A couple of years ago I wrote my first Advent poem, now something that I do each year. It’s probably one of my favourites of the poems that I’ve written, so I thought I would share it with you this Christmas Eve. It seems particularly fitting to post it on this site, which has been dedicated all year to the concept of God using writing as a means of comfort and consolation. I remember that I was not in a very good place in my faith when I wrote this poem; somehow focusing on the simple truths of the Christmas story which we so often neglect was a deeply comforting thing to do. I hope you enjoy what it produced.
The Scandal of Immanuel
No, child, there was no donkey.
It did not snow; He was not blonde.
The shepherds and the Magi came
on separate nights. (There were no kings.)
The story’s truth is often not
contained upon our cards or in
our children’s plays; the songs we sing
are rarely right. (I’m sure He cried.
He was a baby, after all.)
These things are true:
a baby born – no natural cause;
much scandal round His birth and life.
Some children killed; some lives laid down
before His hidden, sorrow-crown.
The hotels closed for Census Rush,
the only place a stable for the animals;
His infant bed a feeding trough,
cow-dung smell replacing the
festive touch of fruit mince pies,
of holly and of mistletoe.
It is not pretty, child, that’s true.
But think a while upon the truth,
how rarely power looks like we
think it should, how many rulers
are weak-kneed, how often strong
are those in need. This is why:
a shameful child, a ruler born
without a throne, and only dirty
shepherds and some foreigners
on hand that time to call Him king;
that baby, born into our shame:
God-among-us is His name.