Old Noah stroked his beard and sat
Among his sons like stone. “What’s that?”
They asked. “There in your lap, the bark.”
But Noah let the evening dark
Grow thick before he said a word.
“How can I speak what I have heard!”
He thought, and looked at Ham and Shem
And Japheth. How he cherished them!
“Will they believe? Or will they say
That I am old and speak the way
My father, Lamech, did before
He died. I pray they not ignore
Their aged father now, for I
Speak words by which they live or die.”
Then softly in the dark, “An ark,”
He said, “I’ve drawn it on the bark,
One hundred fifty paces long
And fifty cubits wide, built strong
With gopher wood, and over all
The pitch, and thirty cubits tall.”
He paused as tears rolled down his beard,
“It is, my sons, as I have feared:
The patience of Almighty God
Is ended, and the awful rod
Will break itself in wrath across
Our land. O my sons, the loss!
The loss that comes with unbelief!
Doubt not, my sons. Your father’s grief
Is deep as Sheol for the land
And people like the ocean sand.”
He broke off, weeping at the thought.
He did not shed his tears for naught
Because: where arguments may fail
To win, the tears of love prevail.
Shem, Ham and Japheth had been stirred,
And all three sons believed his word.
The building . . . then the endless rain:
Relentless, raging tears, to drain
The eyes of heaven’s justice dry.
And then the smile of cloudless sky.
The sudden thud of Ararat
And eight thin voices shout, “What’s that?”
A circling dove returns no more,
And Noah passes through the door
Into a silent, lifeless world
Where wrath had done its work and swirled
Its victims to the distant sea.
Now, father Noah, what will be?
Then slowly with arthritic hands
The old man gathers stone and stands
The heavy pieces face to face,
And trembling builds a holy place,
And offers sheep and pigeons there
To worship God with fire and prayer.
O God of fresh beginnings, take
Our Christmas worship for your sake,
And make our hearts a holy pyre
And Noah’s hope the kindling fire.
Let us begin where he’s begun
And light our advent candle one.