Mortal flesh and bone,
the divine word comes unexpectedly among us,
breathing the planet’s atmosphere
and covering his itinerant feet
with earth’s red dust.
Here, in company
with the rest of humankind,
he will do his appointed work
of hope and love and freedom.
Later, this man we call “Light,”
clothed in the dust of ridicule and rejection,
(his words are too hard);
will steel himself against the harsh winds
of fickle opinion,
to inhale the deep and bitter air
of suspicion, abandonment and fear.
From there he will embrace the cold nothingness
of our own inevitable end.
Two formerly obscure old people
become Luke’s surprising choice
as his final witnesses
to the Messiah’s birth.
In his historically improbable
but still entrancingly wondrous
natal narrative, he retrospectively presents us
with the excited pronouncements
of an elderly man and an aging widow.
Salvation for Israel,
light and hope for the foreigners,
redemption for Jerusalem;
here, in this infant.
Imagine if a pair of old people stood up
to deliver such outrageous observations
in our own time.
There probably wouldn’t be a camera crew
on hand to record the event
or interview the key players;
it would be unlikely to make the papers.
At best, there might be a few smiling selfies
with the old people, the mother and child.
Some, no doubt, would end up online;
maybe with a paragraph in someone’s blog,
to be reposted by a handful of friends,
or shared with a link.
Most likely we’d offer a patronising wink or a smile
and shake our collective heads
before joining in the joking dismissal.
Let’s face it, the elderly
probably weren’t taken seriously back then,
either. No one else seemed to notice,
or bothered to remember;
Gospel writers Matthew and Luke
are the approved suppliers
of the raw materials
from which we cobble together our Christmas stories;
faith being the thread that seeks,
gathers and ties the meaning.
The angels speak of the wonder
of the aching God who decides to take action
and to embrace uncertainty.
The girl-woman, Mary,
is a sign of human obedience
and willingness to let God’s perplexing purposes
take their unpredictable course.
Her carpenter husband, Joseph,
in determining to proceed with their marriage,
shows the persistence of human compassion
in the face of bewildering embarrassment.
And the baby, strange and vulnerable,
tells us of the mystery of divine love
found, unexpectedly and riskily,
So, what of the fat man in the red suit,
intruding uninvited into our neat nativity?
Perhaps he is God, laughing.
Like a scene from a carefully crafted play,
the angel messenger from above,
an apparition in glowing white
given the name of Gabriel,
passes uninvited through the door
(enter stage left), and approaches
the girl. The wardrobe department
has also dressed her in white,
for reasons which will become apparent.
It is a contest in whiteness.
The heavenly envoy tells the girl not to fear,
that she will give birth
to a Child of Light;
one who, when the stage lights are dimmed
for the penultimate scene,
will continue to shine
for all humankind.
The girl protests the improbability
of such a scenario;
she has not known a man.
She is told that the script for the second act
has already been written.
A divine spark
will overturn the laws of biology
when she is overshadowed
by a mysterious spirit something;
she has only to accept the role.
She does, without actually seeing the script,
thus allowing the rest of the drama
to proceed to its unpredicted ending.
When your eyes are opened,
you will see him,
no longer hidden,
but unveiled, revealed
as the one sent from above.
You may remember this day
and my words. No,
I am not he.
Who is he, what does he look like?
I cannot answer;
I simply know that he is coming,
perhaps even come,
among us; here, today.
What will he say to us,
what will he ask of us?
Ready yourselves to make him welcome;
nothing will remain the same.
Do not fear his changes,
embrace them with courage;
the magnificent journey awaits us all.
It will be no easy passage.
Accept the risk, start now,
and join me in the water.