Have mercy on us O God. We are a forgetful people. We forget what it was like when others hemmed us in — behind and before with a wall of violent oppression topped with the razor wire of bigotry. So we do to others as they have done to us. There used to be a Wall that ran through Berlin now another Wall runs through Bethlehem. Heal us of our amnesia and bring down the walls of division in our day. Amen.
This poem below by Jack Gilbert defends the right to delight in a world saturated with suffering and division. I share it with you because Christmas is God’s invitation for us to delight…
A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Forget all the pictures you have seen of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus painted in serene holiness. This modern day picture from Palestine is probably much closer to the truth of their experience.
Pray for the children like Jesus who see too much
Mary courageously consented …
This was the minute no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, “I cannot, I am not worthy,”
nor, “I have not the strength.”
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
opened her utterly.
Source: “Annunciation” in Breathing the Water