It is as if infancy were the whole of incarnation.

This time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we needed
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
There are some who are wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditiosn,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him–
Christ–the Lord. -Luci Shaw

I used to know someone who always read the Passion in the week or so before Christmas. While that is not one of my traditions, I do understand the sentiment, the idea that it’s important to know where the story is going to be able to keep the story of Jesus’ birth in perspective. (Look, here is Biblical support for my tendency to read the end of the story before I have actually gotten that far!) I actually find it more helpful to think about the Christmas story at Easter, especially on Good Friday. The Christmas story, with all its unexpected hope and promise, how did it come to this? But it’s important, too, to keep the crucifixion in mind as we wait during Advent. We have to have the whole story to be able to truly grasp the enormity of what was happening. God, sent to earth as a baby, well, that’s powerful enough, but God, sent to earth as a baby who grew to be a man who died for our sins . . . that is a story that, as the poem says, strides over our shallow sentiments and rescues us into reality.

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