Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Parable of the Little Match Girl (Episode 4)

Hello All,
The part of the poem that we will be emphasizing on today is highlighted in blue. The black colour text in the poem is a recap of what we have already done for the past few weeks.

Let us now continue our story with the fourth episode of this poem...

The Parable of the Little Match Girl (Episode 4)
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

It was snowing heavily; the night grew colder
Under her dress, she drew her cold feet close to her
Her efforts were in vain; she did not feel warmer
Outside was much colder than her house in winter

The snowflakes clung to her beautiful long, red hair
Her pale cheeks were flushed pink from the cold winter air
She was shivering as she mouthed a silent prayer
Then she realized that she could use her matches' flare

To keep herself warm; so from the bundle she drew
A matchstick which she struck to yield an orange blue
Flame with warmth that delighted her through and through
When she held her hand closer to the flame, it grew

Smaller, flickered and died, so the match girl quickly
Lit her second match which yielded, surprisingly
A great iron stove in which a fire burned brightly
She stretched out her feet towards the stove eagerly

To warm them, but it vanished with the flame swiftly
As she held the burnt-out match she immediately
Threw it aside, lit the third match and hopefully
The third vision would last and stay permanently

The flame caused the wall near her to turn transparent
She saw, into the room within, an excellent
Array of food which gave forth a very fragrant
Aroma; so she reached out to touch the distant

Christmas pies, puddings, cakes, candies and carved turkey
Which vanished when the flame died; she was left hungry
And wanting more, so she struck the fourth match quickly
And saw lovely presents under a Christmas tree

The Christmas lights were glowing so beautifully
But just as she was gazing at the Christmas tree
The flame went out; she came back to reality
She drew the fifth match and struck it so fervently

The match flamed up and there appeared right before her
The person she loved most - her dearest grandmother
She had never looked happier and healthier
She was so radiant and had never looked better

'Dear grandmother, please stay with me and do not leave me'
'Grandma, please don't vanish!' the girl cried desperately
As she lit the remaining matches hastily
And held them in a bundle which burned so brightly

Her grandmother held her in her arms lovingly
'It is yet too early for you to come with me
God has his divine plan for you which you will see
Live now for Christ ere you enter eternity

I love you very much, my dear little Ashley
But I know Jesus loves you even more dearly
His grace will carry you through your adversities'
The flame was snuffed out by a wind which blew strongly

Her dearest grandmother disappeared instantly
Ashley's lips trembled as she held on so tightly
To the bundle of matches which, regrettably
Had burnt-out; so she started to sob bitterly

So grieved was she that she passed out of consciousness
Her hopes and dreams were dashed into little pieces
She lay still in the snow with the burnt-out matches
Still gathered within her firm grip of steadfastness

She awoke and found herself in a place so bright
It was a cosy room with many candle lights
At the corner, she beheld such a lovely sight
Of a pretty Christmas tree standing in great height

'How’re you feeling?' asked a beautiful young lady
Who came into the room, unnoticed by Ashley
She was speechless and looked at the lady blankly
The lady sat near her and held her hand gently

'Poor child, you must have been through much,' she said kindly
'Kind ma'am, am I still dreaming?' asked confused Ashley
'No, my dear child, you are not,' said the kind lady
'You're safe in a church,' she said reassuringly

'My name is Laura, what is yours?' asked the lady
'Ashley… I sell matches…' the girl said candidly
'My husband and I were visiting Aunt Betty
When we found you passed out in the snow, so quickly

We brought you to the church, our home, which was nearby
Where my husband, Ted, kept his medical supply
You were delirious; your fever was very high
Ted has brought it down; rest now and on this bed lie'

Then Laura looked down as she heaved a troubled sigh
'We noticed your wounds; be not afraid or deny
If you are being hurt; on us you can rely
To help you, by God's grace, to bid torment goodbye'

Tears welled up and gushed freely from poor Ashley's eyes
Laura held the girl close as she began to cry
'When I have not earned enough for father to buy
His wine, he hits me and cares not if I should die!

I hate my father with all my heart, mind and soul!
But I fear his cruel, violent and vicious blows!
How I miss my grandma who died a year ago
She was the only one who truly loved me so'

Laura's tender heart was moved with great compassion
'The trials you've faced are beyond our comprehension
But God has placed us here in your situation
To be your guardian, if you will, through adoption'

Ashley's eyes lit up with delight and amazement
God has delivered her from her predicament
'Oh, really? Will you and Ted become my parents?
Dear mother, this will be my best Christmas present!'

Laura embraced her newfound daughter lovingly
She cried as she recalled the small stillborn baby
Who came into this world and departed swiftly
Five years back; it was still clear in her memory

'My dear child, you would have had a little sister
If God's will had not permitted death to claim her
We do not understand why we have to suffer
'Does God truly care?' the pain does make us wonder

But when I look upon the cross of Calvary
Where Jesus suffered for sinners like you and me
He understood suffering through pain and agony
He died so that, from sin and death, we can be free

He feels our pain, he knows our grief, he understands
Behold now and touch the scars of his nail-pierced hands
Which speak of his great love for sinful, wretched man
Forgiveness he offers to sinners who repent

Your father has hurt and wronged you, now that is true
I cannot deny the pain he has put you through
But think of how your Saviour has forgiven you
Pray for Him to help you forgive your father too'

Hateful thoughts and memories flashed through Ashley's mind
There was no room for compassion that she could find
In her wounded heart; for only a love divine
Could help her to forgive and leave the past behind

The sound of heavy footsteps echoed from the floor
And then they heard a steady rapping on the door
'Come in, my dear,' Laura knew who it was before
The familiar knocking resounded from the door

Ted entered in with a tray of food in his hands
He stood at a towering height; a sturdy man
Whose love for the outdoors was pronounced in his tan
Which bore the colour of a light brown rugged land

'Here's the food which you've prepared for the young lady'
His dark grey eyes twinkled as he looked at Ashley
'My dearest Ashley, this is my husband, Teddy
Who is now your newfound father and family'

Ashley observed Ted and felt a sense of safety
She knew that he would care for her responsibly
He would not treat her with harshness and cruelty
So unlike her former father in history

‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you,’ Ted said kindly
‘Here, have some good, warm food for you must be hungry’
Ted laid the food on the bedside table gently
And pulled a chair close to the bed to face Ashley

Then he took off his reverend collar casually
So now Ashley knew why this church in the city
Was the cosy abode of her new family
Her eyes gleamed at the sight of rye bread, carved turkey

And potatoes; the good food made her mouth water
She consumed the food quickly with no leftovers
And then she realized that she did not remember
To say her grace before her heavenly Father

‘Mum and dad, I did not say my grace… I’m sorry…’
So embarrassed was she that her face flushed rosy
Ted laughed heartily while Laura smiled amusedly
And said, ‘Don’t worry, we know that you are hungry

Just remember to say your grace for the next meal’
Ashley’s eyes shone with delight, she could not conceal
Her great joy which overflowed from the broken seal
Of traumas and wounds which were beginning to heal

It was Christmas Eve; a month had passed so swiftly
Little Ashley was deep in thought; Laura could see
Her dear daughter was troubled and rather gloomy
‘Why do you look so sombre and perturbed, honey?’

‘Mother, with God’s help, I’ve been learning gradually
To release the deep-seated hatred which bound me
And forgive the sins of my father’s cruelty
I was thinking of providing him with money

But I know that he will spend it frivolously
Not on food and water, but on wine and whisky
A month has already passed, I wonder if he
Is still alive without any support from me’

Laura pondered a little while on the matter
Which weighed so heavily on her dearest daughter
‘I could pack a week’s supply of food and water
Which you could bring regularly to your former father

Your father and I will both escort you weekly
We will start this morning while it is still early
I’m so glad that you’ve forgiven your enemy
Just as our Lord Jesus has done on Calvary’

So they carried out Laura’s plan accordingly
They could tell from the lingering scent of whiskey
That the man was still existing decadently
They unloaded the packed provisions carefully

At the inner entrance of the house which Ashley
Used to dread to set foot in; many memories
From her sad past came flooding back torrentially
But she knew that Jesus has been setting her free

From her past; in the Cross, she has found liberty
Tears escaped from her eyes as she said quietly:
‘I forgive you, though you are not here to hear me’
She took out a Bible; laid it down carefully

Beside the bundles of generous provisions
As they departed, she left the recollections
Of abuse, trauma, hatred and tribulation   
Behind her; and of that she was very certain

She had a lovely Christmas Eve celebration
She loved the nativity play by the children
Which conveyed God’s salvation plan of redemption
Through Jesus, to reverse the fall in creation

Christmas Eve ended with a family dinner
Her home was filled with singing, music and laughter
As she looked around her, she said a silent prayer
Of thanksgiving for her new father and mother


Points for Reflection:
And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him [Jesus Christ], and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
(Luke 23:33-34)
·         Just as Jesus forgave those who cruelly mistreated and crucified him, Ashley forgave her decadent father. Ashley forgave her enemy just as Jesus commanded us to.
But I [Jesus Christ] say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
(Matthew 5:44)
·         It must have been extremely difficult for her to forgive the sins of her father and she struggled for another month before she was ready to let go of the past. She did not just stop hating him but she went beyond her call of duty to provide for his needs. She did not just forgive her enemy but she loved that wretched man with God’s love.
·         Forgiveness does not usually come easy but if we are willing to yield to the Holy Spirit, God will definitely help us as we go through the process of forgiving. The liberation that comes after forgiveness brings great joy and peace to the soul.
·         Have you been struggling to forgive someone? Does that task seem like an impossible one? If so, do not depend on your own strength to forgive but plead for God’s love to flow into your heart so that you will be able to not only forgive but love your enemies.
·         Do you know of people who are struggling to forgive? Like Laura, how could you encourage and support that person?

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
(Psalm 107:1)
·         When was the last time you lifted up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his gift of salvation and other blessings?
·         Do you have a tendency of taking God’s goodness for granted?
·         How could you seek to complain less and be more thankful to God even when things do not go your way?