I. Incarnation and Nativity
It is no accident the cradle was a feed bin,
not a child-safe, government-approved and downy nest.
Perfection did not choose to feed us with a silver spoon,
for where’s the mystery in that?
A byre, then, and a manger filled with fodder
for the local beasts to eat, and there
was laid an infant human boy.
We can assume the lodging meagre,
yet the person it contained did not contain his joy at being born;
the skies blazed, shepherds shrieked and kings came calling.
This child is ours – no foundling, not a waif served up
from half a world away to prick our charity,
(though that child, too, belongs to us –
inhabiting the suburbs of our care,
no portrait on the mantel shelf
or carried close for fond display to strangers
with the proud boast ‘this is mine’.)
This is our boy, our deepest love,
our cord, our lifeline to that mind untouchable
who made us.
All humanity shares motherhood of him,
our sacrifice, our lamb,
not someone else’s baby,
but the flesh and sinew of our hearts.
And by Love’s hand it happened – that’s our history.
The will that once exploded into matter,
hurled time in and burst stars,
poured out molten rock and gave air life,
and breathed it into his dear naked clump of earth;
that same will then
to one atomic, microscopic, central moment
when a worthy peasant girl risked all she was
to let the Spirit in,
to grow and bear a perilous Son.
Born of a woman, cradled in a bale of hay,
and destined to sustain forever
all who would consume and be consumed by him.
Our bread, our life,
Our food since first we stepped into the earth from Eden,
(told to spend our brow-sweat on it
till we sank back to the dust)
the bread sustained us from the start:
the sky-bread in the desert, teaching us that rest is sacred
and the begging-bread we hoard lest someone eats it.
It’s the bread that brawns the human heart,
the bread that turns to gravel if it’s taken by deceit,
share-bread, the bread of this, the bread of that,
the bread of life.
This fragile human infant boy,
all wrinkled, wet and helpless is the Word
that gives us all our daily bread –
which prayer, much later,
moves the lips of one young man in hiding,
in a garden (like the first) and naked, too.
His blood is racing,
and some soldier has the cloth he wore.
The prayer is new – taught by the man they came for,
whom they took, but not before
the boy had seen betrayal,
bare-faced in a kiss.
So now he hallows, asks for bread, vows to be kind,
asks kindness and for safety from the dark,
then disappears into it.
Then on to Calvary and agony,
To grief grown witless, then
a rising and the birth again of Love.
The bread we’ve broken since the gates were locked
has opened them again.
H. Mel Malton is a poet, novelist and artist who lives in Huntsville, Ont.