Christmas is approaching in a month’s time so I have written a poem set in the yuletide season.
This poem is adapted from a short story entitled, ‘The Little Match Girl’, which was written by Hans Christian Andersen, a famous Danish author and poet, who had written well known children’s classics such as, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Thumbelina’, ‘The Princess and the Pea’ and ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.
I have taken the liberty of changing the storyline of the original classic and weaving Christian values into its tapestry.
We will be looking at this poem series which I have divided into 5 episodes.
Let us now enter into the story as we delve into its first episode.
The Parable of the Little Match Girl (Episode 1)
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (13th November 2013)
Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Match Girl'
This tale is set in the year eighteen forty three
During the Christmas season in a great city
Of Denmark where the poor remained in poverty
Comfort and pleasures were only for the wealthy
In the most impoverished part of the city
A little girl in rags was counting the money
She had made from selling matches to the wealthy
The rich who were miserly towards the needy
The winter winds blew into the cold attic room
Where the poor girl shivered at her impending doom
Business was bad and she feared the outcome that loomed
O'er her as she lay on the floor in tearful gloom
Her heart sank as she heard the pounding on the door
She got up reluctantly from the cold, hard floor
Her legs felt much heavier than the day before
Her stomach twisted with pain to the very core
She unbolted the door and shuddered fearfully
As she pulled open the only wooden boundary
Which shielded her from the imminent penalty
Of merciless harshness, violence and cruelty
Her father staggered into the room drunkenly
And slammed the wooden door behind him furiously
'How much is there?!' he glared at her sack of money
Which she handed over to him faint heartedly
'Pittance!' he yelled as he threw the sack angrily
At the petrified girl who bent down tearfully
On her poor knees to gather her hard-earned money
Her actions infuriated him immensely
He hurled and smashed his bottle of wine on the ground
Glass fragments cut her, but she dared not make a sound
He struck a blow on her head which threw her face down
Her vision dimmed; she passed out on the glass-strewn ground
She awoke the next day, her fresh wounds hurt badly
He must have left to the tavern with her money
She took her basket of matches dutifully
And set out in hopes to sell them in the city
It was too cold to walk barefooted in winter
So she put on a pair of ill-fitting slippers
Which belonged to her late and dearest grandmother
Who was no longer there to comfort and love her
She walked to an affluent part of the city
The shops and streets were decorated splendidly
All the people were going about busily
Attending to their Christmas shopping and parties
The poor little girl begged everyone she could find
To buy some of her matches but time after time
She was greatly disappointed when they declined
To pay attention and spare the poor girl a dime
As she was running hastily across the street
To avoid some carriages as she tried to beat
The busy traffic, her slippers dropped off her feet
She couldn't find them after searching the snowy street
As her bare feet sank into the icy cold snow
Her blue eyes welled up with tears which began to flow
Down her cheeks as she could not contain the sorrow
Of losing Grandma's things; why did she have to go?
She wiped her tears, took up her basket and pressed on
And continued selling her matches all day long
It grew dark for the night had come; the day had gone
The streets were deserted and the girl was forlorn
For a single box of matches she had not sold
To go home penniless, she could not be so bold
It would be better to stay outside in the cold
Than to return home and face such terror untold
She retreated quickly to a sheltered corner
Between two houses; she thought about her mother
Who had died when she was just a little toddler
Just a year ago, death claimed her dear grandmother
TO BE CONTINUED...
Points for Reflection:
· Pain, suffering and death are sad realities of humanity in a broken world.
· When God created the world, everything was beautiful and perfect. But everything changed when the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, chose to reject God’s loving rulership by eating of the forbidden fruit. Sin entered into the world and ruined the perfect relationship between God, man and the rest of creation. The consequences of sin are death, suffering and pain.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
· As we read the poem above, most of us would take pity on the little match girl and some of us would be grateful that we are not in her shoes. In fact, many of us are thankful that we have shoes that fit us; unlike the poor girl who had to wear a pair of ill-fitting slippers which was eventually lost in the snow.
· But all of us experience suffering in different measures; some being more severe than others.
· There are different aspects of suffering, in the life of the little match girl, which many of us would be able to identify with.
· The little match girl was still grieving over the death of her grandmother. As I reflect on the many deaths which I have seen in the short span of a year, my heart goes out for those who are still mourning over the loss of their loved ones. Death seems like a cruel force which mercilessly claims the lives of those whose time on earth has reached its end.
· But Jesus has conquered death through, ironically, his own death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. For those of us who put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are saved from spiritual death although the physical death of our earthly bodies is inevitable.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
· Have you placed your faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you know where you are headed to after physical death?
· Are you mourning for the death of your loved ones? Does the pain of loss plague you with sleepless nights, loneliness and teary eyes? If so, I pray, with all my heart, that God’s comfort, love and strength will enable you to pull through this valley of grief.
· Do you know of people in grief? How could you seek to comfort and support them?
· Like the little match girl, have you suffered from an abusive relationship? Does the trauma of that relationship still haunt you in your waking hours? Do not turn to anything else in this world to numb that pain but allow the love of Jesus Christ to heal that deep-seated wound.
But he [Jesus Christ] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
· There are many who may not have abusive parents or spouses. But do you feel crushed under the high expectations of people – especially when you fail to ‘sell enough matches’? When is ‘enough’ ever truly ‘enough’?
· The ‘yoke’, or in other words burdens, which the world places on us can get very heavy at times and we feel our back breaking under such weight. But the ‘yoke’, the reassuring salvation by grace through faith alone, that Jesus, our loving Saviour, puts on us is a light and comforting one – unlike that of the world. Why don’t you surrender the ‘yoke’ of the world in exchange for the ‘yoke’ of Jesus Christ?
Come to me [Jesus Christ], all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”