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.
Let’s get married
The nightmares of recent weeks
did not retreat with the decision
to allow his betrothed
to leave quietly, and have the child
in a far place among distant relatives.
There the shame
would not be so bitter.
the girl was young and pretty,
and would soon find a new husband,
and a father for her child.
The pain of her apparent rejection
was sharpened by the love
still twisting the stomach
of the gentle carpenter,
who had toiled with mallet
and chisel for many years
so that he might take a wife.
He had not seen it coming;
refused to believe it
until the swelling evidence
could no longer be denied.
So, when, in a dream, the angel
spoke of the strange purposes
of an even stranger God,
Joseph grabbed the offered straw.
Copping the nudges and the sneers,
he took Mary home to be his wife.