Tag Archives: Christmas

The Church of Christ — Ferguson (2): Covenant, Kingdom, Christ

Christmas is a very Old Testament sort of thing, and so is the church. When you read the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel, the theological climaxes are found in the speeches of the main characters—the angels (Luke 1:13-17, 30-33, 35; 2:10-14), Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45), Mary (Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79), and Simeon (Luke 2:28-35). These speeches are knotted with strange lines like “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:33), “a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:69) and “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34).

We like to think of Christmas in much simpler, more self-centered terms: Jesus was born to save me from my sins. We feel good if we remember to connect Christmas forward with Cross and Resurrection. We rarely even think about tracing it back to Israel. When was the last time you praised God that Jesus was born that Israel might be saved from her enemies (Luke 1:71)?

The same is true of how we usually picture the church. But in the first chapter of Everett Ferguson’s book The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, he spends 67 pages rooting the church in the Old Testament. This chapter is entitled “The People and the Messiah: History and Eschatology.” (See also the Introduction to my series on this book.)

I must confess: I found much of this chapter a little dry, at least at first. I also tend to find Zechariah’s prophecy in Luke 1 a little dry, too. To my shame, I am a child of my time and place who too often forgets my debt to God’s people in the past. I am a Gentile, after all. I stand in need of the warning Paul issued to his Roman Gentile readers: “Do not be arrogant… remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Rom. 11:18). But if I push past the dryness, brush the dust off the past, and feel the family of Abraham like a granite foundation under my feet, boredom turns to worship. What a merciful God! I can only exclaim with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33).

Just as you really won’t understand very well who Christ is without reading the Old Testament, so you won’t understand the church as you ought if you only read the New Testament. The very first time that the word “church” appears in most English translations of the Bible is in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church.” But even more important than the word church in this passage is the word Christ. Christ—or Messiah. It is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament who still today builds his church. “Your” church. The church you belong to today is the fulfillment of promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Ferguson discusses these matters under four main headings in this chapter: Covenant, Kingdom, Christ (Messiah), and Community.

This first chapter offers an exploration of some topics from the Old Testament and Jewish background which are important for understanding the Christian church and then a discussion of the New Testament development of these themes. The concepts of covenant, kingdom, and messiah provide the framework for the New Testament understandings of history and eschatology and so of the place of the community of the Christ in God’s purpose and plan…

These topics emphasize something of the theological perspective important for understanding the biblical doctrine of the church. God initiates the covenant relationship in calling a people [covenant]; God rules the affairs of human beings for the redemptive purpose of saving a people [kingdom]; God anoints (selects and empowers) his chosen representatives to lead his people [messiah]; and God’s goal is to build a community of people who acknowledge him as their God [community]. In the New Testament, these items are related to Jesus Christ. The new covenant is in Christ; the authority of kingship is now given to Christ; he is the anointed king [messiah]; and the church is the community of Christ. (pp. 1-2, bold added)

Under “Covenant” Ferguson first traces the meaning of that concept, God’s sequence of covenants found in the Old Testament, and the promise of a new covenant. “The essence of the promise of a new covenant is the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit” (p. 8).

Ferguson then addresses the topic of covenant in the New Testament. Here are some highlights:

Paul connects the Christians’ relationship to God with the Abrahamic covenant, in contrast to the Mosaic covenant…

Unlike the note of continuity sounded by the New Testament about the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, the Sinai [Mosaic] covenant is placed in contrast to the “new covenant” in Christ Jesus…

For the Christian, the Old Testament remains the “word of God”…, but the basis of the relationship with God now is different—what God has done in Jesus and the new covenant of forgiveness in him. The Old Testament as a system of religion does not regulate the activities of the church, that is, the people of Christ…

One way of expressing the relationship of the two parts of the Christian Bible is to say that the Old Testament is still authoritative for God’s people in its theology but not in its institutions. (pp. 9, 11, 14, 16).

Ferguson ends his discussion of covenant by emphasizing that “inherent in the idea of a covenant is a community” (p. 17). Just as God brought Israel out of Egypt and formed a covenant with them, so “in the death and resurrection of Christ God did for humanity what we could not do for ourselves… Based on this mighty and gracious act of God, a covenant is offered and a people gathered” (p. 17).

Under “Kingdom” Ferguson discusses the meaning of kingdom, then relates it to Israel, Christ, the church, and the future. First, the meaning of kingdom:

In Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the primary meaning of “kingdom” is “kingship,” that is, royal power or kingly rule. The words more often refer to the “reign” than to the “realm” in which the rule is exercised…

Of course, kingship does not operate in a void, so the word “kingdom” is often used in close connection with the people or territory living under a given reign. That usage gives the secondary meaning of “realm”…

The kingdom of God refers to his majesty and activity, more often than to his people… But God’s rule does involve a people. The rule of God presupposes a people of God in whom it can be established… (p. 19-20, bold added)

Since God had already manifested his kingdom through Israel (p. 21), “Jesus… was clearly not introducing a new concept” (p. 22) when he proclaimed the “kingdom of God.”

The newest or most puzzling thought for me in this section was Ferguson’s assertion about the end of Christ’s kingdom:

The kingdom of Christ that began at his resurrection will come to an end at the general resurrection… When Jesus comes again it will not be to set up a kingdom but to “deliver up” or “hand over” an already existing kingdom (his kingship). Jesus reigns until death is destroyed. That occurs at the general resurrection. Then his rule is returned to God, the one who subjected all things to him (1 Cor. 15:27-28). The passage not only does not refer to a millennial or interim kingdom of any duration between the return of Jesus and the final consummation, but the sequence of thought positively precludes it… The reign of Christ is concluded at his second coming. “The end” and the handing over of the kingdom to God the Father follow the resurrection at his coming (1 Cor. 15:23-24). That resurrection marks the subjection of the last enemy and so the end of his reign, not its beginning. (pp. 27-28, bold added)

There are mysteries here! On the one hand, Paul clearly states that “then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him” (1 Cor. 15:28). On the other hand, John sees “the Lamb in the midst of the throne” (Rev. 7:17) and records that “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever” (Rev. 11:15). Perhaps Ferguson is overstating things a little when he says “the reign of Christ is concluded at his second coming”? (If he defined “kingdom” in this passage as “realm” rather than “reign,” then the Son could “deliver the kingdom to God the Father” without losing all function of reigning.) Perhaps the subjected Son can still share the Father’s reign?

What is the relationship between the kingdom and the church? Ferguson explains:

The relation of the kingdom and the church has been expressed all the way from a complete identification of the two, so that the church is the kingdom, to a complete separation of the two, as expressed in the quip of the French scholar Loisy, “Jesus preached the kingdom, and the church came.” If the kingdom is defined primarily according to the word study above as the “rule of God,” and the church is defined as “the people of God”…, then a basis is laid for explaining the difference yet the interrelationship of the church and the kingdom. The church may be defined as the people who come under the reign of God… That makes the church one manifestation… of the kingdom of God, the kingdom in the secondary sense of realm, the sphere in which kingship is exercised. The church is not the kingdom but is closely related to it. (pp. 28-29, bold added)

Ferguson notes that “three passages bring the kingdom and the church into proximity with each other”:

  • Matthew 16:18-19 — “I will build my church… I will give you the keys of the kingdom.”
  • Hebrews 12:23, 28 — “The assembly [church] of the firstborn” receive “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
  • Revelation 1:4, 6, 9 — John, who “shares… the kingdom” with his readers, writes “to the seven churches,” whom Christ “made… to be a kingdom.”

Further, Ferguson notes that terms such as salvation, grace, redemption, righteousness, and life–realities which are all fulfilled in the church—are also associated in Scripture with the kingdom of God. Further, the central new covenant ideas of forgiveness of sins and indwelling of the Holy Spirit are also associated with the kingdom. To experience God’s saving grace is to enter both Christ’s church and his kingdom. To be in the church is to be under Christ’s rule.

This leads us to Ferguson’s next theme.

Under “Christ (Messiah)” Ferguson first discusses the meaning of messiah:

In the Old Testament prophets, there are many passages about God bringing deliverance and blessings to his people in the future. Frequently there is a human leader involved as the agent or representative of God in accomplishing his purposes. Several different designations of this deliverer or leader are given…, but it is notable that there is no clear case where Messiah is the term chosen. (p. 37, bold)

Yet as Christians called Jesus the Messiah (Christ), the term become loaded with new layers of meaning far beyond the basic meaning of “anointed one.” Thus, “the whole Old Testament expectation of ‘a good time coming’ has been called the messianic hope” (p. 38):

All these figures have come to be subsumed under the category of the messianic hope, because Christians accepted Jesus as the fulfillment of them all: Son of David, king, priest, prophet, Son of Man, and God acting directly…

In the Jewish expectation, the center of attention was the blessings of the coming age. The emphasis was on the “age to come” itself, what has come to be called the “messianic age.” The Messiah, when he was mentioned, was to be part of the “furniture” of this new age. For the Christians, on the other hand, the important feature was the Messiah himself. (pp. 38-39, bold added)

Ferguson gives special attention to two Old Testament figures from Isaiah 40-55 and Daniel 7:

The New Testament usage of the images of the Servant of the Lord and Son of Man for Jesus is problematic from the standpoint of the Old Testament texts, for a good case can be made that in each instance these figures have a collective sense in their original context, being simply ideal figures that personify the people.

Ferguson takes a “both-and” approach and solves this dilemma by noting that both the Servant and the Son of Man represent and personify the people of Israel:

The New Testament affirmation is that Jesus as an individual gives concrete expression to these Old Testament representations of the people. He was the embodiment of the true Israelite, so that what was said of the nation of Israel was applied by Christians to him (cf. the use of Hos. 11:1 in Matt. 2:15). Jesus was seen as synthesizing three figures out of the Old Testament heritage: Messiah (Son of David), Son of Man, and Servant of the Lord. All three carry with them an association with a people. The Messiah rules over a people; the Son of Man embodies the saints of the Most High who are given the kingship; and the Servant of the Lord suffers for the people and embodies their role of serving the Lord. Hence, we are prepared for the New Testament’s presentation of Jesus as promising to found a new community. (p. 46, bold added)

This brings us to Ferguson’s discussion of Matthew 16:13-23. He argues more convincingly than I expected that “the rock is the faith confessed by Peter, not Peter confessing the faith” (p. 49). I would have said it was Peter, but now am agnostic. However:

Whatever interpretation of the “rock” in Matthew 16:18 is found persuasive, whether Peter or the Messiahship, the decision on this question should not obscure the most important declarations made in the verse, namely that Jesus is the builder and the church is his. The church belongs to him, whatever functions others may have in it. The church is Messiah’s people, not Peter’s people. (p. 51, bold added)

Regarding the keys of the kingdom promised to Peter, Ferguson argues thus:

Peter was to declare the terms of admission to the kingdom of heaven, that is, give access to the rule of God over people’s lives, which meant the forgiveness of sins. Such an understanding corresponds to the function Peter performed in the beginning of the church. He preached what people must do to obtain forgiveness of sins or to be saved, both Jews (Acts 2:37-40) and Gentiles (Acts 10:43; 11:18).

An aside: While I have heard this passage and the similar verse in Matthew 18:18 used as evidence that church leaders have authority to make final decisions in the local church, in neither passage are any church leaders besides Peter mentioned. Rather, in Matthew 18:18 it is the whole church (or perhaps even any two or three gathered in Christ’s name) who are entrusted with binding and loosing. Of course, we are given instructions elsewhere about the importance of leaders in the church; my point here is simply that the Scriptures never speak of the “keys of the kingdom” as having been given specially or uniquely to local church leaders. In fact, if we take Ferguson’s understanding of the definition of the keys, then each of us can participate in using the keys by proclaiming to others the terms of salvation.

Ferguson concludes his discussion of Matthew 16 and Messiahship:

The central points of Matthew 16:13-23 are clear: (1) Jesus is the Messiah, that is, the Anointed One, with a royal position over a covenant community. (2) Immediately upon the confession of his Messiahship is the promise of the church. We may say that the existence of the church is implied in the confession that he was the Messiah. (3) The church is the Messiah’s. (4) The authority of the apostles (in this case Peter) is delegated. (5) Messiahship means suffering.

The death and resurrection of the Messiah prepares for the next unit of this study, the community of the Messiah… The very concept of a Messiah makes sense only in the context of a people. (p. 56, bold added)

Under “Community” Ferguson begins with precedents from the Old Testament:

[It was] the church’s appropriation of the concept of being God’s people, of being truly the Israel of God, [that gave] it a sense of historical identity, a strong sense of solidarity, and a sense of ethical responsibility.

It is significant for the understanding of the church that God’s purpose was to call a people and that he dealt with individuals in relation to a people and individuals came to him as members of the chosen people…

An important part of the prophetic hope, in keeping with God’s goal of unity, was the reuniting of God’s people…

[Yet] God’s concern was not limited to Israel and Judah. The prophets anticipated a time when the non-Israelites would worship the Lord…

The second half of Isaiah is full of such predictions. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD… Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered” (Isa. 56:6, 8). “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you…” (Isa. 60:3-4). These passages in the Greek translation [the Septuagint] use for “gather” the same word that is used for the assembling of the church (on earth—Heb. 10:25; eschatologically–2 Thess. 2:1)…

According to Paul’s analogy of the olive tree in Romans 11:17-24, the Gentiles are branches from a wild olive tree grafted contrary to normal practice into the cultivated olive tree (Israel). This is the basis for the application of the language of the people of God… to the church. (pp. 57-59, bold added)

Next Ferguson identifies some prerequisites for the church. He begins again with the image of the church as a new Israel:

Jesus’ calling of twelve disciples (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13) as a symbolic prophetic action made clear allusion to his mission to all Israel (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:24) and implied the founding of a new Israel when the former Israel rejected him (Matt. 19:28). Indeed, there was implicit in many of Jesus’ teachings and actions, such as the giving of an authoritative interpretation of the law (Matt. 5-7), the formation of a community. However, before the promise of Matthew 16:18 could be fulfilled, certain things had to happen…

(1) The crucifixion was necessary for Jesus to be the foundation of the church… The prophets voiced the hope of a fully forgiven people (Jer. 31:31-34). The new covenant of forgiveness of sins required the shedding of Jesus’ blood (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:16-17, 22)…

(2) The resurrection was necessary for Jesus to be head over the church… At the resurrection and ascension, Jesus was exalted above all other authority and dominion and made “head over all things for the church” (Eph. 1:20-22)…

(3) The Holy Spirit had to be given as the life of the new community… Important for our purposes here… is John’s observation [John 7:38-39] that the fullness of the presence of the Spirit as a living reality within believers had to await the glorification of Jesus…

(4) There had to be a commission to give the church a mission. There had to be a message for the church to proclaim… The proclamation of Jesus as Messiah and of his forgiveness and blessings called a church into existence… (pp. 60-63, bold added)

According to Ferguson, despite all the Old Testament gestation discerned by exegetical sonogram above, the actual birth of the church of Christ occurred at Pentecost:

According to Acts 11:15, the events of Acts 2 marked “the beginning.” The beginning of what? Several items occur for the first time in Acts 2. These together mark the occasion as the beginning of a new age, the gathering of a new community, the beginning of the church.

(1) The beginning of the age of the Holy Spirit…

(2) The beginning of the public proclamation of Jesus as Christ…

(3) The beginning of the preaching of the gospel…

(4) The beginning of the offer of forgiveness in Jesus’ name…

(5) The beginning of the new covenant…

(6) The beginning of the gathering of a church…

(7) The beginning of corporate life and worship. (pp. 63-67, bold added)

The birth of the church was the beginning of a new age, an age that is known as the “last days”:

Early Christians expressed the conviction that they were living in the “last days,” and therefore the church was the eschatological [end times] community… Those who are Christ’s people are those “on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

The phrase “last days” does not necessarily indicate the nearness of the end… The emphasis is not on the word “days,” which simply indicates an indefinite period of time, but on the word “last.” The reference is to God’s final act on behalf of humanity (Heb. 10:26-27)… The phrase describes the last dispensation…

The covenant brought by Christ is permanent (2 Cor. 3:11) It has made all previous dealings of God with people obsolete (Heb. 8:13) and is the “eternal covenant” (Heb. 13:20)… This covenant is the covenant of the “last days”…

The church is the eschatological community, the remnant gathered by God to be saved in the overthrow of the world, the people of the End time. They are enjoying the eschatological blessings of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the present, but they await the coming again of the Son of God and entrance into the final completion of God’s purposes. This dual dimension of present and future, already and not yet, influences other aspects of the church to be considered in subsequent chapters… (pp. 67-69, bold added)

The phrase “last days” also, of course, is meaningless unless there were also “former days.” And so we come full circle: The church—and Christmas, which brought to earth the church’s Christ—cannot be fully understood apart from the promises and patterns of the Old Testament.

The physical and national nature of the promises given to Abraham and David remind us that the salvation that Jesus offers is no mere “spiritual” matter, and the church is not merely an invisible reality. Although the New Testament fulfilments telescope the Old Testament promises far beyond what their first hearers could ever have imagined, the fulfillments are always more, not less. And so even today we, as the church of Christ, eagerly await with Zechariah the day when we will “be saved from all our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us” (Luke 1:71).

And, as Ferguson reminds us, “those who share the kingdom now will be those to participate in it in the future” (p. 35).

What did you learn from Ferguson’s discussion in this chapter? Do you see how the Old Testament helps us see the centrality of Christ for his church? Share your questions or insights in the comments below.

Ferguson’s second chapter (our post 3) is about the nature of the church. We’ll discuss election, some powerful images of the church such as “the body of Christ” and “the family of God,” and zero in on the meaning of ekklesia. See you there!

Note: I participate in an Amazon affiliates program, so if you buy a book using the link above, I will earn pennies. Thanks!

Downsview Station Jazz Rap [Poem by Mom]

The wonderful thing about having a blog devoted to biblical studies is that you can legitimately include almost any topic under the sun, since the Bible itself includes just about every sort of topic imaginable. So if this month’s poem from Mom doesn’t sound sufficiently biblical or spiritual, go read something like a Gospel account of Jesus interacting with children or the story of Hannah and Samuel or even the Song of Songs, then read Mom’s poem again. I think you’ll see it fits in very well indeed.

This poem was written in honor of our firstborn daughter, who just turned seven. When she was still very new, we took her on an overnight bus ride from our home in Queens, New York, to Toronto, Ontario, to introduce her to my family for the first time.

The Manhattan skyline at dusk.  Photo Credit: Ana Paula Hirama via Compfight cc

I clearly remember little Priya on that overnight ride, eyes wide open, taking in all the sights—the curbside Manhattan bus stop, the fellow passengers, the bright lights outside the bus window, and, when whenever we pointed her in the wrong direction, the long-forgotten movie flashing on the bus monitors.

NeonBusStop Photo Credit: Stewart via Compfight cc

I think she squeaked only about once on that whole roughly-10-hour ride. She spent much of her time sleeping, and the rest of it looking wide-eyed at the wide world. We’d had fearful visions of keeping fellow passengers awake all night with a crying baby. But the trip turned out to be, as I recall, a magical experience for all of us.

The CN Tower rising behind Union Station, much as we glimpsed it before dawn that morning.
The CN Tower rising behind Union Station, much as we glimpsed it before dawn that morning. Photo Credit: wyliepoon via Compfight cc

We arrived in Canada’s largest city, at downtown Union Station, early in the morning. After strolling around mostly underground a while, past closed shops, we found the subway line heading to the north edge of Toronto.


After years of subway riding in NYC, it was fun to ride a subway in Toronto, for perhaps only the second time in my life. Perhaps my Canadian memory is just biased, but I’m recalling that the TO subway was quieter and cleaner than those in NYC.

downsview-IMG_2919Photo credit: Nathan Ng (See his Downsview Station photo collection.)

Soon we reached Downsview Station, the end of the line. There we worked our way above ground and found the passenger pickup waiting area.

The inside of the passenger pickup area where we waited for Mom and Dad. Photo credit: Nathan Ng.

Bright-eyed little Priya was a charm the whole way, and as we waited at Downsview for my parents to arrive to drive us to home in Parry Sound, all her innocent baby charm was poised to capture their hearts, too.

trip to Parry Sound Jan '09, etc 107
Photo of Priya during our Parry Sound visit.

I’ll let Mom continue from here. But first, perhaps this is a good time to remind you that “travelled,” “traveller” and “centre” are perfectly proper spelling for a Canadian poet!

Ken and I met Priya Simone, our fourth grandchild, on January 22, 2009. She was six weeks old when she and her parents visited us, and I wrote this poem after her return to her home in New York City.

I’m not sure what the genesis was for the style of this poem. I know little about jazz, and less about rap. Perhaps the rhythm was born of the turning of wheels, the tension and excitement from memories of subway rides in New York City, the relentless forward advance from the gritty determination to survive the wrenching separation from our newest grandchild after such a brief time together.

This was northern bush country grandmother meeting city granddaughter. Was I wondering if we could speak the same language, make the same music? But it was love at first sight.

I can still visualize the indoor park bench at Downsview Subway Station in Toronto, with tiny baby, wrapped against the winter cold, lying there so innocent and vulnerable, so out of place in an urban transit center filled with strangers, aloof and transient. She seemed to have been just dropped there out of nowhere, a gift to our world. With father and mother hovering nearby the image becomes in my mind a modern nativity, a babe in an unlikely place, of immense import to the two of us who had come to welcome her. With awe we peeked inside the blankets to gaze on our new little granddaughter, Priya. Then we all travelled north to celebrate a belated Christmas.

Christmas: to us a child is born. Christmas: the arrival of a child. Christmas: the journey to welcome, to worship, to open our hearts. Christmas: each baby born is a reminder, every journey an opportunity for pilgrimage, and every Christmas season another opportunity to worship.

—Elaine Gingrich, December 12, 2015

The passenger pickup waiting area where Mom and Dad first saw Priya—on a much colder morning.
The outside of the passenger pickup area where Mom and Dad first saw Priya–on a much colder morning. Photo credit: Nathan Ng.

To Priya (“Beloved”)

We met in Downsview station
When you visited our nation
From New York City on the overnight bus.
Parry Sound your destination
But Toronto the location
Where streets were gray and gritty when you first met us.

You slept like a pro on the overnight bus
Like a seasoned traveller who makes no fuss.
Child of the city, an urban daughter,
We met you at last, our third granddaughter.
Cradled on a bench in a subway shelter
You smiled contentedly in the chilly weather.

Downsview station
Parry Sound your destination
On the overnight bus
When you first met us.

In the chaos of commute, an island of repose,
I fell in love with you, from dark eyes to tiny toes,
The centre of our universe as travellers passed us by,
Unbelievably diminutive to hold our hopes so high.
Petite determination, tiny but so strong—
I ached to get acquainted and it didn’t take long.
You opened up your heart to us—so full of ready smiles
To grow a bond connecting us across the years and miles
With all the stunning impact of a little grandchild’s powers.
And all my mothering instincts rose to claim you—you are ours!

Downsview station
Petite determination
Making no fuss
When you first met us.

We headed up the highway to your family from away
To make the most of loving you, to count each precious day.
Child of New York City, but the north is in your veins.
Born south of the border, but the ancestry remains—
Looking like your daddy with your mommy’s eyes
Old baby photos demonstrate our family ties.
Through wonders of development and genealogy,
Genetics, procreation—God designed who you would be.

Jazz Loop:              Downsview Downsview station

Overnight bus.

Overnight bus

Where you first met us.

First met us

From the overnight bus
At Downsview station
Where you first met us.

Downsview station is where we said goodbye
Only one week later–I thought my heart would die—
A visceral tug as your parents rushed away
Among their bags and luggage toting you—you could not stay.

Downsview Downsview station
And you make no fuss
Heading via subway
To the overnight bus.
Back to New York City
Where the streets are gray and gritty.
Petite determination
With no choice of destination.

It was Downsview station where we met,
It is Downsview station when I close my eyes.
I see it in twilight—an empty park bench set
In the vacant station where I heard your gurgled cries.

Downsview station
Where you left our nation
On an overnight bus
But I will not fuss.

—Elaine Gingrich, February 6, 2009

Mom and Dad saying bye to Priya before she begins her homeward journey by subway, overnight bus, and subway, back to her home in NYC.
Mom and Dad saying bye to Priya before she begins her homeward journey by subway, overnight bus, and subway again, back to her home in NYC.

For the rest of the poems in this monthly series, see here.

And if you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!

I can’t resist adding a few more pictures from Priya’s first visit to her northern grandparents. Here are some highlights.

Our Parry Sound destination--Mom and Dad's house under a deep blanket of snow, with clouds above promising still more.
Our Parry Sound destination–Mom and Dad’s house under a deep blanket of snow, with clouds above promising still more.
Mom holding Priya while receiving the news that another granddaughter had just been born. Big sisters (Priya's cousins) share the wonder.
Mom holding Priya while receiving the news that another granddaughter had just been born–Priya’s cousin Megan. Big sisters Emily and Natalia share the wonder.
Mothers and babies: Chris with Megan (left) and Zonya with Priya (right).
Mothers and babies: Chris with Megan (left) and Zonya with Priya (right).
And the dads: Me with my big brother Tim.
And the dads: Me with my big brother Tim.
Taking Priya skating for the first time, in Parry Sound's Bobby Orr Community Centre.
Taking Priya skating for the first time, in Parry Sound’s Bobby Orr Community Centre.  Dad is pleased but needs to work on his posture.
Priya seemed to enjoy it.
Priya was a real natural on the ice.
Time for a chat with the coach.
Time for a chat with the coach. Pretty good game, eh?
Four generations: Priya, me, Mom, and Mom's parents. We owe more than we can fathom to those who have gone before us.
Four generations: Priya, me, Mom, and Mom’s parents. We owe more than we can fathom to those who have gone before us.

At Christmastime; Christmas Comes Again [Poems by Mom]

It’s time for more of Mom’s poems. This month I’m sharing two of her Christmas poems. Enjoy!

(Tips: Read these poems aloud to hear them best. And see here for an introduction to this series.)


At Christmastime the bells of joy
Ring out in every town–
But it was for our sorrowing
That Jesus Christ came down.

At Christmastime the carollers sing
To celebrate good cheer.
But still Christ comes to comfort those
Who shed a private tear.

At Christmastime the Christ was born
To heal our grief and pain.
And soon to banish death and tears
The Christ will come again.

– Elaine Gingrich  (shared on her 2014 Christmas cards)


(I Cor. 2:9; Isaiah 64:4)

Once again, Lord, Christmas finds us waiting,
Needy, with great want for You and Your coming,
Like Mary awaiting her birth pangs,
And old Simeon waiting to die.
We are weary of groaning and wanting.
But without want, we would have no need of hope,
And Paul states we are saved by hope,
Like the wise men with eyes on the sky.
What shall we do with this severe blessing of waiting,
Of hopefully living without?

Waiting is the time for preparing…

An open door, a welcoming heart,
A costly gift and a packed bag for the journey to worship.

Waiting is the time for remembering…

Ancient prophecies finally fulfilled,
A virgin, a baby, the angels, a star.

Christmas is waiting for a promise to come true,

Doing without until the gift is ready.
Maybe there is not even a scrap of tissue in sight—
But if we know that the one who promised loves us,
Then we know that it is worth our while to keep waiting.

To love is to wait for.

Do we truly know the One who promised Christmas?
Do we love the One who said that he who waits will not be disappointed,

Will not be embarrassed in front of the watching world?

Because He will come again and keep His Word!
He said that the crown is laid up, that the gift may tarry,
But in the fulness of time, behold He will come quickly!
But sometimes when the race is hard and the wait is long
Our nights are spent impatiently watching for a star bright enough to guide us,

Trying, with our prayers, to punch holes in heaven’s brass canopy,
Filling empty space with despairing baby-faith cries.

Meanwhile the Star pinpricks through the cloudy curtain.
We feel an unexpected warmth behind us
Warming our bent backs, stooped under heavy burdens.
We turn and raise our damp eyes to the kindest light
Piercing the gloom with an undeserved grace,

Spotlighting the Desire of the ages—

The Healer of our hearts with smiling face

Lying in a simple stable,
Revealed in an old Book.

The pages turn and the glory burns ever brighter,
Delighting with miracle and majesty,

Truth and transformation,
Wisdom and comfort;

Giving and demanding all that we are and have.
Emmanuel! God is with us while we wait.
Till He comes, the long-awaited One!

 Lord, this Christmas may I again face the darkness with hope,
           And humbly accept this gift of waiting.           
                                 To love is to wait for.

Elaine Gingrich,  December 13, 2012/December 14, 2014

Two Poems, One Hope

At first glance these two poems are very different. One trips with apparent innocence through three short, parallel stanzas. The other explores unguided paths of free-verse thought.

Thematically, however, the poems are similar. Both confess our human groaning and pain; both look to the past, the present and the future, discovering hope; both long for Christ to come again; and both wonder that “God is with us while we wait.”

One poem exudes radiant hope; the other waits long to unwrap the gift of hope with “not even a scrap of tissue in sight,” until finally hope glimmers in the dark. Whatever your experience this season, “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13).

As Mom says, “Christmas is a bit like signs of spring in the heart of winter, but the actual change of weather is still to come, and so we ache for the full radiance of the Son in that day when we shall be with Him and when our world will be made new. Meanwhile He is with us, warming our hearts and lighting our imperfect world with a hint of heaven.”

If you enjoyed these poems, leave a comment here or send an email to Mom at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  She’ll enjoy hearing from you!