Advent Poem

When October leaves have fallen and November skies are grey,
The stores proclaim that Jesus, hope, and joy are on the way.
The virgins hear and heed the call (this world they long to flee),
And congregate with eager hearts to trim their Christmas trees.

Before the purple candle on the Advent wreath can light,
Houses gleaming golden-framed wait long through winter nights.
They wait for something, watch for something—what, they do not know,
And long before the Bridegroom comes, the virgins long to go.

Before the rosy candle on the Advent wreath can shine,
The songs are stale, the trees on sale, the virgins full of wine.
They laugh about their childhood and the lustful dreams they keep,
And long before the Bridegroom comes, the virgins fall asleep.

Before the Paschal candle in the Advent wreath can drip,
The Christmas music echoes die; the trees and smiles are stripped.
The new year calls. Discard your cheer; the holidays are gone.
And long before the Bridegroom comes, the virgins have moved on.

O come, O come, Emmanuel! O Zion, wake, awake!
Your prize is not some Christmas gift, nor even Christ the babe:
Your Bridegroom comes! Your husband calls! Now fast before you feast.
Make haste! Rise up to trim your lamps before your Christmas trees.



Alena Casey is a poet and writer currently living in Nebraska. Her poetry has been published with The Road Not Taken, the Society of Classical Poets, and The Author’s Journal of Inventive Literature, among others. Her blog can be found here strivingafterink.wordpress.com.

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24 Responses

  1. g.KayeNaegele

    I can only pray that this message is heard among the teeming consumerism that haunts humanity. No doubt, humanity needs celebration to dim the overwhelming chaos that pervades, but only emptiness will follow the modern path when the wrapping is discarded, as they have discarded the true reason for the season. I applaud your message and pray for a miracle of enlightenment and that his kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven, all over the world. The commandment to decency, at least, should be common to all man. Again, I applaud your poetic skill and lyricism. Your R&M is perfect, as is the phrasing and imagery. Thank you and blessings to you. Gail

    • Alena Casey

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Gail. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

  2. Norma Pain

    Thank you for this poem Alena, with its perfect rhyme and meter, and a very timely message.

    • Alena Casey

      Thank you, Norma. It was a delight to write: Advent is my favorite season of the year. It offers so much to contemplate.

    • Alena Casey

      As the best Advent hymns and poems often are! I’m grateful you could see that in my poem.

  3. Alissa Ulmer

    I love this so much. I’m sharing and printing a copy to keep in our box of Christmas decorations to read each year to the family. You are a gifted writer, and paired with your strong theological understanding, you are a tremendous gift to the church. ❤️

  4. Anna J. Arredondo


    You have packed a powerful punch in just five stanzas. I found the structure very effective, with the repetition/progression of the attitude of the virgins eloquently elaborated. Well done!

    It calls to mind the poem, “To Jesus on His Birthday”, by Edna St. Vincent Millay…

    • Alena Casey

      Thank you, Anna. I just looked up that poem and read it for the first time. Beautiful. I was inspired partly by Christina Rossetti’s “Advent Poem,” which draws on the same parable as I do.

  5. Margaret Coats

    Did you think of calling this poem “Advent Parody”? The comic burlesque of Advent customs becomes truly ludicrous. I am sorry to say the foolish virgins remind me of a professional liturgist invited to advise a Catholic parish on how to observe the season. In her studies at Notre Dame, she had heard of most Advent practices, but was too young to have had sober experience of them. She derided the wreath as a wagon wheel brought indoors for the winter when heavy snow made the wagon useless. This could have no purpose in a California church or home. Instead, she recommended wrapping Christmas lights around tree trunks (at home or in the church courtyard), because this is done by commercial restaurants, who really know how to celebrate. In the poem, the crazy mix of sacred with secular never gets sorted out, but perhaps the silly mistakes can best serve to inspire meaningful rediscovery of your favorite part of the year!

    • Alena Casey

      I didn’t, partly because titling poems is not one of my skills, and partly because I find all this more sad than silly, and more concerning than amusing. But you’re right that the commercial observance of Advent is something of a parody. And as my poem and your comment observe, it is also seeping into the church.

  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    I really like the imaginative way you expounded upon the story of the wise and foolish virgins. Very thoughtful and well done.

  7. Peter Lillios

    Wonderfully melodic metre maintained over impressively long lines. In fact, I think the longer lines facilitate this, allowing the cadence time to build and take on a more musical quality.

    Most of my poems are in pentameter or even shorter, but you’ve really inspired me here. I shall have to try it out — I expect it to be a lovely challenge! 🙂

    • Alena Casey

      The long lines were fun to work with. They were necessitated by the first lines I came up with, the phrase “trim your lamps before your Christmas trees” and “And long before the Bridegroom comes, the virgins long to go.” Occasionally it was tricky to make my thoughts fill so many poetic feet, but it gave me the opportunity to lean into other devices, like alliteration and internal rhyme.

      Good luck on your challenge! I’m happy to have been an inspiration. 🙂

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    A work of wit and wisdom that puts the true meaning of Christmas into perspective with poetic aplomb. Alena, I love it!

  9. Kaitlin Sheridan

    This is the best Advent poem I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m going to work it into my morning time reading routine with my children.

  10. Monika Cooper

    With the phrase “they know not what” an interesting, haunting energy enters this piece and persists to the end. The juxtaposition of the language of the ancient parable with the “virgins'” modern lives and attitudes is very effective.

    In stanza 4, why “Paschal” candle?

  11. Alena Casey

    Thank you!

    In my church’s tradition, the white Paschal candle sits in the center of the Advent wreath and is lit on Christmas Eve to symbolize Christ’s physical presence among us. It is also lit throughout Epiphany and Eastertide, and at baptisms.


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