St. John’s Baptist Church

Worship | Sundays @ 10:30am

The Epic of Jesus: The Birth by Dr. Chauncey Durden

From the Heritage Room—

In the 1930’s, “The Epic of Jesus” written by Dr. Chauncey Durden, the second minister at St. John’s was published. This book tells the story of the life of Jesus in the form of an epic poem. Following is the section from the book telling the Nativity Story:

The better that he tribute might exact

From all the conquered nations of the world,

Augustus Caesar did proclaim decree,

By which the head of every family

Were hence commanded to their native place

Repair, and there by law to be enrolled.

Obedient to imperial mandate sent

Did righteous Joseph and his wife, Mary

Leave Nazareth, their home in Galilee,

And make the journey down to Bethlehem,

The city of David’s nativity.

For Joseph’s genealogy was there,

And his was lineage from David’s line.

Long was the way, and journey wearisome,

Until at last they reached the public khan,

Where they refreshment sought and room to rest.

They were among the last of caravan

To reach the khan, and found no room therein;

For those who first arrived bespoke all room.

No plea that Joseph made, or offered price

Could room obtain for him and Mary there.

So tired and faint did Mary pine for rest,

Expectant too, of motherhood besought

Good Joseph that some place for her be found.

 Again he asked the keeper of the khan,

And pleaded that some room for her be found:

“Long have we journeyed over hill and plain,

Till now the time since leaving Nazareth

Is measured by two holy Sabbath days;

All worn, I fear for thine handmaid, my wife;

If only place for her may yet be found,

That she alone may rest and comfort have,

I will a place in manger seek with beasts,

And so we both shall pass the night in peace,

And on tomorrow find another place.”

The kindly host could only make reply:

“All room is now by others occupied,

You must begone, and find some other place!”

But ere they went, did Mary whisper words

That filled Joseph with deep concern and fear,

For now he knew the fullness of her time

Was near at hand when should be born her Child.

Hard by the khan was manger kept for beasts

Of caravan, where provender was stored

Of straw and hay abundant for their need.

 Here strangers, when no room in khan was found,

Might share with easts the warmth of manager hay.

Here hither Joseph came with Mary sick,

And soon a couch of straw arranged for her,

Whereon she lay, the Queen of womankind,

The mother of our lord—and Christ was born!

No skilled physician, nor yet midwife kind,

Assisted at accouchement of the child,

No candle burned with flickering light to aid;

But mother with her hands the Infant wrapped

In swaddling clothes, and in the manger laid.

All through the night serene the shepherds watched,

Nort left the flock a prey to prowling beasts.

“Twas duty’s high behest that they should guard,

That from the fold no sheep, nor little Lamb,

Should stray in hill or copse or tanged wood,

And be found wanting from the morning count.

And through the weary night complaint,

Making dark the vigil holy sacrament,

They watching waited for the coming morn.

But ere the light fell o’er Judean hills,

Or ran along the broad expansive plains,

Or walked upon the ridgy mountain-top,

A vision wonderful from heaven came:

Far high above hung round a choral cloud,

From out whose limning radiance they heard

The chanting Cherubim, in cadence sing

Of God’s good will to men and peace on earth.

Then forth stood Gabriel on the outer edge

Of the bright burnished cloud and to them said:

Fear not, I bring goad tidings of great joy

In which all nations of the earth shall share;

For there is born this day in Bethlehem,

The Christ, the promised Child of David’s seed.”

And then all the host joined with him and sang:

“To God be glory in the highest heaven,

Among all men on earth let there be peace.”

And richer far than hireling’s golden wage,

Or yet ambition’s honors, or valor’s wreath,

On diadem of kings and potentates,

Was Heaven’s bestowal that night upon these men.

Then ere Aurora oped the gates of dawn, —

Before Hyperon’s suffusing light,

Bathed topmost cedars on high Lebanon

Or flung his kisses shimmering afar

O’er all the hills and valleys down between,

Forth from the tented fields the shepherds came

To Bethlehem, and wrapped in swaddling clothes

They found the Holy Child, the infant Christ,

And bowed themselves in worship to the King,

Of whom hey heard in filed the angels sing.