Here's a poem I wrote this week, following the rhyme and meter of the classic Christmas poem "Twas the Night before Christmas" (or "A Visit from Saint Nicholas") by Clement Clarke Moore. It's written, just like the original poem, from the perspective of a watcher, observing Saint Nicholas as he does his deeds of giving on Christmas Eve--only here, the watchers are two people in the town of Myra (now in modern Turkey) in the 4th century AD, observing the real saint, the bishop Nikolaus. Since he was Greek, his name in the poem is pronounced as it would have been back then, Nik-oh-lay-us (I only mention that because it's important to the meter of the poem). Hope you enjoy it!
'Twas the Night before Christmas (Real St. Nicholas Version)
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the streets
Of Myra the citizens all were asleep,
Save one little boy, who looked up at the moon
As it shone down on him where he lay in his room.
Then out from the silence he heard the soft sound
Of the scuffing of footsteps across dusty ground
And the clatter of jingling coins as they slipped
Into each vacant shoe left out by the step.
Then he saw a lone figure walk out of the gloom,
And stand there illumined by light of the moon.
He was robed all in white with a shawl of bright red,
And a tall, peakèd hat on the crown of his head.
The boy was a stranger to Myra and so
Away from this man with a cry he did go.
And out of the bed his uncle arose,
"Who is that?" gasped the nephew, "A man or a ghost?"
Uncle looked through the window, then said with a smile,
"There's nothing to fear; just listen awhile.
That man in the street, dropping coins as he goes,
Is the hero of Myra, who wears bishop's clothes--
Nikolaus by name, his deeds are well known,
And they started when he was not yet full grown.
Young and rich was that man, whom you see in the street,
But of youths he's the rarest that you'd ever meet.
Not pleasures nor comforts did he seek for himself,
But he fasted and prayed and gave of his wealth.
He saved three young ladies bereft of all hope,
Who would have been lost if not for the gold
That he slipped in their house on a night just like this,
But asked from those ladies neither favor nor kiss;
In secret he gave, just so they could have life;
Since then, he's continued his giving by night.
We made him our bishop, so that he could serve
The Lord that he loves in deed and in word.
Do you see how he limps as he walks down the path?
For the sake of us Christians he suffered the wrath
Of the Great Persecution where so many died--
He lived; but he carries those wounds in his side.
You see how his hands, though gentle, look strong?
Those hands the Lord used to silence great wrong.
At the Emperor's council he went to debate
And deliver the church from a terrible fate.
The heretic Arius wanted to change
The gospel which every apostle ordained,
And say of the Christ that although he's divine,
He was not with the Father since before there was time.
The Council was met, and the heretic spoke,
And Nikolaus our bishop dealt him a stroke--
Leapt up from his seat, struck him full in the face,
And down went the heretic in his disgrace.
Now though Nikolaus, he was reprimanded,
Oh, we've always loved that blow that he landed!
His deeds haven't ceased since he came back to town,
If anything, he's won much greater renown.
The Lord honors him by raising the dead
And multiplies grain so his people are fed.
He loves all our children as if they're his own,
And surpasses all others in charities shown.
In this day of wealth, some bishops are greedy,
Nikolaus, he gives it away to the needy.
Now mark this well, nephew, for this you must hear--
He cares nothing at all for being revered.
He gives and he serves so that Christ may be praised,
To declare everywhere the great Savior's grace.
Nikolaus the Giver we watch from this place,
And this night is fitting to ponder his ways,
For Christmas-day tells of the greatest of gifts,
Given beyond merit or asking or wish--
For Christ gave to us his own presence divine,
The gift of all gifts, for now and all time.
So back to your bed, and remember tonight
That Christmas is all for the glory of Christ."
Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.