Saturday, December 4, 2010


Did the baby in his straw in Bethlehem
Finally understand the point of “Us or Them”?
Your kinsman will never throw you out 
into a shed. They’d rather do without
themselves and give you their own bed.

But even strangers will feel some sort of pity
(If only because Mary’s young, and pretty)
 and offer you a spot against the night.
“Do you think she’ll be all right?”
The innkeeper’s wife asks
Before she hurries back to endless tasks.

And does he finally understand that our big brains
Are why our mothers feel their labor pains
Just as he predicted, and love us anyway?
There in the hay
She wraps him up and sings in an angel’s voice.
“Joseph, he’s here! Our baby! Rejoice!
He has your eyes
And your mother’s smile.” As she lies next to him, 
Shielding him from the cold
Does he realize?
Or is he dazzled by the Magi’s gold?

Because really what’s the point of an incarnation if not
To understand what a body is, and what 
Constraints it puts on us and how 
Tiny we are against the world, and brave,
The people that he says he comes to save.

Yes we choose sides - the stranger and the friend
But if you’re going to have to send
Some teenage boy out on Judean fields to tend
Your sheep, how else do you tell
The ones who are in it for the lols
From the ones who’d die to save your lambs from wolves?
Until someone comes up with something new
“Us or them” is what will have to do.

How was he as a child? I think I can chance
a guess. “We piped for you and you did not dance.
We wept and you did not mourn.”
He was born a baby, but how odd
Our games must look seen through the eyes of God.

I hear him answering, “I tried to play!
But the children never liked me anyway.
I was a know-it-all. When I was twelve, I went into the temple
And tried to teach my elders. They were kind.
They recognized a mind
that wanted to learn and had a love for God.
And yes, I get the joke. I’m not that simple.

“But the God they see is petty and makes demands.
You can only enter the temple with clean hands
So you cannot stop to help that stranger
Set upon by a robber band.
The only one who can help is that poor sod 
Who thinks he has already earned the wrath of God.
But I’m not like that at all!
I’m not that small-minded! I’m like my Dad:
When I’d pick up something sharp in the workshop,
He’d say, “Thank you, lad. I needed that”
So kind, and then say, “Here son,
Do this for me” instead of waiting for the damage done, and then the beating.
I want to be like that! I didn’t know!
I didn’t have a dad myself until a short while ago
And now he’s gone. Your lives are so
Short! Help each other while you’re here.
I’ll wait. I have eternity to wait.

“I’ve learned a few things. I won’t make bets with Satan any more.
Who knew how long that story would endure?
And that I’d be the hero?
Will my people forgive me anything I do?
See, you need to forgive each other, too.
Please?” he says.

But as each Sunday scholar knows
That isn’t really how the story goes.
He didn’t come to listen, but to preach.
His loss
If he’d listened, would he have wound up on that cross?
And puzzled? “My God, my God”
So he was crucified
The way that many other people died
And I’ll weep for them as much.
Don’t expect me to make a fuss
For a God who blew his chance to learn from us.