Twelve Days

Merry Christmas everyone! Walking the dog through our neighborhood on Boxing Day, I can’t tell you the number of Christmas trees I saw already bundled up on the street corner ready for the rubbish bin. A sad sight indeed. We pack the weeks of December (and, if we’re honest, November too) with so many events and concerts … yet we don’t even give ourselves the chance to relax and fully enjoy the fully season of Christmas while it’s here.

In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas (and the spirit of my imminent departure to parts South and consequent separation from the laptop), I share these two Christmastide poems. They formed the basis for our Christian Education talk last Sunday, so if you didn’t get the chance to join us they are well worth perusing. Written by two contemporary women, they are reflections on the birth of Christ that evoke in us more than that mere tranquil manger scene. Please enjoy:

“The Risk of Birth” by Madeleine L’Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed & pride the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

“Descending Theology — The Nativity” by Mary Karr

She bore no more than other women bore,
but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
full burden swayed.
Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
she briefly felt that star shine

as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
Then in the stable she writhed and heard
beasts stomp in their stalls,
their tails sweeping side to side
and between contractions, her skin flinched
with the thousand animal itches that plague
a standing beast’s sleep.

But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
the child knew nothing
of its own fire. (No one ever does, though our names
are said to be writ down before
we come to be.) He came out a sticky grub, flailing
the load of his own limbs

and was bound in cloth, his cheek brushed
with fingertip touch
so his lolling head lurched, and the sloppy mouth
found that first fullness — her milk
spilled along his throat, while his pure being
flooded her. (Each

feeds the other.) Then he was
left in the grain bin. Some animal muzzle
against his swaddling perhaps breathed him warm
till sleep came pouring that first draught
of death, the one he’d wake from
(as we all do) screaming.

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