Here’s a Christmas poem I originally wrote for Radio 4’s Christmas Meditation, and now that’s offline forevermore, I’ve re-recorded it with my own crib scene. The video of that is here:
And the words, should you want them, are here:
Twas the night after Christmas, & all through Bethlehem,
Many creatures were stirring, in fact ‘twas mayhem.
A census had senselessly filled David’s City
Leaving no birthing-suite at the inn, more’s the pity.
So Mary and Joseph found all they were able:
A crib for their baby, in a condition now stable.
Carpenter Joseph tried to focus on Jesus,
Amid quite a few visitors – a pretty tight squeeze, ‘twas
Not midwives or grannies – just shepherds stood bowed,
One whispering to Joseph, “You must be so proud.”
These shepherds had earned their place in this picture,
Their presence recorded for good in the Scripture.
But while shepherds’ lambs bleated harmonic ‘baa’s
And while angelic choirs sang Hallelujahs,
This ox and an ass trotted over the straw.
Till Joseph said, “Sorry, did you want next door?
“You look great in this scene – but let’s be orthodox:
The Gospels don’t mention an ass or an ox.
The ox said, “Go on, it’s the birth of the Lord!
We’re sorry we strike an unbiblical chord.”
Three kings arrived riding camels quite surly
“You’re most welcome!” said Joseph. “Though… a year or two early.
And kings? We thought ‘wise men’. And three? That’s news too.
Three gifts, is what’s written, just not three of you.”
“Well I’m Caspar, that’s Melchior, that’s Balthazar.”
Joseph shrugged. “Maybe. All we know is that star,
Your visit to Herod, gold, myrrh, frankincense,
The rest isn’t written, or it’s been added since.
“And that Little Donkey, I’m not saying it’s libel,
It’s just that its eeyores aren’t there in the Bible.
But, welcome!” said Joseph, then looked out the window.
“Oh Mary,” he said. “Look – it’s starting to snow.”
“In Bethlehem?!” Mary exclaimed in surprise,
As a shepherd boy’s snowball hit the ox ‘tween the eyes.
“It’d look good on a card, but climactically, no…”
When from up on the roof, they heard: “Ho ho ho!”
“Oh come on,” Joseph said, “This is getting ridiculous.”
As the chimney revealed the feet of St Nicholas.
St Nick picked up the gold, put the myrrh in his sack,
Then gift-wrapped the lot, before putting them back.
“Look, Mary!” said Joseph. “I saw three ships… and
I know what you’ll say, Bethlehem is inland.”
They both started wondering when all would be leaving,
But in came King Wenceslas: a deep man, crisp and… even.
The walls grew with mistletoe, holly and ivy,
Some locals outside sang some carols, quite lively.
They danced and wassailed, and they drank in a haze
And insisted on celebrating for 12 complete days.
They ushered in poultry, from guinea to goose,
Seven swans, three French hens, a partridge in pear juice.
Joseph looked to the night sky, Dark Ages now murky,
Then ducked as one last bird flew at him – a turkey.
St Nick offered Caspar mince pies by the crib,
As a cramped donkey nudged Balthazar in the rib.
So many guests had by now joined the stable,
That carpenter Joseph extended the table.
Dickens arrived, with mulled wine for the poor,
Ollie Cromwell yelled “Humbug!” as he stormed out the door.
They pulled a few crackers, they played a few games
“Your best days are behind you!” cried a pantomime dame.
Candles and baubles and Christmas trees, tinsel,
Cards, Advent calendars, pies by the minceful.
But Joe let them all in, and he let in the choir
Bethlehem was packed, so they squished by the fire.
The turkey and donkey, both fought with the goose
Till football was played, in a moment of truce.
In a barrage of languages, they all sang Silent Night,
As the crib was adorned with electrical light.
Jesus, the Light of the World, lay asleep,
As St Nick jingled bells at him, patting a sheep.
Warm Christmas pudding filled everyone’s stomach,
A glass ‘ting’-ed, all hushed, for a speech from the monarch.
Bing Crosby arrived, though was nearly snowed off,
Till he hitched with a reindeer by name of Rudolph.
They brought in a telly, put the aerial up: It’s
A Wonderful Life, soon followed by Muppets,
More came and Wise men, Only Fools and Horses,
Carols from Kings and Eastenders divorces
Slade sang “It’s Chriiistmas”, Cliff Richard stood humming,
A lorry arrived saying holidays were a-coming.
Joseph asked if Chris Rea would soon drive them all home,
Or if they’d walk in the air, flown by Aled Jones.
But the Pogues brought some booze, and NYPD choir.
Some sherry was raised to the sleeping Messiah.
Joseph toasted with eggnog, just finished his dram,
When the barn door flew open, then closed with a Wham!
There was an elf on a shelf, and round robin letters,
Department store adverts and naff Christmas sweaters.
No room on the floor, for one last Christmas fairy
So to top of the tree, flew Mariah Carey.
Mary looked at the crowd, Judy Garland to Wenceslas.
“It figures,” she thought, “They’re all here for the census; ‘Tis
In-keeping: We were told, there’s no room at the inn…
There’s no room at the stable now everyone’s in.”
She told Joseph, “It’s right, we invite all indoors:
From Bible to Buble, sprouts to Santa Claus.
And just suppose history, in all this activity,
All along has been telling its own holy nativity.
Shepherds like good old St Nick with his crook,
Wise men like Dickens wisely writing his book.
Angelic choirs, Crosby, Carey, Cliff Richard,
Cromwell plays Herod, trying to quash Christmas.
No room at the inn? Well there’s room in our hearts.
It’s one big school nativity, where all play their parts.
Strip away all these characters, and still centre-stage is
God come to Earth: a tale told down the ages.”
Joe extended the table again, made more chairs.
A high-chair, a bar-stool, that bench by the stairs.
With cold turkey sandwiches, stuffed full of crackling,
A floor full of wrapping, now set for recycling,
Joseph smiled over to infant and wife:
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life!”
So as Tiny Tim said: God bless us, each one.
Tis still that night after Christmas, cos we wait for the Son.
And when dawn comes, perhaps God asks: “D’you like the present, in the crib, napping?”
We’ll notice what we’ve done, is just play with the wrapping.