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are you flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones
It's hard to get beyond the glitz of Xmas and the sentimentality of the stable and manger. But at the warm, beating heart of the Christmas story is "the word becoming flesh". In a Christmas meditation, Martin Wroe thinks aloud about the body and God.
what colour are you God
and what are your vital statistics
what's your body like
any disabilities, distinguishing characteristics
would we spot you in a crowd
transfixed by your looks... or some deformity
do you have five senses like us
or do you make sense of everything
your handshake,
is it firm as a vice or slippery as an eel,
blue eyes or brown,
overweight or undernourished
and your breath,
does it smell of life
or of garlic

if the Word was made flesh
are you flesh of our flesh
bone of our bones
is that you there, meek and mild
meanly wrapped in swaddling clothes
is that you Baby J, Word of the Father
(and Mother, and Sister and Brother)
now in flesh appearing
screaming as you arrive
like the rest of us
screaming at the shock of the new
the shock of the cold and the old and the broken
is that you Baby J
landing abruptly in now
all the way from forever and ever amen
slipping clumsily from between a Virgin's legs
covered in blood and gunge and straw
when moments before you were covered in glory
tied to life by a fragile cord
sucking on a breast as if existence depended on it
what a come down...

at least you had an audience
cows was it, a goat or two
did they look on in awe and wonder
were the cattle lowing musically
or were they a stinking racket
little Lord Jesus no crying he makes
that doesnít ring true
the thing about flesh is it forces you to cry
to prove youíre alive
who is he in yonder stall
at whose feet the shepherd's fall
maybe they just tripped,
in the dark like the rest of us,
maybe they recognised you up close
knew that was you, in the flesh
maybe they were just baffled by the cosmic night patterns
hypnotized by the funny star

and did the flesh inconvenience, annoy
anger you, like it does
the rest of us, your fleshy inventions
did your nose run green
your skin itch, flake or bruise red
breath catch from asthma
chest tighten in fear
in this murky, stale world

and later on, what did you do about your desires
you know, the carnal ones
when your imagination bypassed your moral compass
and, hereís a thing,
apart from the public movement,
mountains into the sea, water into wine,
where did you go for your private movements
are there supernaturally fertile plants there today
never barren, perpetually productive
with roots for miles, branches into the heavens
or are those divine squatting places
where you felt quite a lot lower than the angels
(wiping your bum with leaves)
like every other place, where folks did their business
no horticultural miracle for eternal memento

and when you were at the end of your considerable wit,
when it was all going wrong
your friends misunderstanding, losing interest, wandering off
when the spirit was willing
but your flesh as weak as ours
did you wonder why
you got into this body business
swapping everywhere in general
for somewhere in particular
flesh is limited, cumbersome,
canít be in more than one place or time
did you feel trapped in that frame
resent the restrictions of the corporeal
when you were incarnate
could you recall being outcarnate

and did the flesh also exhilarate and excite
did you run and laugh and kiss
sweat and wrestle and fall in love
and if you longed to be more
were you also grateful to live
on earth

as flesh
one of us
little, weak and helpless
tears and smiles like us he knew
and he feeleth for our sadness
and he shareth in our gladness

how's the old body now
do you wear a halo
or a crown
is it of gold
or of thorns
are there marks on your palms still
blood on the side of your shirt ?
hereís to the body God
for ordinary miracle in skin and blood
putting flesh on the bones of our skeletal lives
embodying a dream of how life might be lived

flesh is all we have
but now you know
flesh is not all we are
photo of Debs Gardner-Paterson
Martin Wroe is a freelance writer. In another age he would have liked to have been a heretic, but not burnt.
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