In stables and sheds,
kitchens and lounge-rooms
where trees are trimmed and illuminated
and nativity scenes erected,
and where they are not;
where questions are asked
and objections raised,
where humans struggle
and sometimes doubt,
where the downtrodden gather
to become schooled in resistance,
where infants dance with delight and wonder
and old people pause to reflect,
where children are reckless enough to claim their voices
and challenge their elders,
where the just discover their anger
and politeness gives way to righteous insistence,
where generosity, compassion and hope reassert themselves
to confront the greed, brutality and fear at the centre of the universe;
here, in these places
among earth’s dust and straw,
and in many places like them
the Logos of God will be,
is being, born,
to shine again,
in the darkness.
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.