Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

what happened? after the manger

“Christmas is not a reminder that the world is really quite a nice old place. It reminds us that the world is a shockingly bad old place, where wickedness flourishes unchecked, where children are murdered, where civilized countries make a lot of money by selling weapons to uncivilized ones so they can blow each other apart. Christmas is God lighting a candle, and you don't light a candle in a room that's already full of sunlight. You light a candle in a room that's so murky that the candle, when lit, reveals just how bad things really are. The light shines in the darkness, says St. John, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
                                                              N.T. Wright, For All God's Worth

What happened to those shepherds
who heard the angels sing?

Who saw the darkness dispelled by light
and hear good news for all

What happened to those
Who haphazardly left their flocks
And stumbled through the darkness

To where the baby lay

Were their lives changed?

Did dream wild new dreams?
Were their lives transformed?

Or did they merely wander back into the hills
Pick up their staffs
And sit once again in the cold stillness

The ardor of the moment cooling
The light fading?

What happened to
those odd assorted souls who happened
by the scene

and awkwardly watched
the sight of a motely crew
gathered around a mother and child?

Were they too touched by angle fire
Did they too wander aimless, pondering?

What happened to the cousins and aunts,
the family gathered upstairs in that warmer cleaner space?
Were oblivious to the wonder underneath their feet?
Or did grace rise and touch the room in which they ate
And argued as families do?

What happened to merchants and kings
And magi from afar
As they wondered near or wonder from afar?

What happened?

Surely the only stories are not those
Of mad kings plotting infant deaths
Of magi fleeing in the dark, another way

Surely stories of refugees flights
And violent oppression are not all we have

Surely someone became kinder
Someone loved
Someone forgave

Surely someone felt hope
And someone gazed into the now silent skies,
And remembered

For all that happened
And all that did not happen
The world slouches on its way

Still Christmas comes and goes
Still the air is filled with the sound of singing
And lights twinkle as the stars

Still people gather
And make much of a baby’s birth
And gathered to celebrate

And still when all is said and done
The world returns to its ways
Still the powerful plot
Still the poor suffer
Still fear and hate lead to violence

And yet!
This is not all that we have
An empty celebration that when all is said and done
Leaves the world the same dark place

Yes, the world is indeed “a shockingly bad old place,
where wickedness flourishes unchecked,

And yet
At Christmas the light came into the world
A light in the darkness

A light to show us the way
A light that at times may seem to only flicker
But never goes out

The light of hope, and peace, and joy
The light of love

which is kindled in our hearts

so that sometimes we are kinder
and sometimes we love
and forgive
and give

And sometimes
Even as the light shines in a world murky with darkness
And gaze into the now silent skies,
And remember
And hope

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