’Tis that time of the year again. I’m sure they put more than one Christmas in each year nowadays – that’s the only rational explanation for the fact that it’s appeared again so soon.
Christina Rossetti wrote one of the best loved Christmas carols, In the Bleak Midwinter, written in response to a competition set in a magazine. The words were put to music by Gustav Holst. If I wore a hat I would take it off to Ms Rossetti for she had a knack of repeating words in a manner which showed no regard whatsoever to normally accepted rules of not repeating the same word too often in any one line. She’d hinted at it in one of her poems: Love came down at Christmas; Love all lovely, love divine, cramming lots of love and lovelys in, but she really showed herself at the peak of her art in Bleak Midwinter. Snow was falling, snow on snow. (‘Hmmm,’ she thinks, ‘how am I ever going to finish this line off? I’ve used the word “snow” quite a few times already. Ah well, in for a penny . . . ’) Snow was falling snow on snow, snow on snow. Definitely one of my favourite lines from any carol.
Here’s a poem that hasn’t been made into a Christmas carol – I’m not sure it would work as one – but it looks at events from a less usual source. The birth of Christ, seen through the eyes of the man who had to take so much in trust and faith.
In the dark, in the dirt and stale smell: the cold of loneliness, just the two of us
And them – in silent indifference sharing their shelter with me. And her.
I wish it would begin.
This is so far from what I wanted for the one I love.
The pain on her face every step of the tortuous journey here.
Pleading for a room. Bleeding.
Where is God in all of this?
Waiting – for the time to arrive. In the dark, in the dirt and the stale smell:
The cold of loneliness. Just the two of us.
One mean light, flickering, fighting the darkness.
Her nails dig into my hand as I hold her.
A scream sears the silence. Another. Long and loud trails off into a moan.
I wish it would end.
God told me he’d be here.
Or was it just a dream?
One of the silent onlookers snorts a cloud of hot, sweet breath into
The air and it rises heavenward.
Mary’s blood mixes with the earth – her sweat with the dirt.
I don’t know what I’d expected. When the time came there was no fanfare.
Just an exhausted sigh.
The baby was born.
God – came – gasping and struggling and crying into the world he had made.
Come to save.
Born in a dark stable.
And a young girl’s tears of pain were replaced by a mother’s tears of Joy –
And my tears of amazement, relief, thanksgiving. Reborn faith.
And for those who would hear – for those who would see –
We were not alone any more. Evermore.
God is with us.
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