Friday, 14 December 2012

'I am Bethlehem...' - some pre-Christmas meditations

I wrote these in 2008 and used them in a Christmas Eve service in Smethwick. We used them again in Hodge Hill last year as the 'gathering gloom' of austerity approached. Not one for repetition, we're doing something different here this year - but these still feel worth sharing. Feel free to use and share as you like...

I am Bethlehem…​
A little town, a nowhere-in-particular.
A place of hope, over the years,
but also, often, of fear.
My streets are dark;
my people are longing
for freedom from the fear of violence,
for a healing of divided communities,
for peace –
peace here, peace for all the earth.
And tonight, unnoticed,
the tiniest of lights has been lit,
tonight, unheard,
the whisper of God travels on the wind.
in the most unlikely of places
for the birth of hope.
in the silence
for the most extraordinary of messages.
in my dark streets,
God says:
‘Do not be afraid’

I am Mary…​
A teenaged girl, no one in particular.
Not quite a single mum,
but not married, not settled down,
not with the baby’s dad.
Of course I’m excited
about bringing
a tiny new life
into the world.
But you’d be scared too
if you were me:
my first baby could be here any time;
we’re in a strange town far from home;
there are no beds free,
and no hospital, come to that.
As for the disapproving looks
off the neighbours back home,
well… I’ve had months of that already.
But look…
In my body – mine! –
God’s love is taking shape.
In my ears – yes, mine! –
God whispered the promise:
‘Do not be afraid’

I am Joseph…​
before the word was even thought of.
Good with my hands –
not so clever with words.
I’m with Mary because I love her,
baby or no baby.
How many of you
have brought up a child,
knowing from the beginning it wasn’t yours,
but doing your best –
your very best, I mean –
to teach him all you know
about love,
and faithfulness,
and courage,
and being a man,
a real man,
a good man?
I fear
I might not have
a big-enough heart
to do that.
But then there’s God,
chipping away,
gently but firmly,
with those words again:
‘Don’t be afraid.’

I’m a shepherd…​
Paid barely enough to make ends meet,
put food on the table,
keep the babbies in clothes.
Working conditions not great either:
outdoors, whatever the weather;
long days;
long nights.
And hardly secure employment:
hired and fired from month to month;
Leaving your flock
is not a good career move,
whether an angel’s told you to
or not.
I’m scared
this winter’s going to bite hard.
But maybe if God knows
all about cold
and poverty
and insecurity.
Maybe I’ve got nothing to lose.
‘Don’t be afraid.’
That’s what the angel said.

I am a wise man,​
​Although they don’t say that
​about everyone
​who looks for messages in the stars.

I am a traveller.
My journey has brought me a long, long way.
I have not found much yet:
only power-hungry rulers,
and too many doors shut in my face.

​I am a foreigner.
I might look and sound quite different to you.
But just because I struggle to speak your language
doesn’t mean I don’t have a brain,
or a heart.

You and I are searching for the same thing,
I think.
A new government,
a different world,
a brighter future,
we hope.

But maybe we are looking in the wrong places.
Not in the corridors of power,
among the money men
and the decision-makers.
But in a back-street stable,
among the young mums
and the shift-workers.
The starlight
​I have been following
seems to shine
down those dark streets,
‘Do not be afraid.’

I am busy!​
​I’m an innkeeper.
Which means
I run a pub,
and this,
for people in my trade,
is the busiest,
most stressful,
time of year.
No room,
no time,
no joy.
Too many people around,
too many jobs to do,
too many places to be
at the same time.
I’m good without
the aggro.
just to keep head above water.
Better when it’s all over.
But if,
for ten minutes even,
I could leave the customers,
the complaints,
the constant demands,
and get round the back
to the cattle shed,
to see that new-born baby
I can hear crying,
and hold him in my arms…
even for five minutes,
I could just stop
and do nothing,
except be there,
and look
and listen…
in the space,
and the silence,
I might just hear God saying:
‘Don’t be afraid.’

I am me…​
I am you…
I am your next-door neighbour…
I am the person you go out of your way
to avoid…
I am your best friend…
We are waiting,
all of us,
sitting in darkness,
waiting for the light of dawn to break.
We tell ourselves
‘Christmas is for the children’,
but there is a little child
in each of us
that is waiting for more
than the contents
of the brightly-wrapped boxes
and the feast
of chocolate.
The little child
is waiting
for the moment
of wonder…
For the moment
the world
holds its breath
and then breaks into
a smile.
For the moment
when a lifetime
of hurts
and disappointments
is forgotten
in a hug.
For the moment
when the poor
and the hungry
are lifted up
and the rich
are sent
For the moment
when the hopes
and fears
of all the years
in the dark streets
and whisper
to each other:
‘Don’t be afraid.’
The little child
is waiting.
to be born.

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