Excerpt from “Descending Theology: Christ Human” by Mary Karr:
Such a short voyage for a god,
And you arrived in animal form so as not
To scorch us with your glory.
Your mask was an infant’s head on a limp stalk,
Sticky eyes smeared blind,
Limbs rendered useless in swaddle.
You came among beasts
As one, came into our care or its lack, came crying,
As we all do, because the human frame
Is a crucifix, each skeleton borne a lifetime.
Any wanting soul lain
Prostrate on a floor to receive a pouring of sunlight
Might—if still enough, feel your cross buried in the flesh.
One has only to surrender,
You preached, open both arms to the inner,
The ever-present hold,
Out-reaching every want. It’s in the form
Embedded, love adamant as bone.
Amidst the peppy Christmas carols and scents of pine and peppermint, it’s easy to ignore the fact that the very first Christmas sounded and smelled very different from our festivities. I’m sure that the stable smelled pungently of manure and other body odors and was filled with the grunts and rustles of weathered animals. Jesus’ entrance into our midst was messy and raw and corporeal. He lacked the human trappings of royalty but was holiness descended. Mary Karr’s poem reminds me of both the earthiness of Christ’s birth and the phenomenon of his presence among us.
May we see Immanuel, God with us, the babe whose love is as “adamant as bone.”