In stables and sheds

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,
defiantly
in the darkness.

 

© Ken Rookes 2018

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The birth

Haiku of wonder

When a king is born
the stories must reflect it
with wonder and awe.

Apart from angels,
this narrative is humble,
with a common cast.

Comes to Bethlehen,
the tradie with his girl-bride,
about to give birth.

A shed out the back
of a packed-out small-town pub.
Nothing flash in that!

A son is born, wrapped
in cloth strips and put to bed
in a feeding trough.

Shepherds get the news:
the Messiah has been born,
look for a baby.

This will be the sign:
a baby in a manger,
in David’s city.

The shepherds decamped
to see for themselves the child,
as they had been told.

They told ev’ryone
about the child, the one born
to save his people.

 

© Ken Rookes. 2018

Census

Haiku for losing control

As the story goes
Augustus and his minions
decreed the counting.

A census gives us
the needed information
to order our world.

Numbering people,
keeping control and power,
imposing taxes.

The count brings the man,
along with his pregnant bride
south to Bethlehem.

But in this baby
God upends all creation;
here is the promise.

Humble mum and dad,
common tradesman and his wife;
folk the same as us.

Find them a stable,
a shelter for giving birth.
How appropriate.

No fancy cradle;
he can sleep in a feed trough,
there among the straw.

Invite some shepherds,
poor and lowly witnesses;
they’ll proclaim his birth.

Something about God
spurning grandeur and power;
these are good stories.

 

© Ken Rookes 2017.

Annunciation

Haiku of wonder

In these ancient tales
unexpected pregnancies
convey the wonder.

God, they assure us,
is at last doing something
to sort the world out.

An agéd woman
has managed to conceive, now
it’s her cousin’s turn.

The angel’s busy
conveying surprising news.
The girl is nonplussed.

Do not be afraid!
Easy to say, Gabriel;
it isn’t your womb!

You will bear a son.
You’ll call him Jesus. He will
do amazing things!

That, we know is true.
We will follow his story;
we will follow him.

Her fears overcome,
the girl agrees, allowing
events to proceed.

Only Luke gives us
these strange announcement stories,
stretching the waiting.

We’re left to ponder:
is wonder the same as truth;
and does it matter?

 

© Ken Rookes 2017.

Witnesses

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;
only Luke.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Interpreting the story

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,
among us.

So, what of the fat man in the red suit,
intruding uninvited into our neat nativity?
Perhaps he is God, laughing.

 

© 2009 Ken Rookes