Snowdrops, pale and shy and still,
As if they’re afraid to face the bracing breeze.
Downcast propellers, silent in the chill,
So loathe to disturb the hush beneath the trees.
Always huddled together in their crowds
With the neck of a swan and the wimple of a nun;
Tensed to bare the worst from the clouds,
And wilting away in the first warmth of the sun.
“…there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2
When we first saw the star, we knew.
The whole of our lives we were waiting for signs,
And here was just such a clue –
And oh, what a clue ! How she shimmers and shines.
What is her news ?
A King of the Jews !
And just in time for the midwinter feast !
A saviour is born,
So set off at dawn,
And follow His star in the east.
As we followed that star, we thought
That our route would take us a strange way yet:
For if Judea were sought,
Then why does she lead us on into Tibet ?
But on we must trek
With the star as our check,
Until the ocean was stopping us dead.
So we chartered a ship
To continue our trip,
Because she was waiting ahead.
So we followed the star by sea –
Always due east would she lead our band,
Until we wise men three
Were finally washed on an unknown land.
And on we went
’Cross the continent
And strange were the people and customs upon.
Then at the next moat
We hadn’t a boat,
So we build one – and so we sailed on.
And we followed the star some more,
Across the African sands we were coming,
Until at last at the Jewish shore
We reached the land for which we were plumbing.
We took from our camels
Fine skins and enamels,
And spices and lapis, all fit for a priest,
And strange silks and feathers
We’d gathered together
From all of the lands of the east.
We knew we could trust her, we sighed,
She brought us all safe where we needed to be.
Now where is the child ? we cried,
Where is the one who we travelled to see ?
We told the bazaar
How we followed the star
To the King of the Jews, of whom we bespeak.
Then up spoke an urchin:
“How long you been searching ?
They just nailed that guy up last week.”
Twelve days waiting in a barn for them, we were,
For two weeks, nearly, with the horses.
Two weeks of waiting for a bit of gold and myrrh,
And a warning not to fall to Herod’s forces.
The shepherds came by early, but they couldn’t stay for long:
As they’d left their sheep all grazing in the pasture.
(I hoped the wolves weren’t prowling, nor the north-wind blowing strong,
And their truancy not noticed by their master.)
Surely now the census had been tallied up and done,
There must have been some room back in the inn ?
But there we slept, and waited, till the angel told us “Run”…
…Or was it we went home, back to our kin ?
And that, my lad, is how you spent a fortnight in a manger,
Upon the hay – or so we’ve always spun.
They must have used the Julian, those fine-attired strangers,
While you were pure Gregorian, my son !
Soothe the fridge its fears of less abundancy,
Let it know it must cut back its stocks.
Tell the ashtray straight of its redundancy,
Warn the sofa and the gogglebox.
Brace the bathroom scales still anticipating weight:
Notify them of reducing bulk.
Rouse the bike and treadmill from their hibernating state –
And disappoint the wine-rack – let it sulk.
The days are so short, late of the year –
Won’t you come on in ?
When the sun is down, and the frost is near,
And the gales begin.
But there’s always a shelter under our gable,
There’s always an extra chair at the table
For any stray stranger who’s hungry, and able
To pay us with only a grin.
The weather gets cold, this time of year –
We’re chilled to the skin.
It gets so hard to volunteer
And rattle the tin.
But there’s always a welcome here in our home
To help turn the grey to polychrome,
For unlucky souls who unwillingly roam,
While the wheels of fortune spin.
The season gets busy, every year,
And we just can’t win,
With the thanks so small, and the price so dear,
And our patience thin.
But there’s always a place at the table that’s set
For the unbidden guest coming in from the wet,
In time to remind what we often forget:
That there’s always room at the inn.