He comes near, able to touch, to be touched,
and be wounded, to kiss and to be kissed:
the grateful kiss, the sleepy child dismiss-
ing himself to sleep; the mother’s kiss, a smudge
on freshly-bathed cheek; the plotter’s grudge
expressed in the curl of doubled lips,
the final, false farewell, the fatal tryst.
He comes to feel the touch of friend and judge.
He comes to raise His hand to touch the world,
to put together Jacob’s broken hip,
to be the salve on Adam’s missing rib,
to gather in His family, unfurled,
and show that God’s love isn’t scared to feel
the pain of touch to make all new, to heal.
…the astonishment of the Angels: for it is not in them (pure spirits), but in the human race, that God unites himself, and the Son of God incarnate “is not ashamed to call us his brothers.”
Flames of fire, yet only servants. They long
to look into what we hold as child:
God-made-flesh. Not all the heavenly throng
are called “brothers”, but we are: reconciled,
dust transformed, while they only herald.
Do they marvel, or rival? One envied,
and fell beneath us. Unparalleled,
the Son chooses depths, yet uplifts, died
yet gives life. Let the angels adore Him;
let them fall before His throne ablaze in
the glory of Him and Father Elohim.
Yet how should something so glorious begin
so small, so timid? No fire, no thunder,
just angels and shepherds gazing in wonder.
It could be that the wildest, strangest things in the Bible were the places where it touched earth.
(Marilynne Robinson, Lila)
Our minds jump too easily: from cradle
to grave – a Cross upon a hill. And yes,
this is where it tends. Yet first the stable
is where God, first time in wounded ages,
touches directly the things of earth.
Then He will walk, as He will tell others: Rise and walk. He will learn life’s shape, the girth,
as we all learn, by taste and touch and years.
Lullabies do no justice to this. It
fragments and fractures. Yet it also meets
where deepest, frailest longings fail to fit
the structure of existence, gives hands and feet
to all that we have heard yet have not seen,
and binds together every break that’s been.
…Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
I hold You; I bore You. Yet You cannot
be held by me. The story told from first
honours me but exalts You more: a dot
at the start, impossibly small, yet burst-
ing with life. How could this all be? I did
not make it so. I held You, I hold You,
yet Glory made You. I grew You inside,
yet You grew me. Your breath shows it is true:
so dependent, so in need of me.
Can I hold my saviour so? Can I birth
the world’s one hope, like fruit from ungrown tree?
Can my maker grow from this virgin earth?
All things out of nothing He grows, and so
my nothing He has given mother-glow.
…without the First-born no-one is able to approach Being, for he alone is capable of it.
(Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of the Nativity)
Do we forget who we are?
Clamouring for prizes, for profit, for land,
The spaces we contest constrain us.
Who was Herod when he feared a baby?
Who was the baby when he taught Herod truth?
Let us bring right gifts to the right honoured guest;
Let life know itself in the truest Light.
Vaster than under heavens, grander than all ego,
True being lies helpless among cattle.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
“I and the Father are one.” Such mystery
Finds no answer in biology. Why
Not “I and my mother”? One for a time,
Yet divided at birth, distinct in history.
No, “I and the Father”: one in memory,
In substance and rhythm. Defying rhyme,
They split. The Son descends; the downward climb
Disrupts, unites. The Son descends to me…
A backward glance? What has He left behind?
Yet what is set before Him too: a feast,
Many sons and daughters brought to light.
One being, rent asunder; perfect mind
Never faults in purpose, west to east;
The Three-in-One, creation’s heart delight.
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
Magnify, soul. Let mind expand; let heart
Take in what cannot be contained. Discern,
Yet know the limits of your thoughts. Return
Again, again, to faith. Take humble part
In grandest story. This is just the start
Of nations in upheaval; kingdoms burn
Beneath this unexpected cosmic turn.
Take heart. Take faith, though angels will depart.
What will this mean when Joseph hears the news?
Or when the labour pains make all this seem
Confused, a blur, too far-fetched for a dream?
Remember Sarah, Hannah. Look back on
The stories of this mystery-grace, beacons
Of the secret glory now contained in you.