I don’t believe in Christmas (2010 revision)

I don’t believe in Christmas, this
American disease,
this chance to flaunt our
less-than-seemly sides
and they are Legion.

In other seasons mostly
I don’t mind so much this jangling sound,
this cry like an alarm designed
to stir me from the stupor of
the everyday; yes, usually
let bells ring out, even
the rusty ones, and out of tune,

but all this noise just jars me now,
and pushes me to cringing in
December din, with ringing
in my ears like old regrets or all
I’ve left behind of too-long days, even
as I altogether give in to
nothing nearly like a still
and wholly silent night.
No, no, not Christmas yet, or not for me.

“Advent,” though, now that
rings truer to me and
I like that Latin sound of it
Ad-ventus—“coming towards us,” and
infringing even, bootfalls smashing
though my dull defenses in
an almost hostile sense as Something
slouches towards me in a deepening
power of unmaking or,
at very least,
upsetting all my tables
in temple to myself that I have
so blindly built. Yes,
a slouching, stumbling Something or
Someone makes much more
certain sense to me somehow, oh yes,

I do believe in that,
I do indeed believe in

breaking in and entering, yes, that
little Burglar, yes, that
Stranger, this poor
ragged Baby breaking in
and catching us
all off our guards and
smelling slightly
of stale straw.

And now I wonder if this Advent of
the Christ-child might right now have
something strange and true to say,
just might have more to do with me
than I supposed, might make
some sense of this commercial jingle,
bells of registers, oh yes.
Perhaps this Advent still can speak
Into that not-so-holiday much more than
I supposed:

For He too, (tiny-handed) clutches,
grasping at the world, and tugging
at my ragged sleeves like twelve
too many shoppers
lunging for that latest thing, for some
thing to latch on to.

He must have screamed that starry night,
squalled out at the world just like
these angry, ardent customers, with
their silver clutched in fists, jaws set
to tasks, with all the stress
of this dark season, their
thin socks cold-wet with rain:
small wonder they’d grow angry, yes,

Small wonder—oh…

So now I know a way, I see
two common qualities, how
I might somehow hold to Advent
and keep Christmas in my head.

It takes outrage, of course,
both then as now,
and well we all know outrage,
us as He.
And as another winter swirls
this sense of something gone so wrong
hangs on us like old ornaments
or tiny lights that flicker out,
or like a slightly acid
stable smell.

But from that straw Small Wonder,
still and silent as the night, appears
to help us loose all that we clutch
and cling to, urging that we might
embrace instead this thing
we least expected, that strange gift
so roughly wrapped as It arrives.

Small Wonder strikes so opposite
a note to all that I think I need, as
does a beggar at a feast, as
does the thought of me
down on my knees, as do
good tidings of great joy
declared to dirty men and
working graveyard yet somehow
with weather eye turned heaven-ward.

And so it shows to maybe all of us
(who stumble through this pageant as we
mumble carols, eat too much)
it shows to us that (maybe) faith
might not mean too much more
than doing dirty work
with one eye to the sky
that we may see still well enough
to drop it all, to be found
night-weary in that stable
where we surely don’t belong, yet where
the outrage of Small Wonder draws
A heaving, little, peaceful sigh
then settles down to sleep.


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