At the end of the line, where enjambment sings: zero’s the number of the Fool, the shape of the storm. It’s the beginning and the end, depending on where you start counting. It goes around and around … God has to wear masks because you’re not prepared for a faceful of infinity, but that’s not the secret. The secret is: how many masks.
The “war on Christmas” nonsense makes me tired.
Not outraged. Not angry. Not defensive. Tired.
I am not interested in defending Christmas from some imaginary angry force, or help the imaginary angry force make its case. I am not willing to mount a defense that says Jesus was really really really born on December 25 (does anyone other than the most pedantic college sophomore give a shit?) and the Three Wise Men were three and wise and men and followed a star and are we seriously genuinely … like, talk about missing the point.
I am not invested in proving my right to eat frosted cookies for lunch and hang out with my family for a few days. I am not interested in making factual arguments about lighting candles in the early dark, and singing carols against the cold, because it’s indefensible. It’s MAD. It’s absurd, holding the darkness at bay with a spiral-cut ham and mulled wine. You might as well meet a tank division on the battlefield with knitting needles. You might as well try to dance away a nuclear bomb.
But you tell me what else there is to do. You tell me the harm, in one day. In one, silent, night. In one goddamn 24-hour period devoted not to misery and rage but to peace. God, we give ourselves so little time to breathe these days. We give ourselves so little rest. We harry each other through the days, picking at this or that or the other thing, always always always. There is always something wrong. Something lost. Something cold and lacking.
Hear, in this story, a plea for understanding, for a moment’s rest: A poor family, traveling, going from place to place, asking for room. Asking people see behind their masks. Behind their poverty, their choices, their fear. See God in us, see a miracle in our child to be born, and see your own need for a quiet place, even if it’s in stable.
See who we are and why we’re here. Is there ever any other question, any other request? Aren’t we all behind our masks, asking one another for recognition? On this silent night, can we declare a truce, and say that even if it’s only poetry. it’s poetry?
People have died for poetry. For less than poetry. For cheaper, smaller things than the story we tell ourselves today, of God behind a mask, visible only to those with nothing in the way of their vision. People have died for worse poetry than that. That’s worth a holiday. Especially one of grace from unlikely beginnings and hope in dark times.
That’s worth a lit candle after all.