Such fear upon that blessed night:
The fear of Joseph, who had failed
to find a shelter proper for the birth.
The fear of Mary, who had never birthed
a child before, nor known her body to take charge.
The fear of neighbors, who awoke
to sounds of labor echoing.
The fear of stable owner, wondering
if father’s stormy brow meant violence.
The fear of midwife, all experienced
with healthy births – and infant deaths.
The fear of all, when mother’s screams
went silent, and the universe was hushed.
The fear of mother, marveling to hold
a newborn who would not be comforted.
The fear of angels, asking if a band
of shepherds was their audience.
The fear of shepherds, so the messenger
said first, “O do not be afraid.”
The fear of singers in the heavens’ choir,
lest heaven’s song lack harmony.
The fear of watchmen at the gate,
confronted by the shepherd band.
The fear of seekers for the infant Christ,
uncertain where to find the stable bed.
The fear of parents, shocked to see
the hillsides’ wanderers had come.
The fear of parents, hearing angels’ words,
which would the fear of monarchs generate.
The fear of monarchs, which would bring
no celebration, only tears like rain.
The fear of sleeping child. Who can know
what infants know? And who can say
what infant Jesus knew of dusty days
and stormy seas and quiet conversations
by the water’s edge, of questions over meals
and by a paralytic’s cot and in the shadows of
the night, of lepers leaping thanks unspoken
save for one, of baptism and Satan’s snares
and stories told and proverbs taught
and so much more, and so much more,
all leading to an agonizing cross
and to a tear-swept joyful dawn.
A poem/prayer based on Luke 2:1-20, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Nativity of the Lord, Proper I.
The image is The Adoration of the Shepherds (ca. 1612-1614) by El Greco, 1541?-1614, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48042 [retrieved December 24, 2021]. Public Domain. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:El_Greco_002.jpg.