Nativity - painting by Cassie EmmottAlone in a city,
Tired, aching,
Heavily expectant with the weight of an unborn.

 Struggling to find comfort,
Friendship or assistance,
A dignified place to begin the most vulnerable of experiences.

Labouring for the first time.
Frightened, uncertain.
No midwives or hospitals,
No cot,
No reassurance –
But for the warm burps and farts of an ox,
The moist breath of a donkey,
The sense that something wonderful and natural,
Something majestic and other is about to begin.

Amid the groans and mess and dung and blood.
Amid the dirty floor, and rock-like walls,
The straw-littered ground, on which to grunt and pace and cry out –
A tiny gurgle and whimper is heard.
And my heart melts.

That my God should be so beautiful in such humility.
A precious baby, helpless and needing,
Born in poverty and isolation.
Few whoops or cheers,
No champagne.
Just Mum and Dad –
And the author of eternity.

Your first guests –
Attending at the invitation of armies of angels –
Are the social outcasts,
The lonely, the broken,
The smelly, the fierce,
The course and uncouth,
The unwanted,
Who bow in wonder,
Profoundly moved, that they alone should be the ones to be welcomed here.

When they leave,
The change is marked, written deep at their core.
They have been loved.
They have held God in their arms and he has broken their hearts,
Mallow and soft, they know that they are known.
They are not forgotten.
There is hope,
Unquenchable, undeniable,
They feel peace.

But then, Lord, that is you all over.
You invite us to meet you where we are both most vulnerable.
At the manger. At the cross.
We in our sin. You carrying the weight of it.
So we can know that you understand.

At your own birth, offering us gifts –

Where you took death, you offer us life.
Where you slept in a food trough,
You offer us a banquet.