Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas Day, Year B, 2011

Who is being born here? The child of an everyday couple from Nazareth... or God, come to live the life of a human being on earth? And if it's God, what did it feel like, putting on our flesh? Writer and journalist Martin Wroe asks some of the questions that go to the heart of Christmas.

what colour are you God
what's your body like
any disabilities, distinguishing characteristics
would we spot you in a crowd
would we stare at you for some deformity
how many senses have you got
five, six, eighteen, ninety four
and what's your sense of touch like
is your handshake firm as a vice or slippery as an eel
what do you smell of
anything in particular - the universe, for example
planets, oceans, space, skies
do you smell of petrol like everything else
we believe your Spirit is always willing
but is your flesh ever weak
and if the Word was made flesh
are you flesh of our flesh
bone of our bones
is that you there, meek and mild
all meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes
is that you Baby J Word of the Father
now in flesh appearing
is that you screaming as you arrived
like the rest of us
screaming at the shock of the new
the shock of the cold and the old and the broken
is that you Baby J
slipping clumsily out from between a Virgin's legs
covered in blood and gunge and straw
when moments before you had been covered in glory
is that you tied to the mother of God by a fleshy cord
sucking on a woman's breast for your very life
what a come down
still at least you had an audience
cows was it, a goat or two
did they look on in awe and wonder
were the cattle lowing a bit
or were they a right nuisance
but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes
well, that's not true is it
the thing about flesh is it makes you cry
for better or worse, you've got to cry
who is he in yonder stall
at whose feet the shepherd's fall
did they fall ? did they recognise you up close ?
did they know that was you, God, in the flesh
or were they just intrigued by the heavenly host
and the funny star
and did the flesh inconvenience and annoy
and anger you like it does the
rest of us, your fleshy creatures
did your nose run green
your skin flake or bruise red
did you itch
your breath catch from asthma
in that smelly barn
your chest tighten in fear
and later on what did you do about your desires
you know, the fleshly ones
and, just out of interest, where on earth
did you go for your private movements
and are there miraculously fertile plants there today
trees with roots for miles and branches into the heavens
never barren, endlessly ripe...
or are those places where the divine squatted in squalor
feeling quite a lot lower than the angels
- wiping his bum with leaves -
are they like every other place, where folks did their business
with no particular supernatural horticultural memento
and when you were tired, when it all was going wrong
when your friends misunderstood, lost interest, wandered off
did you think
what did I get into this body business for
swapping omnipresence for being somewhere in particular
did you feel trapped in that body
or didn't you know what it had been like before you became body
when you were in-carnate
could you know what it was like out-carnate
flesh can't be in more than one place at a time
flesh is limited
flesh is awkward
you must have wondered at the restrictions of the corporeal
did you ever notice , could you tell the difference?
and did the flesh also exhilarate you, excite you
did you run and laugh and kiss
did you sweat and wrestle and argue
and if you longed to be more...were you grateful to have lived
on earth
a human
in flesh
to have become one of us
he was little, weak and helpless
tears and smiles like us he knew
and he feeleth for our sadness
and he shareth in our gladness
how's the old body now
do you wear a halo
or a crown
is it of gold
or is it of thorns
are there marks on your palms
blood on the side of your shirt still ?
Jesus of the body, of the flesh, Jesus of the Spirit
welcome to the body God
thank you for being it
putting flesh on the bones of our skeletal lives
fleshing out the way life might be lived
thank you Spirit of Jesus for becoming body among us
thank you that veiled in flesh the Godhead we see
flesh is all we have
but, now you now - as well as any of us -
flesh is not all we are

Martin Wroe is a freelance writer, mainly working for Sunday newspapers in the UK. He is an organiser of the Greenbelt Arts Festival. Something similar to the above is published in When You Haven't Got a Prayer (Lion, 1997), a collection of reflective spiritual writings. In another age he would have liked to have been a heretic but not burnt.
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