25th December

Another Child is Born

You sometimes hear it said about a baby, new-born or perhaps a few weeks old. Usually by women of a certain age. Women of a certain age say it of babies of a certain age. They look into the baby’s eyes and say, ‘This one’s been here before.’ That’s their judgement. The baby looks at them and they look at it – no, they look into its eyes, at its look – and they consider, and then they come out with this declaration. ‘This one’s been here before.’

What a burden to place on a baby! She has not long arrived, she has only just started processing tastes, textures, colours, is still struggling to focus on objects and people. Her primary concern is latching on to a breast and feeding. The deeper matters of existence – if that is what they are – have not occurred to her. They are irrelevant. The possibility that she is on a return visit is not on her agenda. It is on the women’s agenda. Likewise the unstated assumption: that if indeed she has been here before, she will be here again. Another life in another form in another future – and more to follow – before she has even begun this time round!

And there was that other baby. And you think how – when wise men came from the east saying, ‘We have seen his star,’ and when priests and scribes spoke of prophecies fulfilled and Herod was troubled, and when those wise men found that baby and gave gifts, including myrrh, the anointing oil of death, and when angels appeared to shepherds who also went to see the child and then told everybody about him – all these were really other ways of saying, ‘This one’s been here before,’ and ‘This one will be here again.’ But that time these things were said by men, and so were taken seriously. And Herod slew all the children under two, in Bethlehem and all around, and the voice of lamentation was heard, and a religion was born.

And Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. But how she must have trembled when she heard those men say what they came to say.

Reader: Neila Stephens
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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