wordsout by godfrey rust
A Christmas Commentary  < 5 of 6 >



The fourth king's gift

Three kings, of whom we often read,
brought him gifts he didn't need:
Gold—for a prince of paradise
whose grace and favour know no price?

Frankincense—to raise a prayer
to God, with God already there?
Myrrh—to keep the flies away
from one whose flesh would not decay?

So it was another king
who brought the useful offering
of homage to the baby Christ—

the blood of children, sacrificed.

Rachel in Ramah still laments
the murder of her innocents
and will not be consoled, nor see
a heavenly conspiracy—

evil is evil yet; and yet
her desolation will beget
compassion, strong and bittersweet:
hate sows seeds of its own defeat.

Herod's slaughter turns again
relentless mills of human pain
that fuel the generator of
the power of transforming love.

Nothing will remedy her loss,
yet the despair of Friday's cross
will bring with Sunday's dawning rays
outpourings of amazing grace.

 

 


Written to follow the reading of the story of the magi and Herod in Matthew 2, 1-18 as part of A Christmas commentary for the carol service at St Johns Church, West Ealing in 2012. The carol service occurred two days after the murder of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

This is a disquieting poem: depending on context it may be appropriate to substitute the magi from the sequence The last straw, or The journey of the magi (cont.) when using the Christmas commentary in an event.

Of course the magi were almost certainly not kings, and the only reason that there are conventionally three of them in the story is that there were three gifts, but it is a strong myth and an appropriate reference in the vaguely mediaeval style of the Christmas commentary.

The poem originally began with a reflection on types of power, which relied in part for its impact on the slides used to accompany it. I have removed this, and the rest of it has also been significantly re-written since its first performance.

Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for permissions.