Bethlehem

I am

Bethlehem.

 

“No room!”

my inns, my houses, my streets,

have declared.

Doors locked,

Windows shuttered,

Lights dimmed,

With fearfully feigned disinterest.

 

But into one small space

at the edge of all I am

creeps this family:

mother and father.

And the baby is born:

Emmanuel, God is with us.

 

Born here.

Born

in me.

When I was first in New York I started to explore and experience 'imaginative contemplation', as I took the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. It was and is not a practice that comes easily to me, especially not if I try to just think my way into a story: using pen and paper helps me engage and stay present to the aliveness of the process. This little poem kind of 'happened', as my favourite poems often do, out of something less conscious and more intuitive - out of my 'guts' I suppose - and, well, I like it! I was surprised to find myself identifying not with one of the nativity characters but with the the town itself; it made complete sense of my frequent feeling that I need to be on guard somehow. Even if what I am defending against is lovely, or is love itself. Yet, in some marvelous way, what needs to come alive in me does so when the time is right ... in some incomprehensible yet amazing way, I find that the birth of Jesus then brings life-giving hope to me today.