What Would Jesus Think of Christmas?

Spiritual Sunday

Luci Northcote Shaw has an interesting take on the symbolism of the infant Jesus. The schmaltz of Christmas—“our picturesque traditions, our shallow sentiment”– robs the Christian message of its punch, the exasperated poet complains.

If “Jesus the Man” rather than Jesus the child were to stride into our lives, he might start overturning cash registers. Certainly, he would demand

                much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche…

Shaw ends her poem with lines from a Christmas carol so she doesn’t turn her back on the season entirely. She’s just trying to return it to Christ’s message.

It is as if infancy were the whole of incarnation

One time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere,
planted in madonnas’ arms,
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or, quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we need
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
We are too wary, these days,
of beards and sandaled feed.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,

(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently with strong
effective love
(only the Man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

O come, let us adore Him—
Christ—the Lord.
This entry was posted in Shaw (Luci Northcote Shaw) and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!