Poetry That Gives Pause: Advent and Christmas

Poetry can be a powerful medium in so many ways, I could write a whole blog post about it. (Hmm. Maybe I will!) But especially in hymns and songs, I love it when there’s a moment when you suddenly become arrested with the words you’re hearing. There you are, singing along with words you know well, and suddenly you’re caught with a phrase that offers truth in a way you hadn’t thought of before.

Especially during this time of Advent and Christmas, there is a parade of poetry that flows into your ears and out of your lips continually. But even in those familiar favorites, I encourage you to pause from time to time and truly reflect on those poignant moments that teach you something new.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of those moments that have recently caught me unawares, marveling at the meaning behind the words. Some of these will be more familiar to you than others, I imagine. Take a look! See what you think.


“Good Christian, fear: for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.”

Dix, What Child Is This?


“Come, Jesus, come, Messiah Lord, Lost Paradise restore; Lead past the angel’s flaming sword—Come, open heaven’s door.”

Starke, What Hope! An Eden Prophesied


“Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”

Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing


“A still, small voice to cry one day for me.”

Vajda, Where Shepherds Lately Knelt


“Love caused Your incarnation; Love brought You down to me.”

Gerhardt, tr. The Lutheran Hymnal, alt., O Lord, How Shall I Meet You


“And the babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed His sacred face.”

Aurelius Predentius Clemens; tr. John Mason Neale, alt., Of the Father’s Love Begotten


There’s so much I could say about each of these lines, and that’s the beauty of them. They say in a few precious words what could easily fill pages. I think, then, I’ll opt to let the words speak for themselves. There are so many more, of course. How often, for example, do you consider kissing the face of God? or Jesus being born in you? or that angels who sang creation’s story now witness and sing of the Messiah’s birth?

What poetic phrases give you pause this year?


*I used Lutheran Service Book for these quotes. For permission to reprint these texts, please contact copyrights@cph.org.