I posted this poem on Christmas day last year, but since I only have four Christmas/Advent hymns, I’m posting this again. Plus, more people are reading the blog now than last year at this time.
The Voice that Called
The voice that called to unformed light, commanding it to be,
The wisdom that for ages planned creation’s destiny,
The might that holds the earth in place, suspended in the sky,
How can they be the essence of this helpless infant’s cry?
The hand that molded every star and guides it on its way
Clings, helpless, to his mother at the start of newborn day.
This ordinary moment all of history transforms,
Molds terror into beauty, and brings peace to all life’s storms.
For in the darkened void of sin, the shadowed land of death,
To You, who into us breathed life, we cry with every breath.
For even in Time’s darkest hour, when life seems ruled by wrong,
The light of life, the word of hope, has given us a song.
The child who chose his birth into a world of toil and pain,
Who gave up heavenly garlands for this body’s choking chain,
Lies crying in a manger as the answer to our cries,
As angels sing the infant’s might and fill the star-flecked skies.
I really love talking about the theology of Christmas. The idea of the all-powerful God becoming a human, with all the weakness and suffering that entails, is amazing to me. The main theme of this poem is Jesus was God, and therefore all-powerful, but was also human, and therefore as helpless as any other newborn baby. One common feature in most of my hymns is paradox – I love writing about things about God that don’t seem to fit together but are true. I think the Incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas, is one of the greatest paradoxes.
Whenever I read the third verse, I remember the experience of writing it. The words came more and more quickly, in an almost frenzied rush, and to me it still reads that way. I think that’s because my emotions played a larger role in writing that verse. I’ve struggled with depression for several years, so the experience of crying out desperately to God is quite familiar to me. The first line also alludes to Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”
I think the last verse speaks for itself, marveling in Christ’s love that chose to deal with all the struggles of a human life. It points out that God chose to answer our struggles by sharing in them, and returns to the paradox of Christ’s power and weakness (the infant’s might).