During my four years of seminary I had the distinct privilege of attending and being involved in ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Each year Karla and I waited with suspense for Pastor John Piper’s Advent poems that he wrote during each Sunday of Advent. As if the week in and week out God-centered, Christ exalting passionate preaching weren’t treasure enough, these poems frequently hit my soul with a profundity that words cannot express.
You can find these treasures by going to www.desiringgod.org and putting Advent poems in the search box. In a massive labor of love Pastor John has written scores through the years. He has inspired me in many ways but I have still managed to write only two. Here is one.
Advent Candle One: Zechariah and Elizabeth (Based on Luke Chapters 1-3)
It was unseasonably warm in the month of Kislev
When Zechariah and Elizabeth heard a knock at their door,
A knock for which God had prepared them long before.
“Shalom, my friends!” Zechariah said,
But in return saw only dread.
Weak and trembling the three visitors could but stare,
As if their souls had been seared and no one did care.
At last, Judah spoke with dread.
“It’s John,” he wept. “He’s dead.
Herod did it, that gutless worm.”
They fell on their faces to the cold stone floor,
Never once knowing pain like this from afore.
Yet from their low state God’s grace came in power,
Granting peace and the strength of a fortified tower.
At once they remembered as if only yesterday,
Twenty-nine years before when God made a way
For their son to be born.
Elizabeth was sixty-two
When the angel spoke to Zechariah who,
Gripped with fear and trembling,
Received with joy yet wondering,
Why God had now decided to give
A barren womb new life to live.
“For forty-four years we have prayed, my dear bride
For the joy of a child who with us may abide.
We have fasted and prayed and cried many tears,
Yet we have known God’s faithfulness all through the years.
And now my dear ‘lizbeth, Gabriel has said
That we will soon have a son upon whose head
Shall be the joy of preparing the way for the Son,
Of God most High, heaven’s holy One.”
“This son named John will be a great joy,
A delight to many, a Spirit-filled boy,
Who will make ready a people prepared for the Lord,
One who shall lead in strength without sword,
Who shall baptize and preach repentance of sin,
Forgiveness for all who now enter in.”
Slowly Zechariah and Elizabeth arose
From the cold stone floor that had been their repose.
Wiping away tears, Elizabeth spoke.
With great strength and courage her message awoke:
“Zechariah, our beloved son John is now dead.
You know how I loved him, you know how I said
That whatever befell him, we’d accept without question.
Our God reigns, Zechariah, there is no exception.”
Zechariah gently nodded his head
To agree with the truth that had been said.
Again Elizabeth spoke, but now with great joy,
As she recalled a memory from twenty-nine years before.
“Zechariah, here’s the part I didn’t tell you.
After John leaped in my womb, I said something like, ‘Blessed is she
Who has believed what God has brought to reality,
Will be brought to completion in the lives of two men,
Who listened to God again and again.’ ”
“Zechariah,” she pleaded, “don’t you understand?
God’s purpose for John is complete, there’s no more.
He has prepared the way for Jesus whom we adore.
And now the way must be clear,
Including our Johnny who is so dear. John fought a good fight. He finished the race and kept the faith.
My dear Zach, let us trust fully in what God saith.”
With tears streaming down each face,
The joy of the Lord was in the embrace,
Of Zechariah and Elizabeth who had now come to see
The purposes of God in tragedy.
Although they were in age nearly five score,
Zechariah and Elizabeth beamed with the joy of the Lord.
This is the light of candle one,
To see through the clouds and to the sun.
Lord, grant us eyes to see
The purpose of God in tragedy.
Michael E. Evans 11/27/93