A Brave, Determined, Faithful Couple

Nothing stops Mary and Joseph,
not traveling from Nazareth to Jerusalem,
then to Bethlehem to obey an official edict,
searching in Bethlehem for a place to stay
and giving birth to a son in a manger,
a feeding trough for the sheep and cattle already there,
and surrounded by strangers who arrive after the birth,
then returning to Jerusalem
to bring Jesus to the temple
to be circumcised on the eighth day,
to be named and blessed—
and not having many resources,
they can only offer a pair of turtle doves
to meet their holy obligation.

Joseph probably did not have funds
to rent a room even if one were available,
not only in Bethlehem—
the journeys slow, he walking,
guiding the donkey on which Mary sat
and later Jesus in her arms,
they would need to stop several times,
64 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem
six more to Bethlehem
six more back to Jerusalem
then home to Nazareth—
not to mention water and food
to sustain them both,
especially a pregnant and then nursing mother.

The blessings by Simeon and Anna,
truly a gift for all three of them and for us—
even as the parents may have felt both overwhelmed and nervous,
hearing about glory and trouble all at the same time,
not to mention the survival needs of a poor family.
Simeon knew they were poor
because they did not sacrifice a lamb
Would they have appreciated more tangible help?
How often do we bless people for their faith
and then ignore their needs for food, housing,
funds for the basics of life? 

Lectionary texts for the Feast of the Nativity may be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=52

Blessed Births

A woman with no social standing or power
gives birth to the holy child
and shepherds, held in low esteem
if not victims of hostility,
are the ones the angel visits
to share the good news,
to empower them to share it widely.

Do we know, do we remember,
that women of low estate
give birth every day
in homeless shelters and under bridges,
on reservations, in rodent-infested dwellings?
Do we know, do we remember
that those babies are sacred,
and their mothers, too?

Do we know, do we remember,
that men and women of low station—
victims of White supremacy, rapacious capitalism,
drug dependency, and more,
have stories to tell, news we need,
perspectives to enlarge our own?
Do we know, do we remember,
that they are sacred,
and their stories, too?

Each Christmas I remember a special time in my life,
when a ewe gave birth to a precious lamb.
I was 14, raising sheep as a 4-H project,
when a ewe became pregnant very early—
about two months before we had scheduled it.
It was Christmas Eve and my father and I
attended her after returning from midnight worship.

Kneeling on the straw, stroking the mother,
speaking encouraging words,
I could not forget the birth
we celebrated at church.
Our barn was larger than the lean-to
often pictured in art and books
but it was filled with animal smells,
sheep baa-ing,
a brisk wind whistling outside,
while the light from the bulb in the ceiling and our lantern
was not as bright as from the star.

As the adorable little one emerged
standing on wobbly legs,
mother licking her
to remove the birthing membrane,
I knew I wanted to name her
Mary Christmas!

And so she was.

Still, the time came
some years later
when I had to send her to market
where she joined
all the other sacred beings—
those hung from trees, from crosses,
those shot in the streets and casualties of war,
those taken that others might eat their fill,
those who die for lack of water, food, and health care—
all those whose memory others cherish
as I remember her.

Texts for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B, may be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=52 , https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=53 , and https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=54 

God the Unboxed

God tells a victorious David,
through his counselor Nathan,
I don’t need to live in the house
you want to build me.
My tent works for me,
I can live among my people, move about with them,
besides I don’t require
monuments supposedly for Me
but more likely to glorify the builder.
I am the Master Builder
having already created a world
for you and everybody,
every single body, human and non-human
(those are your categories—all are equally dear to Me).

God tells Mary,
a young woman unknown to the world,
speaking through the divine angel
that she will deliver a child,
a child who will grow up to be known
and celebrated and worshipped around the world—
but God knows his will not be an easy road.
Still God trusts Mary and she does not fail
delivering the baby
not in a grand room
nor hospital,
but surrounded by shepherds
cows, sheep, and hay
and yes, several others
of more exalted station.

He grows up to tell us
to value the meek and peaceful
not those who strut the world
building up themselves and those they favor;
to heal the sick,
not ignore their needs:
to free the prisoners,
not add to their number;
to comfort those who mourn
not create more disaster and distress.

He reaches out and heals
those the world ignores, maims and kills,
knowing that God wants
not only life and liberty
but also the pursuit
of just happiness for all.
He is not governed
by morality the dominant powers create
for their own interest,
but by how God values all,
the poor not just those
successful on the world’s terms
and those who break narrow, puritanical rules
in the name of love;
those whose skin color,
gender, and personal and social identities
are less favored, even abused by,
worldly rules, rulers and life;
those born on both sides
of the tracks,
living in tumble-down shacks
as well as suburbs;
and those who agitate for justice
as well as those who fail
to see and do it.

Lectionary Texts for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B, can be found at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=51

 

 

Freed for Extravagance

(Lent 5, Year C; click here for the biblical texts)

The poor we always have with us,
so God’s truth is:  reach out, feed, house,
clothe, care—but not in tightfisted
begrudging dutiful charity ways,
and certainly not to pretend
poor people alone are to blame
for their reality and we who are not poor
are innocent—embrace God’s beloved,
all of us siblings in the divine family.

Let’s follow Mary at table,  
pouring the gift of our soul—a gift from God—
like cheap wine at a block party
where no one has to worry about driving home,
a fountain of living loving liquid
to quench the dried out hearts
and weary bodies of neighbors in need
of laughter, joy, mountains of love
to feed children’s empty bellies,
to ease pains of living on edge,  
not sure when the next paycheck comes
if it will, or whether there even is a job.

Mary chose expensive ointment, showing
how to value those we love by stretching
beyond the comfortable to extravagance,
doing a new thing dazzling in simplicity,
grace and intimacy, using her own hair
as the agent of anointing, adoration,
and announcement of devotion to Lord Jesus
beyond the well-trod  ways.
Can you imagine presidential candidates
really hugging people, not photo ops,
really listening, not video opportunities,
telling whole truths in love, not advantage
against the other side?
That’s the revolution Mary began
and we are called to continue.

So when will you let your hair down
long enough to bathe your neighbor
and the world in endless pure love,
no conditions, no ugly boundaries
just love, more love still, an extravagance of love?

©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . The story in John 12 about Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly oil and her hair seems to stand in stark contrast to the last line about the inevitability of poor people—at least that is how it has often been interpreted. But what if her actions are the template by which we learn to care for each other, and perhaps especially for the poor?

 

It Takes a Real Woman

(Advent 4 Year C; please click here for a link to the biblical texts)

Believing God is different from believing in God
Mary teaches us the difference knowing the mercy
power help only God gives when we are open
trusting willing. It is not easy but can be simple
when we yield our need to be the sole agenda
and see in signs of our times what God asks
of us. The divine desire is what counts
We must listen and feel the thumps inside
our souls and bellies the word appearing
in unlikely ways times places
lemon vendors on the streets of Buenos Aires
men in a bathhouse whispering sweet love
trees in the woods sighing soft truth
protestors chanting hope
wounded communities living tough love.
We know what to do. Not to look away
not to pretend we do not hear
but listen as if our lives depended on it
as real lives do not the ones we put on
for sleepwalking jaywalking speedwalking
to get to the end
rather than enjoy a pilgrimage with our holy tour guide
seeing all the sites inviting us to sit a spell
for what comes next praying to see
the wisdom buried inside an ugly package
unlikely call or unplanned pregnancy.
Anyone can believe in God. It takes
a real woman to go all the way.

 

©RobinGorsline2015 lectionary poetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form