Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s New Year

With every power for good to stay and guide me, 
comforted and inspired beyond all fear, 
I’ll live these days with you in thought beside me, 
and pass, with you, into the coming year.

The old year still torments our hearts, unhastening; 
the long days of our sorrow still endure; 
Father, grant to the souls thou hast been chastening 
that thou hast promised, the healing and the cure.

Should it be ours to drain the cup of grieving 
even to the dregs of pain, at thy command, 
we will not falter, thankfully receiving 
all that is given by thy loving hand.

But should it be thy will once more to release us 
to life’s enjoyment and its good sunshine, 
that which we’ve learned from sorrow shall increase us, 
and all our life be dedicate as thine.

Today, let candles shed their radiant greeting; 
lo, on our darkness are they not thy light 
leading us, haply, to our longed-for meeting? –
Thou canst illumine even our darkest night.

When now the silence deepens for our hearkening, 
grant we may hear thy children’s voices raise 
from all the unseen world around us darkening 
their universal paean, in thy praise.

While all the powers of good aid and attend us, 
boldly we’ll face the future, come what may. 
At even and at morn God will befriend us, 
and oh, most surely on each newborn day!


Most of you may know that Bonhoeffer was executed later that year in a German concentration camp. This translation was taken from the1953 version of Letters and Papers published by SCM and translated by R Fuller.

For those able to read German I’m grateful to for his copy of the German text below. 

Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben,
Behütet und getröstet wunderbar,
So will ich diese Tage mit euch leben
Und mit euch gehen in ein neues Jahr.

Noch will das alte unsre Herzen quälen,
Noch drückt uns böser Tage schwere Last.
Ach, Herr, gib unsern aufgescheuchten Seelen
Das Heil, für das du uns bereitet hast.

Und reichst du uns den schweren Kelch, den bittern
Des Leids, gefüllt bis an den höchsten Rand,
So nehmen wir ihn dankbar ohne Zittern
Aus deiner guten und geliebten Hand.

Doch willst du uns noch einmal Freude schenken
An dieser Welt und ihrer Sonne Glanz,
Dann wolln wir des Vergangenen gedenken
Und dann gehört dir unser Leben ganz.

Lass warm und still die Kerzen heute flammen,
Die du in unsre Dunkelheit gebracht.
Führ, wenn es sein kann, wieder uns zusammen.
Wir wissen es, dein Licht scheint in der Nacht.

Wenn sich die Stille nun tief um uns breitet,
So lass uns hören jenen vollen Klang
Der Welt, die unsichtbar sich um uns weitet,
All deiner Kinder hohen Lobgesang.

Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen,
Erwarten wir getrost, was kommen mag.
Gott ist mit uns am Abend und am Morgen
Und ganz gewiss an jedem neuen Tag.




Following on from last week’s poem on the Annuciation here is another (rushed) new one on the Nativity. Forgive what seems a dark telling – it is probably an over-reaction to the latent nativities from schools and cards that plague my memory.

It often seems to me that Nativities are pregnant with everything but the reality of incarnation!


contracted strains

declaring pain

that will not ease with words;

nor does promise,


the threat unfolding here


choral angels


this woman’s waters breaking,

panting, pauses,

cries, and shouts:

the glorias of the evening


fingers fumble at the air

lips sip at life:

a baby suckles

at the body

of the girl

who cried in strife


nativity telling,

the first staging here,

of the pieta foreseen;

holding the baby,

Madonna-our Lady

knows; so let it be.


so men discard

on Christmas cards

the anticipated danger

Mary giving birth

to God,

so inciting threats of murder.




I did not expect to expect

Not sure I will make it to Poetry and a Pint tonight but in a vague hope I penned this little poem about Mary, just in case. Written quite quickly, so apologies; I wonder what she’d make of it?


I did not expect to expect


I did not invite

a sheeted angel to my bed;

as he winked his wings,

I heard whispers in my head


I did not enquire

what his intentions were

he didn’t try to overpower,

nor my sex stir


I did not deny

through subtle remonstration

the gracious divine

in angelic visitation


I did not imagine

this womb, barely reborn

would soon harbour a secret

that would cover me with scorn


I did not renounce

the possibility of birth

instead I joined Elizabeth in

incandescent mirth


I did not expect,

Did not expect to expect;

I did not expect,

Did not expect to expect.