The Christ child is on fire!

Robert Southwell (1561-1595) was a Jesuit priest from England who was martyred in 1595.  During Advent I like to ponder his poem “The Burning Babe.”  It is a strange, extended metaphor in which the baby Jesus is likened to a smelting furnace.

Here’s how it starts…

As I in hoary Winter’s night stood shivering in the snow, surprised I was with sudden heat, which made my heart to glow; And lifting up a fearful eye, to view what fire was near, a pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear.”

And ends…

The metal in this furnace wrought, are men’s defiled souls: for which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good, so will I met into a bath, to wash them in my blood.  With this he vanished out of sight, and swiftly shrunk away, and straight I called unto mind, that it was Christmas day.”

Writer George MacDonald describes the fire of God like this:  “… when we turn and begin to approach him, the burning begins to change to comfort, which comfort will grow to such bliss that the heart at length cries out with a gladness no other gladness can reach, ‘Whom have I in heaven but you?  And earth has nothing I desire besides you!'”

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