Rough lines, indeed. For the last few years I've challenged myself to write a Christmas sermon in verse (or is that doggerel?). I offer this as my blog Christmas Card, with thanks for your reading. God bless us every one!
Love came down at Christmas... ~Christina Rossetti
What saves Christmas for us from being just
sentiment is that crude barn, and the dust,
and those shepherds – why shepherds? There are no
princes or holy men in Luke’s tale, so
although we have beautified the small scene
and placed our nativity under the green
boughs of our lovely, well-shaped Christmas tree,
the gospel each season calls us to see
a baby, new-born, in a chilly old shed,
away in a manger – no crib for his bed.
Homeless, with rags his first baby clothes;
bleak midwinter, indeed! and nobody knows
where they are. Of course, in history’s view
they’re nowhere. That is to say, lost in the new
geopolitical empire of Rome --
refugees, wandering, looking for home.
Nobody knows – and who cares where they are?
Who wants to find them? Who’d look very far
for this young mother, this father, this son?
Like most homeless folks they are out there alone.
Nobody knows, that is, except the creator of
the universe. This family, held in love
by one another, is held, too in the heart
of God. Though lost in the night – he knows where they are.
But tonight that’s reversed, and God is the one
who in the arms of his mother is held as a son;
who sleeps in a strawbox, with animals round;
the high king of heaven thus here is found
among us: the word became flesh. Please know
that God so loved the world, and this love will show
most deeply if God in the heaven stoops down
to the lowest repute he can own.
It’s not how I’d do it – or you? It would be
more impressive if the whole world would see
a flash of great power, an army of might.
Not an impoverished family in cover of night.
But God, in the end, is not power or might;
he’ll not use the weapons of terror or fright.
In the end, God is love, and that’s all he will be:
A cosmos of love in this baby we see.
In that barn, on that night, in that backwater place,
Love came down at Christmas to show us the face
of God in the strange but familiar guise
of... one of us – in a small baby’s eyes.
And the news is not shouted from a castle’s high gable,
but shepherds are sent from pasture to stable.
Shepherds! And when this poor baby is grown
it’s still to the poorest he’ll make himself known.
The wrong kind of people, society will
think it’s an outrage, but Jesus will still
love and forgive both the low and the high;
he’ll forgive from the cross where they take him to die.
And Mary, who pondered by a small wooden manger,
will ponder again as she sees the sad danger
that her son has grown into, she’ll weep at the loss
of this wonderful boy on a crude wooden cross.
And we’ve beautified that, too -- made crosses of gold.
It’s as though we don’t quite get the story we’re told:
That the creator of everything came down to die,
to take our death upon him, the king standing by --
the King, who thinks that his troubles are gone
with the rabble that followed this rebellious one.
But rebellion does not even begin to describe
what will be unleashed when the stone’s set aside
from a rocky carved tomb on the side of a hill,
and we see that it wasn’t a man they would kill,
but they tried to kill love, and it wouldn’t stay down;
love arose, the same love that early was shown
on that night when the star broke the darkness so deep,
in that place where, exhausted, a young mother did sleep.
Where the wrong kind of people gave birth to a boy
who was God the creator. And all the world’s joy!