“High King of heaven, my victory won
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.”

With these words, the ancient Irish poet brings us into a different world. It is a world where God is not just the omniscient, omnibenevolent deity of scholastic logic, but the “high King of heaven.” This title moves the mind back through time to a different political moment, a time when security rested not in democratic freedoms but in the local king submitting to the high king in his hall. The poet reaches for the political structure of ancient Ireland to describe the spiritual relationship of Christians. Just as the local king ruled his kingdom under the authority of the high king, so each Christian man and woman becomes a king or queen ruling creation under the benevolent grace of our Father.

In Poetics, Aristotle describes the goal of poetry as mimesis, imitation. The poet seeks to artfully construct a sort of mirror reflecting reality back to his audience. It is in this sense that Christian theology is a poetic, or perhaps mimetic, discipline. Theology is not necessarily creative but seeks to reflect the work of God back to the current generation of Christians. Just as the poets of ancient Greece reflected their historical context, so, too, Christian theologians bring their own historical moment into the task of writing theology.

In the genre of Christmas hymns, we can see commonality as medieval, modern, and contemporary hymn writers draw on both the gospel accounts of Christ’s birth and the political and theological categories of their day to shape their hymns. By increasing our awareness of the riches available ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.