Merry Christmas! As you awake this morning (or read this at a later time), I hope the Gloria of the heavenly hosts is still ringing in your ears and reverberating in your heart! We celebrate that “to us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 1:11).
One of the devotionals I read throughout the season of Advent (and now continuing into the season of Christmas) is a collection of writings from G.K. Chesterton about Christmas titled Winter Fire: A Christmas with G.K. Chesterton (Moody Publishers, 2023). It’s a lovely book–the most comprehensive collection of Chesterton’s writings on Christmas ever published (and he wrote tons!), assembled and organized by Ryan Whitaker Smith. It includes daily writings by Chesterton (with some beautiful reflections by Smith), essays, poems and even some of Chesterton’s favorite Christmas recipes! The title of the book is taken from this quote by Chesterton: “Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.”
My gift to you today is to share my favorite poem included in this collection, “Gloria in Profundis.” May these words astonish us once again with the wonder of the Incarnation, the marvelous absurdity of a God who descends to be with us, whose “love drowns all” and whose height of fall in a vulnerable infant outrushes even the tragic fall of humanity. Enjoy!
GLORIA IN PROFUNDIS
There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and into terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendor is spilt on the sand.
Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all—
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?
For in dread such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.
Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate—
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for the sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.
The Adoration of the Child is depicted in this 17th-century painting by Dutch artist Gerard van Honthorst. Christmas is celebrated Dec. 25. (CNS photo/Uffizi Gallery in Florence)