The Cross in the Manger

Ann Weems, a well known author, poet and liturgist, has a great poem about the realities behind the sentiments of Christmas. It was published in her book, Reaching for Rainbows, and also in her more recent Christmas collection, Kneeling in Bethlehem. I’m grateful to Graham Redding, PCANZ moderator, for bringing it back to my attention, as the poem picks up the challenges of living out a faithful life away from the public celebrations. This is not about ruining Christmas pageants with graphic depictions of Easter violence. It’s about finding ways of embodying everyday life-changing faith in a world that so easily makes do with consumerism, shallow “how to be successful” pitches, and a naive satisfaction with niceness.

Kneeling in Bethlehem artwork

If there is no cross in the manger,
there is no Christmas.

If the Babe doesn’t become the Adult,
there is no Bethlehem star.

If there is no commitment in us,
there are no wise men searching.

If we offer no cup of cold water,
there is no gold, no frankincense, no myrrh.

If there is no praising God’s name,
there are no angels singing.

If there is no spirit of alleluia,
there are no shepherds watching.

If there is no standing up, no speaking out, no risk,
there is no Herod, no flight into Egypt.

If there is no room in our inn,
then “Merry Christmas” mocks the Christ Child,
and the Holy Family is just a holiday card,
and God will loathe our feasts and festivals.

For if there is no reconciliation,
we cannot call Christ “Prince of Peace”.

If there is no goodwill towards others,
it can all be packed away in boxes for another year.

If there is no forgiveness in us,
there is no cause for celebration.

If we cannot go even now unto Golgotha,
there is no Christmas in us.

If Christmas is not now,
If Christ is not born into the everyday present,
then what is all the noise about?

Ann Weems is the author of many highly regarded books on themes of faith, including Reaching for Rainbows, Family Faith Stories, Kneeling in Bethlehem, Searching for Shalom, Kneeling in Jerusalem, Putting the Amazing Back in Grace, and Psalms of Lament. Ann and her husband Donald have a long history working with the PCUSA and currently living in St Louis, Missouri.

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