The boy was twelve years old.
and precocious, according to the story.
The family holiday was a
Passover pilgrimage to the great city
with its temple of ages.
The grand stone building
was itself something of a parable
of death and resurrection;
erected, razed, reconstructed and refurbished
to represent and remind
of a presence, divine and beneficent.
In the end, it too, will be swept away;
for now it provides the stage
for a telling little domestic drama.
No mention, here, of his brothers and sisters;
they did what they were told,
and are therefore irrelevant to the story.
Disobedient Jesus, the errant son,
disregarding the deadline for departing.
The twelve year-old,
considered responsible enough
to not need chasing,
was assumed to be among the company,
and not missed until the first night’s camp.
It took another two days to find him.
The recorded rebuke is surely understated,
with a hint of the parental distress and pain;
the raised voices are left to the imagination.
No real excuses,
unless you count the
“had to be in my Father’s house,” line.
In this day he might have been grounded
for some weeks – maybe months.
Jesus learned his lesson, so we are told,
and, upon returning home,
practised a righteous obedience
that honoured his parents and kept them happy.
If, however, we take the later incident seriously,
when his mum and his brothers turned up
to take the troublesome son in hand,
it may have been feigned.

© Ken Rookes 2012

Bethlehem Ephrathah

The rich had taken the best rooms
in the inns, and the private homes too.
The moderately well-off took the rest.
The poor camped where they could,
gathered around fires, swapped yarns,
got counted, and made their plans
to head home. Bethlehem
had taken on the appearance
of a refugee camp;
the city fathers were not impressed.

Joseph and Mary had been among
the campers by the creek,
until the contractions
of the impending birth drove them
to seek a more substantial shelter.
In a stable the animals seemed to enjoy
a tolerable standard of accommodation;
they decided to join them.
There the child would be born
and God made welcome.

© Ken Rookes

Another oldie. Enjoy

Micah from Moresheth

Micah from Moresheth, in the region of Judah,
gave us Bethlehem as the site
for the birth of the Messiah.
Perhaps he stopped by at the little town
on his one day journey to Jerusalem
to do his prophecy thing.
He posed a challenge for gospel writers,
Luke and Matthew:
how to arrange for Jesus from Nazareth
to be born in Bethlehem, three days south.
For the one it was a census; for the other,
fear, a massacre, and the return to a new home
after the flight to a foreign land.
For the one, the drama of a stable birth
with flights of angels and bewildered shepherds;
the poorest of the poor.
For the other, a fearful escape
and the vulnerability of refugees.
They each give us reason to pause
and reflect upon the strange purposes
of an even stranger God.
I wonder, if Luke was writing today,
might it be the homeless and the hopeless,
camped beneath a bridge,
who would be the subjects of the angelic invitation?
I wonder, if Matthew was writing today,
would he write of the kindness
of the people-smugglers
who helped the Holy family
reach their place of welcome and safety?

© Ken Rookes
An old favourite, seems seasonally appropriate; found in my book Promptings & Provocations



The seed that grows within the womb
of the bewildered child-woman
began, we are told,
as a loving, aching thought
in the mind of God.
The mysteries of our mortal being
lie deep in the pre-historic
annals of creation,
defying the simple explanations
of both religion and reason.
Those who embrace faith
will insist on one thing alone:
that its source is also love.
This love, they declare
in obedience to the one who they follow,
is the beginning of all that is good
and beautiful and true.

We cannot say with confidence
that the acts leading to impregnation
all have their genesis at that same point;
but their outcomes, small, pink and vulnerable,
always take us there.
Through circumstance
the child-woman from Nazareth
finds herself with her husband
in a Bethlehem stable; or so one story goes.
In this humble shelter, lacking in amenity
but with its own strange appropriateness and beauty,
the moment arrives; and the baby
is delivered among the straw,
with all the requisite pain, groans, tears and blood.
In this place, made holy,
and at this instant rendered sacred,
love begins its wondrous journey of fulfilment
among us all.

© Ken Rookes 2012