December 24, 2009

Welcome Christmas Child

"Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day"

"Fah who for-aze — Dah who dor-aze"

Of course, adorable as they are
and with all due affection for their creator-physician Seuss
we, here, are not the Whos down in Whoville

On the corner of Market and Maple this night,
perhaps our prayer is “Welcome Christmas, Christmas Child

Welcome child
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Christmas news is in our grasp
as long as we have hands to clasp

And what news, exactly, are we clasping?

Middle-aged Joe
Teenage Mary
commonplace Jews

who welcome parallel angels
that bring provocative signals
that hang providential shingles



a birth to be
an unexpected expectancy
a divine intrusion
an unwelcomed welcome

a baby messenger ... teacher ... deliverer
the well-known stranger
born for all, known by many, followed well by few
(surely not well by me)

Welcome, welcome, Christmas child

And so it is, then, we Who-Christians
all around this Who-world

when the weather turns chilly
and the days grow short in the month of 12
and the kids come home from expensive educations

we gather in our who-churches
and sing the oddest of who-songs
with the strangest of who-words

Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace.

Christmas words, at once
familiar as the snow
right as rain

a refrain as orienting this time of year
as your neighbor’s pumpkin roll

And yet, upon reflection, their meaning
is as obtuse to us as the person they praise

So, on the one hand:

Welcome, Familiar Friend

After all, do we not see ourselves in this Bethlehem baby:

squeals and fits of life
naked before God

He is we. We are he, Seuss might say.

And so we assume we know all about him. Our Who-savior.

Yet when a little later he opens his mouth
his holy babble is not recognizable to our who-ears,
invested as we can be in our who-world and its who-ways

He says:

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also should forgive.
Want to take hold of your life? Let it go, for God’s sake.
Want to live? Take up your cross and follow me to mine.

What words are these?
What Seusical nonsense does he rhyme?
From what planet is this babbling-baby-Lord?

It may as well be
Dah who dor-aze
Fah who for-aze

Word now breaking heaven’s silence
Long-awaited, familiar stranger
Welcome, holy other

He comes from a place, from a grace, we cannot comprehend
His origin is beyond our telling
His purpose, beyond our control

Yet upon his arrival,
he looks as though he could be your cousin’s child,
from Greensburg
(Nice people, in fact. As long you don’t talk football.)

Welcome, confounding mystery

How can your Deoxyribonucleic acid be both ours, and God’s?
How is it you speak our who-language,
yet you know first-hand the one who is?
How are you both my brother and my God?

Fragile finger sent to heal us

Tender brow prepared for thorn

Tiny heart whose blood will save us

Welcome, splendorous mystery
Welcome, holy child

Welcome to our church, our homes, our block
Welcome to our time, our space, our mess
Welcome to this corner, this service, these hearts

Take your place
amid packages, homecomings, and fantastic fudge
amid sledding and sautéing and secret sobbing
amid new who-scooters, new who-boyfriends, new who-disappointments

Gather with our great Aunt Ellen
Gather at our great big meals
Gather up our great hunger
for justice
for renewal
for life
for all

Welcome, welcome, Christmas child
to this season of deep gladness
to those who know departing sadness
to this era of ambivalent madness

Wrap our injured flesh around You

Breathe our air and walk our sod

Rob our sin and make us holy

Welcome, child of God.

Born to expire that in dying we might live
Sent from high to serve down low,
that those bent low might stand up tall
Word of God now disturbing heaven’s long quiet

Your Christmas grace is within our grasp
Give us hands, and hearts, to clasp

Welcome, holy child

Welcome to our world

(some words above from Welcome to our World by Chris Rice)