nativity of our Lord” by Richard Crashaw

“Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span;
Summer in winter; day in night;
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.”

–Richard Crashaw, “In the Holy Nativity of our Lord,” in The English Poems of Richard Crashaw (London: Methuen & Co., 1652/1901), 54.

“Oh that I knew” by George Herbert

“Oh that I knew how all thy lights combine,
And the configurations of their glory!
Seeing not only how each verse doth shine,
But all the constellations of the story.”

–George Herbert, from “The H. Scriptures II” in Herbert: Poems (Everyman Library) (New York: Knopf, 2004), 49.

Lord’s Day Hymn – “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree”

“Jesus Christ the Apple Tree”
By Anonymous

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green.
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green.
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell.
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell.
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought.
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile.
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile.
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.