Grace and Peace to you.
Don’t go near that tree.
It looks fit for a holiday, spangled,
with gifts brightly wrapped,
the fulfillment of our desires.
Don’t be fooled.
An ax waits at its roots,
sharpened for everything
but mercy and justice.
On this tree hangs the Despised One
whose gift is to rob us of our desires
and leave us with only compassion,
to take our coat and food
and make us share them.
He comes to baptize us with fire,
to winnow out our despair,
to burn the chaff of our self-enclosure,
to take our security and our weapons
and leave us with nothing
but the armor of God.
He comes as a poor baby
asking to be fed,
a refugee begging for home,
a prophet toppling our walls,
upending our kingdoms
of exclusion and privilege
that abide lovely presents under the tree
bought with blood and abuse,
that abide black bodies bleeding in streets,
raped in silence, lying in cells.
These kingdoms are doomed
by the unquenchable fire
in that little infant.
Don’t go near the tree. It’s not safe.
The gift under it is repentance.
A winnowing fork. An empty grave.
It’s liable to tip over this world—
only so gently we can’t stop it—
and build a new one
you can’t recognize
in the eyes of a child,
the song of a mother,
the hope of poor, cold shepherds
on a dark hillside.
Don’t go near—
oh, never mind.
It’s coming anyway.
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