I came to know Wendell Berry at the wrong time in my life. My husband and I, with three children in tow, had just barely ... Read More
The Christmas season is filled with imagery of Jesus as a helpless infant, and with good reason. There is not enough wonder, surprise, and praise to match the occurrence of God incarnate deigning to appear in the world as a baby, of all things. How magnificently ridiculous it is to think of the infinite and incomprehensible choosing to wrap itself in rolls of pudgy flesh and set itself in the arms of people like you and me.
“Away in a manger,
no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus
laid down His sweet head”
In so many ways, it is a gentle story. Perhaps it is the soldier in me that surfaced to cast the tale in a separate light. It takes a concerted effort to remember that, in everything we do, there is a spiritual battle raging for the soul of this world and its people. The angels said, “Peace on earth,” and yet the Son of God also said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” It just happened not to be the sword anyone was expecting.
I think of how the angel host filled the shepherd’s field and how their praises might have thundered through the heavens. I think of how the glory of the Lord shone bright, white-hot in that moment. I think of how Christ’s entrance into the world may have looked through spiritual eyes, even as He laid down His sweet head in a manger.
All the air now tastes of iron
as the dust is tainted red.
Frantic shouts across the valley
rise in notes of mounting dread.
Though we fight with all our fervor,
we are falling to our foe,
jagged creatures, dripping darkness,
ripping through us row by row.
They arose from deep within us,
all our failures taking form,
and they tore through all we treasured
in a lurching, seething swarm.
We have struggled toward the castle,
but we cannot find the way,
and the creatures hum and hunt us,
turning soldiers into prey.
Not a man has stood before them,
they have slain both swift and strong.
In the hundreds we have fallen
to the fury of their song.
For the song is one of anguish,
draining all our will to stand,
and it soaked into the soil
like a poison in the land.
We can lift our legs no longer.
Pain is burning in our breath.
In their eyes we find no mercy,
only shadow. Only death.
Faces turn to find the castle,
voices cry out for the King,
but with all the span between us,
who could hear our suffering?
All our swords have fallen heavy.
Trembling, we cower back
as the creatures chant and cackle,
setting for the last attack.
Then a shout upon the hillside
draws our eyes across the land.
Silhouetted by the sunset
is the figure of a man.
He lifts up his sword, defiant,
hulking shadow, edged in light,
and he spurs his steed to gallop,
charging down into the fight.
Raise your heads and see, my brothers!
Shrink away in fear no more!
For we have not been abandoned,
And the King’s son comes to war.