John Piper gave four reasons for reading this poem to his people on his and Noel's 35th wedding anniversary:
1) It is good for a husband to express publicly his thanks to God for great grace, and Noël is one.
2) It is good for a husband to express publicly his love to his wife.
3) It is good for other husbands to watch a husband love his wife with words in public.
4) It is good for a church to know that the man who preaches the Word of God to them each week is deeply devoted to his wife and loves her very much.
Before the universe was made,
Or any galaxy obeyed
The Lord's supreme command to be,
Or empty space became the sea
Where matter floats in mammoth spheres
As if they were estranged, with years
Of blazing light between each star,
God said, "These vast divisions are
An echo of the endless scope
Of my designs. Let humans grope
To find the plan that one must be
A trillion miles above to see.
But distance is not all of me,
Nor human dread my chief decree."
And then he said, "To make this plain-
To show that in my sovereign reign
I do delight not just in great
Displays of space, but celebrate
The sweetness of things drawing near-
I now declare, 'Let there be here,
In this small garden, man, and from
His side-his side-let woman come,
And in these two, let all of my
Creation see the nearness I
Enjoy, and know that here, in these,
Is found a parable: One sees
In Adam, Christ, my Son, and in
His wife, the people Christ will win
When he lays down his life, and woos
Them with his death. And so I choose,
For this, that Adam and his Eve
Become one flesh, and that he leave,
Henceforth in ev'ry age, his kin
And cleave to her alone, and in
This nearness, taste a fragment of
The way my Son and I will love
The people that we call His bride.
Behold, how deep and vast and wide
The distance we will cross to show
That nearness is our joy, and though
The universe is great, and space
In its expanse, untold, the grace
We savor most is this: to close
The distance with our dying foes,
And by our nearness give them life,
And take them for a treasured wife.'"
How many thousand years have passed
Since then, I do not know. How vast
The ages! Yet this much is clear:
Again, the distant Lord drew near
In nineteen-sixty-eight, and said,
"Let there be here now one instead
Of two. As in the garden then
The one was first alone, and when
I made him two, I made them one
Again, so now here it is done:
Let John take this Noël and prove
It is his joy, and mine, to move
From distance into one new flesh,
And show how my Son means to mesh
His life with those he came to save."
And so it was. That day you gave
Your hand and life to me, and we,
By covenant and by decree,
Now five and thirty years ago,
Became one flesh. And this I know:
You are a gift. In spite of all
My sin, God said, "Now go, enthrall
Yourself with her, and call her your
Delight, and keep your love as pure
As mine for you. She is a gift
From me. And if you ever lift
Your hand or voice against your wife,
Remember that I hold your life
Here in my hand. Instead, go make
A parable for Jesus' sake,
And show the world the kind of grace
That put Noël in your embrace."
I fear I have not written well
This parable, and truth will tell
How marred the tender tablets are,
And time will show how deep the scar
That I have left with my poor script.
Too seldom was my stylus dipped
In oil before I wrote in this
Soft clay. Some things a tender kiss,
Cannot undo, and worse is none
Than this: The good that was not done.
The happy praises left unsung,
The bell of thankfulness unrung,
The exultation left unsaid,
And tears of sympathy unshed.
I wish that I could start again.
But that is not to be. So then,
I will make good on this our day
Of anniversary, and say,
My wife is to be praised! Let this
Be sung today. Nor will I miss
This chance to ring the happy bell
Of hope and thankfulness, and tell
The world in words, I can't conceal
The exultation that I feel,
And inasmuch as it lies in
My pow'r, to let the tears begin.
God has been good to me. Far more
Than I deserve he put in store,
And made me drink the cup of bliss
From your kind hands, and taste the kiss
Of mercy all these solid years,
In spite of all my sin. No fears
Destroy my hope that we will last,
Because God's mercy is steadfast,
And he delights to cross the broad
Expanse of all my sin, my flawed
Creation of this parable
Of love, and by his nearness, full
Of truth, make marriage here a place
To write the story of his grace.
Come, candle four, and burn with me,
On this, our anniversary.
Assist me now to say with fire
Some fraction of my heart's desire.
And in your crucible of grace
Let flames my sinful flaws efface.
Help me embrace this painful act,
Then, pure, ignite this simple fact:
I thank my God for you, Noël,
And love you more than rhymes can tell.