December 24, 2014

Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve


And the Light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. -- John 1:5

Throughout the night, the cold drew close,
And wrapped our home in shrouds of frost.
Within, four candles lent us light,
Returning to us what was lost.

Around us, all our village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Four candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.

Then all fell silent round my house.
The snow shown blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood bereft beside my gate.

Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by God's endless grace.
Below me lay the village streets,
Clad in shadow's chill embrace.

The darkness waned, the morning loomed,
Within my house the fire grew bright.
But still I walked on fragile snow,
And prayed for greater light.

As a child I'd lived in dreams of stars,
Of peace on Earth --life's golden seal--
And this night seemed, of all our nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.

Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
In this, the mystery and the gift.

The candles whisper of His gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

for Justine Van der Leun -- Mill Hill Drive, Southport, Connecticut, 1990

Posted by Vanderleun at December 24, 2014 2:52 PM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Uplifting! Thank you for another year of wit, wisdom, ingenuity, communion and entertainment. May the New Year bring more than you hope for or expect and all that you deserve.

Posted by: Frank P at December 24, 2009 2:33 AM

Thanks for a great years blogging...Merry Christmas from all at OTW.

Posted by: Thud at December 24, 2009 3:50 AM

What Frank P. said.

May God Bless you and yours.

Merry Christmas.


Posted by: southernjames at December 24, 2009 4:22 AM

Thank you, Gerald!
The voices of these angels sang as my mother left this veil of joy and tears in October.
Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Helene Bidwell at December 24, 2009 8:02 AM

Rumi, the great Persian mystic-poet, in speaking about this world. said "It's all about love, and not loving enough."
How to be loved, loving, and love -- just ask a one-year old and grok the reply. And then, do it!

Posted by: FamouslyUnknown at December 24, 2009 9:40 AM

A wonderful video and poem. Do love the Gregorian chant. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and yours, sir.

Posted by: GW at December 24, 2009 10:54 AM

You are quite welcome and the same fond wishes to you and yours and all.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 24, 2009 12:44 PM

Merry Christmas.
I'm most grateful to you for posting Gloucester Choir--In the Bleak Midwinter. Watch it as a family last two years...e-mail it to friends to remind them of the Beauty.
Happy New Year & Carry On.

Posted by: tao9 at December 24, 2009 9:07 PM

Excellent entry in every way.

Apropos, are you aware of the ongoing discussion regarding Jewish influence on the Gregorian chants?

Posted by: Roger Simon at December 25, 2009 8:22 AM

Merry Christmas, Mr. V.

Posted by: Jean at December 24, 2011 8:28 AM

--love the poem --thank you --

Posted by: buddy larsen at December 24, 2011 11:29 AM

There is love and peace to be found in unlikely places all over this sad and magnificent planet. Bless you, Gerard, for bringing some of it to your online friends. Now may God give us the will and the ways to share it with many, many others.

Posted by: AskMom at December 24, 2011 1:58 PM

Thank you again for being here, and I wish you two grand holiday weekends, and a prosperous - and I might add, strong and healthy - 2012.

Posted by: pfsm at December 24, 2011 4:41 PM

Merry Christmas, Mr. V. Thanks for all that you do.

Posted by: B Lewis at December 24, 2011 7:19 PM

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thanks for sticking around to keep the most interesting blog on the web.

Posted by: GW at December 24, 2012 11:26 AM

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Vanderleun.

Best Wishes

Posted by: Grace at December 24, 2012 9:42 PM

Merry Christmas, GVDL. Thanks for all the free fun.

Posted by: B Lewis at December 24, 2013 6:42 PM

Merry Christmas, GVDL. Thanks for all the free fun.

Posted by: B Lewis at December 24, 2013 6:43 PM

A lovely poem. The light of the world, isn't it wonderful? I sometimes can't believe he left his place in heaven to save a wretch like me. Merry Christmas and thanks for your blog.

Posted by: Arlene at December 24, 2013 9:55 PM

Perfect verse for tonight. So much wrong with the world, but amid the misery and broken dreams there is still His gift of love.

Thanks, and a Merry Christmas, Gerard.

Posted by: Jimmy J. at December 24, 2014 8:40 PM

Lovely. Thanks, and a very merry Christmas to you and yours.

Posted by: Julie at December 24, 2014 8:53 PM

Merry Christmas, Gerard. Thank you so much for this beautiful poem. Never doubt the serious contribution your love and your words are making to human happiness. Art, it has been said, is transferring feeling from one heart to another, and truth is the wick we burn to create the light of art. You are artistically gifted in exactly this way, and your generosity with this gift is so very much appreciated.

Merry Christmas, Jimmy J. May your gifts continue to see the light of day, as the light of your heart shines steadily through the darkness.

I see both of you in this poem by Stanley Kunitz--one of my mid-life touchstones:

The Layers


I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz, "The Layers" from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz.

Posted by: Sarah Rolph at December 25, 2014 10:08 AM