‘Twas the Night Before the Census

’Twas the night before the census

And all through the land

My countrymen traveled

At King Caesar’s command

 

My bride rode a donkey

As I led the way

Back to my hometown

For I had taxes to pay

 

The rulers is seemed

Took no consideration

In the plight of the subjects

Who comprised their nation

 

My sweet maiden, Mary

Was indeed great with child

And I grew more fearful

As we trekked every mile

 

When we came into Bethlehem

My fear turned to dread

The inn had no room

For our road-weary heads

 

The innkeeper looked sad

When he shook his head no

“The stable out back

Is where you must go”

 

My heart grew so heavy

As I opened the door

To that smelly old shed

And looked at the floor

 

There was mud and muck

And sour wet hay

And much indication

Stock had been there for days

 

I couldn’t believe it

It seemed not quite right

Did the angel mean this

My last worrisome night?

I glanced back at Mary

As I squished through the goo

She said as she waited

“My Dear, this will do”

 

I found a stall empty

With fresh hay all around

Then called in my Mary

And we both did lie down

 

The animals got quiet

They made hardly a sound

The sleep I had lost

I finally found

 

Was it hours or minutes?

I surely don’t know

My Mary was moaning

Through the roof came a glow

 

Such fear and wild trembling

I never knew in my life

So I fervently prayed

For a Hebrew midwife

 

Yahweh had a plan

When he made the world new

And new life will come

Despite what you do

 

The babe cried with vigor

Like all babes the same

And I cried to Mary

“Immanuel is his name”

 

And just when I said it

The thunderclaps rolled

Through the Bethlehem night

So starry and cold

 

I remember no storm

When we came into town

So I stepped out the door

To have a look ’round

 

I looked to the hills

Whence the booming noise came

Then I heard sweet sonatas

On silver-tuned strains

 

With my hand to my head

I looked up at the night

Then my sight was near-stolen

By the beaming star’s light

 

Then an angel appeared

Like the one in my dream

And spoke soothing words

In the starlight’s bright gleam

 

“The babe is the Christ-child

Sent from above

And for all in the world

Is the scope of his love

 

He is the last Adam

Seed of Abraham

His line is from David

Who once ruled this land

 

The child is the bread

Of heavenly life

And a taste of his love

Will end your heart’s strife

 

He is Prophet and Savior

And the highest of Priests

He’s the Suffering Servant

Who will make himself least

 

He’s the only mediator

’Twixt God and man

Who has power to cleanse

Black hearts from all sin

 

This babe is the light

For a sin-darkened world

Yet one day lost sinners

At him insults will hurl

 

He’s the Lamb of God

And the Lord of Glory

And the entire world

Will hear of his story

 

Of the dead he is first-born

Through this he will save

And conquer Beelzebub,

Death, hell and the grave

 

He is the Chief Shepherd

The Chief Cornerstone

Of all who will follow him

After he’s gone

 

But there’s coming a day

When the world he will mend

And of his kingdom

There shall be no end

 

All the dead from all ages

Be they cursed or be blest

Will fall to their knees

And with their tongues confess:

 

‘He is God, He is Savior

He is Lord, He is Lord

All praise goes to him

For he died for the world’

 

So, Joseph, this boy

Overflows with God’s life

Now stop gawking at me

And go tend to your wife”

 

Then I ran back inside

To see if Mary had heard

But when I looked at the child

I said not a word

 

My soul it was awe-struck

To be in his presence

I fell to my knees

And offered him reverence

 

I cannot explain

What happened right then

It seemed my heart opened

And Christ Jesus walked in

 

That song of the angels

In my heart now did ring

As I worshiped the God-man

Lord of lords, King of kings

 

I heard the faint song

Of angels in heaven

“Let there be peace on earth

And goodwill to all men”

 

Copyright: Norman Miller, 1992