Every lit and lively season (Christmas, especially) comes, for some, with heartache, usually over the absence of a beloved whose remembrance still cuts to the quick and pickles the heart. In addition, Nativity’s season unfolded with ancient Palestine’s writhing under the oppressive heel of Rome’s imperial boot. The poem below is set in these parallel moods.
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Do not fear grief. She comes, unbidden, with a word hard
but essential. The rocks beneath your feet are bruising and
unrelenting. The wind, sharp as a razor. The moon casts
threatening shadows, each a hissing dragon or fearsome
The dark throws its spell and bids you to bow and shiver.
Neither bow nor quake. Let every weak knee be steeled; every
back, steadied; every mind, restored; every tongue, loosed;
every arm declaring its strength. Say to the rocks: Do you best!
Speak to the dark: Take me, if you dare. Say to the moon:
Your light is for lovers, not thieves. To the meadows and
mounts that witness this interrogation, say: Speak the truth.
To the streams and rivers who run, say: Your wet wonder
precedes all living. To the friends who scatter, say: Be gone.
To those who linger, say: Give me your blessing. For under grief’s
skirt are angels who say: You are enough. Who say: You have
what is needed. Who say: The years lost to the locusts will be
restored. Who say: Weeping endures for the night, but joy
comes in the morning. The Promise and Presence of such joy,
sustained by the One who can neither be named nor tamed,
runs deeper, farther, surer than every sorrow-sullied current
or casting wave. Give yourself to the bewildering news of Earth’s
upside-down, inside-out future and the begetting power of the
bewilding Spirit, alternately comforting and afflicting in
accordance to the terms of the reconfiguring covenant uplifting
the lowly and toppling the pretentious. Stake your life in this
Promise. Abide in this Presence. Align your attention with this
Purpose. Join the caroling community whose anthems of praise
—in the face of threat—disclaim every tear’s stain and death’s
reign, world without end. Amen.
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10 December 2023
Linocut art © Julie Lonneman