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Advent Twist

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple . . . But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire. . .” Malachi 3:1-2

Can you hear him?
God is coming!
Great and terrible the day!

Don’t go near him!
Sin’s succumbing,
Death’s the price we have to pay.

Judgement, wrath, at
his appearing,
Purgative refiner’s fire.

We, like sheep that
God is shearing,
Burned upon an altar pyre.

Trumpets calling,
Nations shaking,
Fallout from God’s broken law.

Stars are falling,
Earth is quaking,
Be prepared for shock and awe.

Wrath expected,
But instead of
Doom we see what God’s plans are.

Unexpected,
In the dead of
Night there shines a natal star.

Can you hear him?
God is coming,
As a child born in a stall.

Do not fear him,
Heaven’s humming
Hymns of “Peace, goodwill to all.”

Incarnation.
Divine starkness,
Succor for our heart’s caprice.

God’s Salvation.
Light in darkness;
Christ is born, the Prince of Peace.

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James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.


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19 Responses

  1. Brian Yapko

    This is very beautiful and meaningful. A perfect way to observe Advent and a perfect way to start an early Sunday. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Peter Hartley

    James – I found myself singing the bass part from Handel’s “Messiah” to myself while reading your introductory bit in italics. An extremely difficult rhyme scheme admirably well handled and, as Brian says, the theme is most timely.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thanks, Peter. The first three-lined stanza popped into my head and the rest followed, albeit less spontaneously!

      Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    Mr Tweedie, this is crying out for a melody to create a super 3 verse hymn for this special time. By the way, we have a new Omricon advent calendar this year. You close a window each day until Christmas is cancelled.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Jeff, Lol-don’t let the Grinch steal your roast beast! In any case, even if “they” did cancel Christmas, “they” can’t cancel Jesus—at least not forever!

      Reply
  4. Norma Okun

    Mr. Tweedie these lines have urgency and calm.

    Unexpected,
    In the dead of
    Night there shines a natal star.

    Like the poem very much.

    Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    James, this is an Advent carol with its own special view of the traditional three “comings.” There is the past, one-time coming of Christ to Bethlehem, the future coming in judgment that will also happen only once, and the best of the three, the coming to the heart of each believer that can be repeated every time this lovely season occurs. You keep the last in the background of this poem, but maybe it is why God gave you a three-line stanza to work with!

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Margaret, thank you for addressing the deeper salvific side of this poem. The twist, of course, is that the “great and terrible day of the Lord” with its final judgment was expected first but Jesus came instead, bringing the good news of God’s saving love. We now await his second advent and, of course, “where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

      Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    It depends, James, I suppose, on how much one feels attuned to the Good News that determines how well one can bear the beating and the shearing and the quaking and all of that. Reading this poem is, in a sense, a test. Once you have read it, you will know where you stand.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      C.B. This poem and it’s author stand for a loving God who takes the Sin of the world upon himself and opens the doors of the kingdom of heaven to all want to be a part of it. As I see it, Hell is reserved for people who do not want to be in Heaven. God does not force salvation or forgiveness on anyone. It is offered as a gift. It makes no sense to think that those who don’t want it in this life would want to have it in the next. Those who yearn for and seek to live out the love, hope, and peace of God in this life are promised it in full in the next.

      Those who don’t choose or desire this way of life are given what they want—a life where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. In other words, Hell. These two types of people are the sheep and goats Jesus refers to. I am inclined to be a sheep. Which are you inclined to be? As Jesus put it, what a person seeks is what they will find. To which I add that a person shouldn’t blame God if they get what they want.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Very well put, James, but are sheep and goats the only possibilities, or might one be inclined to be, say, a wolf or a lion?

  7. James A. Tweedie

    LOL C. B. Wolves or lions would change the metaphor. I suppose that some goats may be more wolf-like than others, and perhaps prey on the other goats (elsewhere Jesus refers to wolves in sheep’s clothing–witch is yet another metaphor, in this case for predatory/false believers.) Jesus used animals frequently in his teaching and people didn’t seem to be overly confused by it.

    Curiously, Jesus never mentions lions at all, perhaps because they were already extinct in Israel at that time. He does mention wolves, however, so perhaps they were still prowling about.

    Reply
  8. Yael

    Very suspenseful in its brevity, I love it. It reads like a believer’s journey through the old into the new covenant, or a tour through death and the penalty of the Law, into the realization that God is love and wants us alive and not dead.
    The format is really nice too. The stanzas of three lines each remind me of God the Father, God the Son, and their Holy Spirit, and having 12 stanzas is pregnant with biblical meaning. Thank you for this enjoyable read.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Yael, and may the season of our Savior’s birth bring you blessings upon blessings.

      Reply
  9. David Watt

    James, the three line stanza form of this poem
    admirably suits the message imparted. Given this match up, I was interested to read that the first stanza just came to you, and the rest followed. Thank you for this timely piece.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      David, Thank you for your comment. It always amazes me how magical words are in the way that they communicate thoughts and feelings of the most profound and complex matters across vast distances without the need for them to be spoken.

      May I add that I enjoyed having the opportunity to see you and hear you read during our SCP gathering on Sunday. The follow-up question and discussion on how a poem comes into being and what form it takes was most interesting to me. Bush poetry, for example, as popularized by Patterson et al is a good example of a cultural default form that you have known since childhood–one that come naturally to you. Once begun, the form structures the poem the way a frame sets the boundaries for a painting or a minuet limits the composition to a 3/4 meter.

      Personally, I find being in a rut to be boring and am always trying new things (as with this poem). Because of this I do not always excel or master any one form (as McKenzie does with the sonnet and you with the bush forms) but who knows, maybe I’ll try a bush poem, myself, one of these days!

      The day was hot and dusty as I followed on the track,
      And the ute was worn and rusty from its years in the outback . . .

      All the best and a Merry Christmas season to you and yours.

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    James, I am glad you enjoyed my reading. It was both pleasing and impressive to see you attend our SCP gathering, despite being on the road.

    It was fascinating to gain an insight into how individual poets come to create a new piece. For my part, I didn’t get around to saying that I take inspiration from famous pieces of poetry whatever the form. This would account for my poetry having some variety of form, though often presenting a narrative.

    I have grown up with bush verse as my introduction to poetry. Paterson and Lawson related some wonderful tales, but also a number of poems in a more traditionally poetic vein. My love of narrative springs from that source
    material.

    You should try your hand at bush verse some day. Your first two lines are a fine beginning. The humble Aussie ute, combined with heat and dust, is the way to go.

    Wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas and a happy New Year.

    Reply

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