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 third episode of this poem...
The Parable of the Little Match Girl (Episode 3)
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
TO BE CONTINUED...
Points for Reflection:
· Ashley hated her abusive father. Many would say, ‘Yes, and rightly so. What a terrible father he is! She has all the right to hate him and even bring him to court!’
· Child abuse is a felony and yes, he does deserve punishment under the law. But does she have the right to bear a hateful grudge against him?
· God is righteous and mankind has willfully turned away from him. No one, not even the most morally upright philanthropist, is able to measure up to the level of God’s righteousness. The good works that we do are external and cannot deal with the sinful heart – its selfish thoughts and desires which can be neatly tucked away and concealed from the eyes of the world.
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
· But God loved us so much that he was willing to send his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to be the perfect substitute in bearing the sin of humanity so that those who repent and receive forgiveness from him can be saved from spiritual death and gain eternal life. Jesus suffered the painful agony on the cross for filthy sinners like us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
· As difficult as it sounds, Ashley does not have the right to persist in her bitter and unforgiving attitude towards her father. Just as her father deserved to be punished under the law of his country, so does she and the rest of humanity deserve the judgment of eternal death under God’s law – if God did not, by his grace, provided Jesus Christ to bear that wrath in our place. If she has truly understood and experienced the forgiveness that Christ has bought for her through his precious blood, she would have asked God to help her to forgive.
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
· Forgiveness is not so much of a ‘forgiving’ emotion but it is a conscious decision made by the offended to release the offence of the offender.
· We may not ‘feel’ like forgiving those who have hurt us but we can make the conscious effort to pray for God to help us to forgive.
· Have you received God’s forgiveness for your sins or are you still rejecting him as your Saviour? Are there people in your life whom you resent and cannot forgive? Why don’t you take this opportunity to quiet your heart, look to the cross where Jesus’ blood flowed down and say to him: ‘Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for an unworthy sinner like me. You know of the people I am still holding captive within the prison of unforgiveness. I pray that you will enable me to release the offence and hurt that they have inflicted on me. Amen.’
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.