Christmas Regret

Christmas, like life, rarely brings us what we once wanted or imagined we needed. No doubt that explains why so many products of consumer capitalism’s holiday season create and feed a relentless craving for “the best Christmas ever,” a sales campaign designed to insure that, in the words of a song by Over the Rhine, “all I get for Christmas is blue.” Recognizing the chasm between what I thought I wanted and what I truly need is an essential lesson on the regret-laden road to spiritual maturity. Here’s a poem for those on the way.

Samuel in Bethlehem
(1 Samuel 16)

Over the brow, the lid, the lash,
spiced oil swam. He winced,
and I was glad, sick already of eyes
lovely and vacant as the sky,
sick of this repellant clan,
cowering like beaten dogs,
stammering: Do you come in peace?
Had the Lord’s judgment been mine,
I’d have blasted the lot.

Perhaps not all of them –
consider Eliab: I might learn
to forgive his relations were he…
No. I’ve had enough of kings;
from the beginning regretted them,
my people, inconstant,
punished with answered prayers,
worthless rulers: after Saul, what —
a dirt-streaked boy who stinks of sheep?

I know Israel’s envy:
other nations’ heavenly princes,
fish-headed gods, festivals of blood.
I, too, long to be stirred,
crave security near death,
tire of worshipping the formless.
I shall go to Ramah and weep
that our angered Lord mocks us so:
a king in the body of a child.

From: Flesh Becomes Word by Brian Volck, Dos Madres Press, 2013.

Image: The Tragedy, Pablo Picasso, 1903.  

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