In the manger of Bethlehem, the infant sleeps. On the Judean hillsides, the shepherds seek their flock. Which of the parents dozes? The father? The mother? Neither one? Both? Love made flesh, power made weak, Majesty made lowly, will soon awake in tears, Seeking the warmth of skin and blood and milk.
Let that infant grow within our hearts. Let that love take form within our purpose. Let that mercy take shape in what we make. Let that peace enfold those we embrace. Let that grace shine forth just like that star: Let the work of Christmas begin in me. Let the work of Christmas begin in us.
A poem inspired in part by Luke 2 and in part by “The Work of Christmas” Howard Thurman. This poem was written for the Christmas Eve meditation of December 24, 2019, at Church of the Holy Cross UCC, Hilo, Hawai’i.
“He promised me the Son of God, the angel did,” she murmured to the sweating, focused midwife. “Promise anything they will,” she answered, not noticing her charge had spoken with an angel. “Now push!” she cried. “And push again!” For in the cries of birth what angel could be heard?
At length the growls and the gasping cease, though night remains unblessed by silence. No. “The Savior has good lungs,” the watching Joseph notes and winces at his piercing tones, distressed by all this labor and this hunger and this cold, now swiftly stifled at the weary Mary’s breast.
“The angel promised me a Savior,” now she sighs as Son of God tries once and twice and squalls, frustrated, not to grasp the nourishment he seeks. She gasps, adjusts the infant’s head by order of the midwife, sighs. At last. The slurping sounds distract her as the midwife mops away.
“Angels, now,” the midwife sighs. “There’s all too few of them.” She gazes at the wincing man, wonders if this “angel” hides a demon, decides to take the mother’s word. “Come, angel. Pile up the straw behind your wife. He’ll nurse much better once her back is straighter.” “I’m not an angel,” says the man, redundantly. She knows.
“He promised me the Son of God.” Now Mary’s eyes arrest the midwife’s gaze. “Of course he did, my love,” she coos, finishes the cleaning, readjusts her gown. “They’re all the Child of God, you know, and this one is for you.” “Oh, no,” the mother says, as flatly as a waveless sea. “This One is for us all.”
A meager coin in hand, the midwife steps into the night. Another one convinced their baby is the Promised One, she thinks. What sorrow for his mother if he follows that drear road! She draws aside to let a band of grimy men pass by. One asks about a baby in a manger, “So the angel said.” She watches as they turn into the stable. Now: she wonders.
A poem based on Luke 2:1-20, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel reading for Year A, Christmas Eve.