WRITING A SERMON, DECEMBER 23RD

    I wrote this in 1998.  Our son came home from a semester in England, and we met him at the airport.  I hadn’t yet written my Christmas sermon.  This is essentially the poetic version of the sermon that resulted.  It was published in The Other Side the following year.

 

Drove to Boston, four hours in wet snow.
Already tired, late flight coming in,
and I’m preaching Christmas Day:
something about snowgeese, maybe,
the way they change the landscape
even after they’ve flown away–
the way God changed it once,
by making human footprints.

Half the world is here, waiting for planes.
A tall kid in a baseball hat
slouches around, looks at his watch, drinks a coke.
Passengers from France are surfacing.
The kid spots a first class woman in a suit
crisp and red as a poinsettia,
dances on his toes,
hollers, “Here Mom, over here!”

A thin woman from the back of the plane
stands still as the last tree in the lot,
touches one enameled fingertip to a shadowed eyelid,
shoulders a cheap vinyl bag.
Roaring into the crowd
–did he ride his Harley through this snow?–
a man in a motorcycle jacket
who has not forgotten her.
The lights come on all over town.

The plane from Lisbon lands,
the watchers shift and hum.
A tiny black-eyed boy breaks away,
screaming “POPPY!  POPPY!”
runs through the NO UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL barrier
as if he’s authorized,
throws himself at an old man carrying an umbrella, a paper sack.
Poppy drops his burdens,
raises up the child.
I see ten thousand white geese.
I see starlight on the snow.

The plane from England touches down, taxies in.
The doors open.
When after all these months I see my son
I know that together we have one face,
the face of God,
of someone being born.

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