"Advent" & Other Poems by Scott Cairns

As Advent comes to a close, I still need reminders to be watchful, to repent and guard the mystery of Christ’s birth in my heart. If I don’t, I know what the outcome will be. The holy feast of the Lord’s nativity will be swallowed up by the traveling-eating-partying-shopping mania around me. It’s happened before. I found one such reminder this morning in a podcast by poet and professor Scott Cairns—“Flesh Becomes Word: The Incarnational Poetry of Scott Cairns.” A fitting title for the season, no?

Scott begins with his poem “Advent,” which is typed below. He continues with several others that are well worth hearing (even if not strictly Advent-themed selections), so I hope you'll stick around for the full episode.

Listen here.


Well, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas—everywhere, children eyeing the bright lights and colorful goods, traffic a good deal worse than usual and most adults in view looking a little puzzled, blinking their eyes against the assault of stammering bulbs and public displays of goodwill. We were all embarrassed, frankly, the haves and the have-nots—all of us aware something had gone far wrong with an entire season, something had eluded us. And, well, it was strenuous, trying to recall what it was that had charmed us so, back when we were much smaller and more oblivious than not concerning the weather, mass marketing, the insufficiently hidden faces behind those white beards and other jolly gear. And there was something else: a general diminishment whose symptoms included the Xs in Xmas, shortened tempers, and the aggressive abandon with which most celebrants seemed to push their shiny cars about. All of this seemed to accumulate like wet snow, or like the fog with which our habitual inversion tried to choke us, or to blank us out altogether, so that, of a given night, all that appeared over the mess we had made of the season was what might be described as a nearly obscured radiance, just visible through the gauze, either the moon disguised by a winter veil, or some lost star—isolated, distant, sadly dismissing of us, and of all our expertly managed scene.

-from the Compass of Affection: Poems New and Selected

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