December 7, 2015

Contrarieties

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Christmastide, David, Eastertide, Good Friday, Light of the World, Redeemer, Resurrection, Shepherd, Son of God, Son of Man, Suffering Servant tagged , , , at 10:57 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Heaven’s herald bore the glorious news
Of the Child a Virgin pure would bear:
Servant, yet Heaven’s everlasting Heir
And Son of David, monarch of the Jews,

Heaven’s army stormed the grassy plain
Near David’s city, lowly Bethlehem,
Overcoming shepherd-warriors, David’s kin,
With the battle cry that peace on earth would reign.

Heaven’s King walked justly among men
To heal the sick and bring to life the dead,
To feed the hungry pilgrims living bread,
To preach deliverance from every sin.

Heaven’s Face turned from the Son of Man
And plunged the earth in darkness deep
When Light and Life hung on the curséd tree
To suffer, bleed, and die, yet rise again.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

January 4, 2015

The Presentation of Christ

Posted in Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Original Sin, Presentation of Christ, Redeemer, Son of God, Son of Man tagged , , , at 8:40 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Their footsteps echoed in the temple court,
He whose faithful heart with hope was swelled
And she whose greatest hopes had been cut short.
Her husband gone, she in the temple dwelled
To serve the Lord of Hosts both night and day.
An Eve and Adam waiting to be freed
From power of sin that led mankind astray,
In prayer they waited for the promised Seed.

When Simeon’s gaze fell on Messiah’s face,
He blessed the Lord to see salvation’s day
And hailed the coming of the gift of grace,
This Son whose life and work shall grief allay.
Here now Christ would receive the sacrament,
Thus sanctifying earth to heaven afresh.
God’s mysteries dwell in corporal element,
Immortal Son abides in human flesh.

Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The accounts of Mary and Joseph obeying the law, first by having Jesus circumcised and then by bringing Him to the temple to be presented, are too significant not to consider as important to our redemption; otherwise, why would they have been recorded? For one thing, these events show that His life reflected perfect obedience to the Law.

But there is another important point in both of these events, and that is their sacramental nature. Both in circumcision and the presentation of the firstborn (which was also a pronouncement of the purification of the mother), earthly elements (which God pronounced good at their creation) are being set apart, sanctified, made holy for the service of Heaven.

It is in that context that we see the lives of Simeon and Anna, devoted as they were to the practice of their faith (not just the mental assent to abstract truth). They were living a sacramental life and thus were privileged to be witnesses to the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah who would save His people from their sin.

The sacraments are by very nature anti-Gnostic, for instead of separating the material from the spiritual, they join earth to heaven. The finest statement against the Gnostic heresy is found in John 1:14–”And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Let us never forget that the physical, material world belongs to its Creator and should always be offered back to His service. Anything else is ingratitude of the basest sort.

December 11, 2014

David’s Other Sons

Posted in Advent, Bread of Life, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Redeemer, Shepherd, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, The Eucharist tagged , , , , at 7:10 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Out in the fields where David penned the psalms
And tended wounded sheep with soothing balms
The shepherds kept their watch with diligence,
Straining their ears for sounds of violence:
For lions who would kill the precious lambs
Or thieves who’d take the finest of the rams.
Then as they watched, the news from heaven fell
Like snow in winter; then the sky did swell
With piercing light from realms of glory bright
And news of One who would dispel their night.
Then heaven rained down songs of praise and peace,
The promised advent of the earth’s release.
In Bethlehem, the lowly house of bread,
Lay the Messiah in a manger bed.
Then going forth with joy, they obeyed
The angel’s word and were no more afraid.
They left the ninety-nine to find the Lamb,
Who is the Son of God and Great I AM.
These words the angel gave they told abroad
To bring all nations to the house of God.

Copyright © 2014 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This piece is a deliberate intertwining of Luke 2 and Isaiah 55, with a few other references along the way. As for Isaiah 55, it is one of my all-time favorite passages. Who could resist reading about a time when the mountains and hills will break forth in song?

If you’re wondering what the title means, it’s multifaceted. (This is poetry, after all). Throughout the gospels, our Lord is known as the Son of David, as He is a physical descendant of David. Some of the other sons of David are the shepherds, who are residents of the city of David and who spent their time protecting sheep, as did David in his early years. But even we who are not physical children of David have been made fellow heirs to the covenant that God made with David (Isaiah 55:3). Though the wise men and not the shepherds are usually associated with the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s covenant, the account of the shepherds’ faithfulness and obedience has been recorded for all nations to read.

March 13, 2014

Foolishness

Posted in Christmastide, Epiphany, Herod, Incarnation, Lent, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering Servant at 12:04 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The Magi trudged long miles from East to West,
Chasing a star and notions of a king.
Convinced a palace was the object of their quest,
They proudly bore a princely offering.

The dreaded tyrant roused his scribes and seers
To learn the prophecy of his own doom.
The wise men’s message fed his deepest fears.
So he resolved the true King to entomb.

Dismissed to Bethlehem, the wise men trekked
With hope revived; but found no palace there.
The star had led where they did not expect:
The Child-King in a lowly mother’s care.

But through the eyes of faith the wise men saw
That Mary held the King of heaven and earth,
That David’s Son deserved their deepest awe
For He left heaven to live in deepest dearth.

Such foolishness to yield allegiance to a Lord
Who for a Lenten time gave up His throne!
Who wields His power not by brutal sword
But by the heart of mercy He has shown.

Yet we would foolish be, for His dear sake
Whose precious blood can cleanse our every stain.
And giving up our selves, His cross to take,
As living sacrifices we will rise again.

Copyright © 2014, 2016 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


It may seem odd to write about an Epiphany text during Lent, but Matthew 2 has been on my heart this week.  I’m not sure why, but I began to consider how much faith it took for the Magi first to leave their own country to seek the “King of the Jews” (Why, we might ask?), but then also to leave Herod’s splendid palace to search for a King in Bethlehem of all places. Furthermore, it took great faith upon finding Him in a cottage for them to fall down and worship Him. There was a Lenten quality about their giving up their ideas of grandeur and simply following the star that I found intriguing.

The reference of their traveling East to West has a two-fold meaning here. First, it must put the reader in mind of Psalm 103:12, where we are assured that God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. (Think about it: If you go far enough north, you will eventually go south again. But that can never happen if you go from east to west, or vice versa.) Second, the direction they traveled is the opposite of the direction that the earth turns on its axis. It adds to the idea of “foolishness” or being backward from the rest of the world.

Another concept with an intended double meaning is that of calling Herod “fearful.” It can either mean “being very afraid” or “causing fear in others.” Which of those applies to Herod? Both, as with any who usurp authority.

There are also some intentional devices used in the second verse. In speaking of the tyrant Herod, the last two lines switch to present tense from past tense. This, along with the fact that Herod’s name is never used, is meant to suggest that he is representative of the spiritual warfare that has been waging since the Fall. He is of that seed described in Genesis 3:15 which will war against the Lord and His people until He finally puts all opposition in the past tense.

The Hebrews 12:1 reference on which the poem ends is another of those “foolishness” passages along the lines of losing one’s life to find it. These are the things that don’t make sense to the world. St. Paul said they wouldn’t (I Corinthians 1:18). To those who are perishing, it doesn’t make sense to embark on a Lenten journey, to give up selfish desires, to throw all our lot in with a Lord who lived in poverty and died a humiliating death. But this is the foolishness that leads to life. It is the foolishness of truly wise men.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? (II Corinthians 2:14-16)

December 24, 2013

Sonnet to Bethlehem

Posted in Christmastide, David, Incarnation, Shepherd, Son of God, The Eucharist, The Trinity, Word at 4:45 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

House of Bread, be chancel to the Bread of Life tonight,
Receive the blessed body of the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Enfold the Word proceeding from the Father up on high,
And tune your soul to hear the sounds that fill the starry sky
As shepherds hear the angel tell of peace and God’s good will
Brought by the Shepherd who protects His sheep from every ill.
The second Adam, sent to bear the burden of our toils,
With bloody brow our bread will win and take the Victor’s spoils.
Man does not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God,
Yet here the Bread and Word converge, and every heart is awed.
Birthplace of David, bend the knee to David’s greater Son,
For in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead three in one.
O Bethlehem, once lowly town, now rise to greet your King.
Naomi’s night of grief has passed, and now hosannas ring.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This morning I was dwelling on the idea of Christ as the Bread of Life, born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “House of Bread.” I had written about eight lines of the poem before I had to leave for noon mass, but I was struggling to find a conclusion. So when the priest mentioned the Hebrew name of Bethlehem in his sermon, I came home with renewed zeal to finish the poem today.

The imagery of bread pervades the Scriptures, and so it also pervades the poem, even when it is not as obvious as it is in the first few lines. The reference to David should bring to mind the story of his taking the shewbread (“the bread of the presence”) for his starving soldiers, an act which Jesus links with His disciples’ gleaning on the Sabbath. The concept of gleaning should bring to mind Naomi and Ruth, who would have died from lack of bread had it not been for the generosity of Boaz, who was a type of Christ.

Just as physical life is sustained by food, for which bread is used as a synecdoche (sorry, non-literary folks), our spiritual life is sustained by Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, in the Eucharist:

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35)

December 19, 2013

Song of the Christmas Sheep

Posted in Advent, Atonement, Christmastide, Grace, Incarnation, Lamb of God, Sheep, Shepherd at 8:19 pm by Teresa Roberts Johnson

From the days of shepherd Abel
Our lives were paid as sacrifice:
Savory offerings on the table,
Signifying sin’s dread price.
Cursed by Adam’s sin, we waited
For the coming of the Lamb,
When misery would be abated
By the perfect, spotless Ram.
When the time had been fulfilled,
While we grazed in pastures green
And deeply drank from waters still,
The sky exploded with a scene
Of brilliant light and thunderous sound
As angels chimed the glorious song
Of peace to flood the whole world round
To end all woe and right all wrong.
Then leaving us, our shepherds went
To see their Shepherd, filled with grace,
Who from the heart of heaven was sent
As sacrifice to take our place.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


I attended a sweet Christmas pageant at church last night, and when the actors in sheep’s clothing turned to listen to the “angel,” my heart was pierced with the realization that this glorious news of peace on earth, which we often take as completely man-centric, spoke of the animals’ freedom too. Just as the whole of creation was blighted by Adam’s sin, the coming of Christ to roll back the curse speaks freedom to them, but especially to the gentle sheep that had been slain as sacrifices. As the beloved Christmas hymn tells us, “He comes to make His blessings known far as the curse is found.”

The older I get, the stronger is the longing in my heart to see all things restored to their natural glory and to see death swallowed up completely in the victory of Christ. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The only poetry note I’ll add is that the word our in the last line should be read as referring not just to the sheep but to them and the shepherds, and indeed, to the entire world.

P.S. I just thought of another poetry note. The short, choppy lines are meant to signify the motion of sheep. Somehow all my poems about sheep end up with a short-metered line.

November 8, 2013

Winter’s End

Posted in Advent, Christmastide, Eastertide, Incarnation, Resurrection, Son of God, Spiritual Warfare, Water of Life at 6:45 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Cruel frost will coat the desiccated leaves,
And brutal winds will harry evergreens.
Ruthless snow will smother cropless fields
While creatures flee from winter’s bitter bite.
The lengthening nights will silence laughing birds,
As shortened days steal light and joy from men,
And gloom enshrouds the flowers on each grave.
But underneath bleak snow a seed abides
And naked trees dip fingers into earth
Made holy when Immanuel came down.
In Him is hope for life to shine anew
When resurrected by the Easter’s morning dew.
For though the sun will fade and fail to glow
The constant Son’s Light melts the winter snow.

Copyright © 2013 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


This poem has the same theme as Dragon Death (previous post). As I become more dreadfully aware of the spiritual battles that surround us every day, I feel the need to acknowledge their reality, but not without asserting the greater reality: Our Lord has conquered sin and death, and in Him, we are more than conquerors. As the Advent and Christmas seasons approach, I have to remind myself that Christmas finds its full meaning in Easter, and Advent looks both backward and forward. I long for the day when the Son’s light will consume all of the winter-ills that plague us: sin, sickness, pain, loss, and death.

As for the technicalities of poetry, I purposely did not introduce rhyme until the final four lines, to signify that His name brings order out of chaos.

December 29, 2012

A Question Answered

Posted in Atonement, Christmastide, Good Friday, Holy Week, Hope, Incarnation, Original Sin, Redeemer at 10:56 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

He had given all they ever needed:
Sumptuous food and shelter, life and breath.
But His solemn warning went unheeded:
They disobeyed His word, begetting Death.
Here where their Father’s blessings freely flowed,
They had squandered life and sought a hiding place.
But in the Garden, Love’s voice echoed:
“Where are you?” Then Adam understood disgrace.
Looking past their vain equivocation
God saw souls in need of mercy mild.
He took fig leaves to clothe them with compassion,
And promised to provide a Saving Child.
So from the Cross we hear the cry resound:
“It is finished!” Thus the lost are found!

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


During Christmastide the emphasis is rightly on Bethlehem, but we should never forget that Golgotha looms in the distance, casting a cross-shaped shadow over the manger.


I started this poem on 25 March 2012, when I formed the question and answer concept (“Where are You?” combined with “It is finished!”) and completed it this morning (29 December 2012).

December 28, 2012

Holy Innocents

Posted in Christmastide, Faith, Herod, Holy Innocents, Hope, Sanctification, Suffering at 7:33 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

Our lives, O Lord, rest safely in Your hand,
And nothing on this earth can thwart Your plan.
Your enemy—and ours—has many spies.
He sends his minions forth to spread his lies.
They plot against the Kingdom You hold dear;
They strut and roar to cause your people fear.
They would have even murdered Lazarus;
Most certainly they rage and threaten us.
Herod conspires to murder innocents,
While Pilate washes hands in wickedness.
Teach us, O Lord, to trust Your endless grace
And every joy or sorrow to embrace.
We are the clay and You the Potter kind,
The fire strengthens what You have designed.
For in the furnace one thing burns away:
Our fetters fall, Your glory to display.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


The collect for the Feast of The Holy Innocents contains a line that many find offensive. It speaks of God having made “infants to glorify [Him] by their deaths.” But this phrase most certainly does not mean that He is using us for some dark and selfish purpose. To the contrary, that phrase should give us hope that none of our suffering is wasted and that nothing our enemies can say or do will destroy us. We can trust in Him to bring about all things to our good and His glory. The passages this poem should bring to mind are Genesis 3:15, John 12:9-11, Matthew 2, Matthew 27, Isaiah 64:7-9, Daniel 3, and Romans 8:28.


I started this poem on 25 October 2012, and completed it this morning during my meditations on this solemn day of remembrance. May God bless all the Holy Innocents who suffer for His sake.

December 27, 2012

Ever After

Posted in Christmastide, Faith, Hope, Incarnation, Suffering at 12:12 am by Teresa Roberts Johnson

The shepherds soon returned to the green field,
With greater joy than they had ever found.
Spurred on by news the angels had revealed,
They spread the word of Christ throughout their town.
His mother Mary kept these memories always,
And pondered God’s redemption in her heart.
But did the shepherds’ joy survive dark days?
And did their faith and hope ever depart
When sheep fell prey to dangers in the wild,
When illness took the finest of the flock,
When burying a wife or precious child,
When they were old and unable to walk?
No, for if their courage should begin to wane,
They heard the angels singing once again.

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Roberts Johnson (All rights reserved)


Not much explanation is needed here. The Biblical account in Luke 2 is supplemented with a bit of conjecture, for the purpose of inspiring hope in the promises of God.


After reading the nativity account in Luke, I began to wonder what life had to be like for those who were touched directly by His presence in those early days. I had to think that once a person had heard angels praising God, it would be very difficult to be discouraged ever again. The message of salvation is the only true “happily ever after.”

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