Christpower – John Shelby Spong

Lucy Newton Boswell Negus

 puts in free verse the thoughts of Bishop John Spong



Far back beyond the beginning,

stretching out into the unknowable,


unfathomable depths, dark and void

of infinite eternity behind all history,

the Christpower was alive.


This was the


bursting, pulsing,

generating, creating

smoldering, exploding

fusing, multiplying,

emerging, erupting,

pollenizing, inseminating,

heating, cooling

power of life itself: Christpower.

And it was good! 


all things that we know

began their journey into being.


light separated from darkness.


Christpower began to take form.


life became real,

and that life spread into

emerging new creatures


into ever higher intelligence.


There was a sacrifice here


a mutation there.

There was grace and resurrection appearing

in their natural order,

occurring, recurring,

and always driven by the restless,



life force of God, called the Christpower,

which flowed in the veins of every living thing

for ever

and ever

and ever

and ever.

And it was good!


In time, in this universe,

there emerged creatures who were called human,

and the uniqueness of these creatures

lay in that they could


this life-giving power.


They could name it

and embrace it

and grow with it

and yearn for it.


Thus human life was born,

but individual expressions of that human life

were marked with a sense of



and a hunger

that drove them ever beyond the self

to search for life’s secret


to seek the source of life’s power.

This was a humanity that could not be content with

anything less.


And once again

in that process

there was

sacrifice and mutation,

grace and resurrection

now in the human order,

occurring, recurring.

And it was good!


Finally, in the fullness of time,

within that human family,


unique and special human life appeared:







at one

at peace

at rest.


In that life was seen with new intensity

that primal power of the universe,


And it was good!


Of that life people said: Jesus,

you are the Christ,

for in you we see

and feel

and experience

the living force of life

and love

and being

of God. 


He was hated,





he was never distorted.

For here was a life in which

the goal, the dream, the hope

of all life

is achieved.


A single life among many lives.


among us, out from us,

and yet this power, this essence,

was not from us at all,

for the Christpower that was seen in Jesus

is finally of God.


And even when the darkness of death overwhelmed him,

the power of life resurrected him;

for Christpower is life


without beginning,

without ending.

It is the secret of creation.

It is the goal of humanity.


Here in this life we glimpse

that immortal


most blessed

most glorious

almighty life-giving force

of this universe

in startling completeness

in a single person.


Men and women tasted the power that was in him

and they were made whole by it.

They entered a new freedom,

a new being.

They knew resurrection and what it means to live

in the Eternal Now.

So they became agents of that power,

sharing those gifts from generation to generation,

creating and re-creating,

transforming, redeeming,

making all things new.


And as this power moved among human beings,


once more separated from darkness.

And it was good!


They searched for the words to describe

the moment that recognized the fullness of this power

living in history,

living in the life of this person.


But words failed them.


So they lapsed into poetry:

When this life was born,

they said,

a great light split the dark sky.

Angelic choruses peopled the heavens

to sing of peace on earth.

They told of a virgin mother,

of shepherds compelled to worship,

of a rejecting world that had no room in the inn.

They told of stars and oriental kings,

of gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


For when this life was born

that power that was

and is

with God,


the endless beginning

was seen

even in a baby

in swaddling clothes

lying in a manger.




Jesus, you are the Christ.


To know you is to live,

to love,

to be.


O come, then, let us adore him!


~John Shelby Spong




Spong writes about the origin of this poem:


“Many years ago, in 1974 to be specific, for the sermon at the Christmas Eve Midnight service at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, I sought to redefine Jesus through the medium of poetry.  I could, even then, no longer see him with credibility as the incarnation of a supernatural being who lived above the sky.  That image to me made the relationship between Jesus and God somewhat like that of Clark Kent to Superman.  I had come to understand Jesus both as something more than that and at the same time as the essence of what life itself is all about.

The God I met in Jesus was not an invasive divine power who entered this world from outer space.  I rather experienced God as the primal life force that surges through all living things, but which comes to self-consciousness only in human life and was somehow uniquely seen in its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth.  I also experienced God as that power of love that always expands the levels of consciousness in which all of us share and into which we evolve as we become more deeply and fully human.  This was for me a breakthrough into a new religious understanding.  That understanding came to a new intensity when I wrote my book: Eternal Life: A New Vision – Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell. 

After that service a very gifted poet from Richmond, Lucy Newton Boswell Negus, laid my words out in free verse.  Then she took my sermons over the previous three years, lifted the essence or climax from each and put that into the same free verse form.  Ultimately, Thomas Hale Publishing Company published that project in a coffee table size volume entitled Christpower.  I was elected bishop in Newark some three months later and this book all but disappeared.  In 2007, however, this volume of theological poetry, was discovered, revised, updated and republished by St Johann Press in Haworth, New Jersey, and is now newly available in a paperback version from Amazon or directly from the publisher.  Encouraged by the response of my readers I have used this new version of this Christmas sermon as my column every year since 2007.“

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