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It’s the penultimate Monday of 2023–and next Monday doesn’t really count as it is Christmas Day. So, the year is basically over, Advent has but a week left, and I still have 2000+ pages of student writing to look at (by which I mean: grade) contained within my first year composition students’ portfolios.

In other words, ain’t nobody got time for a blog today.

But isn’t that the lament of the season: too much to do, not enough time?

Everybody was busy when Jesus was born, too. I mean, there was a census on, for goodness sake. Logistics to be managed, paperwork to be filed, rooms to be found. Nothing new to our busy-ness, then, even if it now looks like end-of-the-year work or school concerts and holiday parties and gift shopping and church this-and-that.

It’s why I love the radical simplicity of Christina Rossetti’s “Love Came Down at Christmas.” I’ve written here about the great Victorian poet Rossetti before (and she’s one of the literary stars of Nourishing Narratives, if you’re still looking for an excellent Christmas gift <wink>). In both form and theme, the poem helps us focus so beautifully on the all-sufficiency of God’s love: whatever other work with which we are concerned, God does all the work of Christmas. And there’s not one thing we add–or need to.

And indeed, in the words of the wonderful final stanza, the wonder of Christmas is that that Love also completely provides all we ask for, all we impart, and all we show as the witness of the incarnation. May that Love be yours this Christmas.

"Love came down at Christmas"
  by Christina Rossetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


  • Pamela Spiertz Adams says:

    I will read the poem to my grandchildren on Christmas Day.
    Thank you.

  • Dave Timmer says:

    Thanks for this. I’m always arrested by that last line of Rossetti’s poem. I know what love as “gift” or “sign” might be, but what about love as “plea”? It’s interesting to plug in the different definitions in my dictionary: a justification? an entreaty? a legal pleading? Or maybe, as in Debra’s sestina, an ache – “the ache is the gift.”

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