Christmas reminds us of the tragedy of being homeless, a refugee, one of the ‘left outside people’ and the ‘unloved’. We all need ‘home’ where we can be loved. It’s lonely and cold outside.
Francis Thompson was born in Lancashire in 1859. After failing his final exams three times at medical school, in despair, he left home to run away to London. Already a drug addict he ended up sleeping rough in the streets around Covent Garden. In the day time he sold newspapers and matches to support himself.
At an all time low, when he was contemplating suicide, he noticed one of his own poems published in a magazine edited by the poet Wilfred Meynell. It became a turning point for Thompson and led to Meynell and his wife rescuing and restoring him to health and faith in a Sussex monastery.
It was while here that Thompson wrote his best works of poetry, including the famous poem “The Hound of Heaven” which describes someone running away from pursuing footsteps. The poem was clearly a description of Thompson’s own experience: discovering that the ‘pursuing footsteps’ from which he was running away, were in fact those of a loving Heavenly Father running after His lost child.
I fled Him down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him……
from those strong feet that followed, followed after.
………But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat …….
The poem comes to its conclusion with the voice of the divine pursuer:
“Whom wilt thou have to love ignoble thee, Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand and come!”
The poem ends with the fugitive making a wonderful discovery:
“Halts by me that footfall:From ‘The Hound of Heaven’
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of his hand, outstretched,
‘”This son of mine was dead and is alive again; was lost and is found.”Luke’s Gospel 15:24
As I see it, this is what Christmas is all about. Christ coming down to earth to seek us out, take us by the hand and bring us home. God-with-us and God-for-us; sharing our earthly life with its joys and sorrows and bearing our burdens, even going to a cross.
This is God who loves and identifies with the widow and the orphan, the underdog, the outcast and who always makes room for the stranger. With ‘His hand, outstretched caressingly‘ and with those words ringing in my ears ‘Rise, clasp My hand and come‘, how can I resist but come!
I’m grateful to all who have been regular or occasional followers of this blog. Specially welcome have been overseas visitors from many nations. One thing I’ve missed is hearing from more of you. Please be bold and leave a brief comment below the relative post (your e-mail is not disclosed publicly if you do). If you would rather leave a private comment use my ‘Contact me‘ page.
I look forward to your company in the coming year. though I appreciate that you may not find every post interests you.
If you would like to read how someone else discovered ‘home’ visit my ‘The Wellspring’ pages (see menu) where I also share how I gradually came ‘home’ myself.
Very best wishes for Christmas and for 2020.
Next time – ‘What’s Happening to Winter?’