Shape and Substance

meditations on faith and church

Month: December, 2016

Christmas, 2016

moonless midnight,
too soon to see the way
so path and peril are as one;

words left unsaid.
Too soon to know. The tree
of knowledge bears little fruit in

not in choosing—
too soon to be choosing—
but in waiting to be chosen;

not in rising—
too soon for glorias.
This time is his, and the gift of

Little God of Aleppo

Omran Daqneesh sits in an ambulance
on an orange seat, between supply drawers
and first-aid kits. His short legs stick out straight.
Concrete dust, the remnant of his bedroom,
sifts from bare toes to the floor. Unmoving,
he does not try to catch or treasure it,
cherishing a childhood none care to keep.
His empty stare sees nothing, everything,
or merely the Aleppo of the dead,
before the rain of bombs began to fall.
He is five years old. Blood dries on his cheek.
His hair is stiff and gray and caked with dust,
last trace of what was once and might-have-been.
What’s a little dust in an ambulance?

Dust are we all and to the dust return.
But this child, formed from the dust of nations,
must live his life, for he is the first fruit,
the apple of this brave new creation.

In the dark, extracted from the rubble,
a child is born from dust of bombed-out dreams,
is gently laid in an orange manger
while shepherds attend to him in rescue,
and generators fill the air with drone.
He is the new Immanuel; he sits
like Buddha beneath the orange Bodhi,
waiting for truth. His is the gaze of truth.
He sees what we do not: that God is here,
granting vacant grace from an orange cross.
He knows what we do not: no other god
can die beneath the dust and rise again.
London, Dresden, or in Sarajevo—
he rises powerless and can but die.

The preacher has no answer; faith still dies.
Knowledge is silly prattle; hopes depress.
We who remain speak for God’s hollow eyes:
We are here. We have seen. We are witness.

A Hymn to My Country

It is no small thing to say
god bless this our land.
Blessing might well be
curse if proffered
by the wrong god.

It is no small thing to name
the child, god-with-us.
Like a gladius
it cuts both ways
when rightly swung.

It is no small thing to cry
hosanna, when we
can so rarely think
of things from which
we need saving.

It is no small thing to claim
he is risen when
anyone can see
the stone-sealed tomb
is undisturbed.