December 25, 2011

Take Your Place Among Us

Dear Baby Jesus

It’s starting to make more sense to me
why people go home
come home
for Christmas

Maybe it’s just right that your birthday
would be marked
by a feverish return to the familiar

Everywhere these few two days
unsuspecting pilgrims
making the holiday trek
on rails, on tires, on wings

All en route
back to the center of their lives
back home
Back to a place of hoped-for gravity
in a world
otherwise weightless

Many find it
and there is gladness

Some do not
and with the forthcoming flip of the calendar
the search goes on

Now whether these holiday hoards know it or not
(that’s a matter of some theological debate, you know)
all this traveling home this week
seems a fitting party
for your fleshly advent among us

From the start of your story
you were always at the center of things

You’ve continually made your bed among us
right here in our ranks

We call it

I remember well my mother’s chalky-white nativity set
Its annual December appearance on the dark marble hutch
along the wallpapered side of the dining room

After the stuffing of Thanksgiving
After the last LSU game in November
out it came
from the dark nether regions of the attic
all 12 pieces

The whole blessed scene
probably a Green Stamp purchase
during some closeout season gone by

I remember
your tiny little hands and feet
formed in cheap Plaster of Paris

your manger
cast in a sweat-shop mold like 1000s of others

your familiar scene-mates
each one with MADE IN HONG KONG affixed to their bottoms

All of it
as if to say
the Lord of All
even down at the Dollar Den

And although
(when my mother’s attention was elsewhere)
it was my great delight to rearrange
shepherds and sages
to put Joseph outside with the bleating sheep
camels on their wise men
oxen up where only angels should trod

I never dared moved you, baby Jesus.
It never felt right.

You always seemed to fit
in the center of things

The hub for their wheel
The sun in their middle
to fix their orbits

Even as an infant
there you were
on the mantle
already calling God’s chosen band to gather round

the smallest
most helpless
most needy of them all
most Plaster of Paris among them

Born a sacred irony
their Life and Love and Lord

So I say
Come again
grown up Jesus
Come and take your post
at the center of our lives

Rearrange the oft-handled
mishandled pieces
of our homes and hearts
Until each finds its proper place on the periphery
encircling your Easter life

Come again
O Jesus
Be that blessed homecoming
at the end of all our misguided, wayward treks

Show us that weight of glory
that ballasts our wispy, worried world

Teach us to live in the shelter of your sanctuary
until at last
when the fever of this life is over
we are home
raised up!
for good

For this is who you are
Nativity Jesus
our Plaster of Paris Prince
Founder of my Fragile Faith

so small and yet so hilariously glorious
the hub of our salvation
the core of our communion
the weight of our world

take your place among us
Right here
where you most belong

At the center of our lives