A King Pronounced

by Rev. AJ Neugebauer

Unique in its style, Rev. AJ Neugebauer’s Christmas meditation is, he says, modeled after “forms found in Scripture,” such as the Psalter or Mary’s Song in the Gospel of Luke. This piece, written in a style “that the prophets and apostles before us saw edifying in communication of the Gospel,” reminds us of the comfort and joy of our Lord’s incarnation.

As planets and stars keep their patterns from afar
In Jerusalem
Pharisees and scribes work by candlelight, hunched over
scrolls in synagogues, looking for
Answers to ancient promises.

In fields, under such skies,
Shepherds rub sleepy eyes
Huddled by fires in the night
And listen for rustles in the wilderness nearby.

In Bethlehem,
Travelers sleep in overcrowded, rented rooms.

In palaces, kings contemplate moves to keep power.
And the empire of Rome stands sentinel over it all;
Stands upright, ever at attention, tall:

A column, casting its long shadow
South and east over the land of Israel
Caesar, self-garbed as king, looks into the night.
He contemplates the world knowing nothing.
And when he thinks of greatness thinks
Of himself.
Caesar, like creation swirling above, takes no notice.

But under that dark tarp of night
Walk the weary steps of two sojourners,
Pushed to where they walk
By decree
And prophecy.
Two travelers, their footfalls heavy
Made only less
Weary by aid of a
Donkey.

Their question repeated; the response
the same:
“Census has made the lodging full:
There is no place for you to stay.”
And so man and wife go on.

They move on until one says,
“I have no place to rest your head,
No place, except,
Except, unless,
There may be one place for you to rest
Where donkeys lie,
And oxen feed.”

The couple
Complies.

And the wife.
Mother of God,
The God of life,
From her womb comes forth
A baby.
Conceived like none before or since;
Conceived in a way,
No way the norm,
But born.
A baby, with flesh so frail, as babies are.
A baby,
Born in the curse
That is the pain of birth:
A curse, which, born into,
This baby comes
To crush with heel downed
Upon the head that here is found.

How could one born in such mean estate
Garner attention through ages past?
And so much so that at that moment
Creation,
Seemingly so distant,
So beyond,
And the skies
Bow to Infant who in manager lies.

Wise men move.
Caesar shrugs.
Herod trembles.

And we gather.
We gather here tonight,
Knowing
That what was born in mean estate,
Born of suffering, born in pain,
A pain which flows from troubles past;
A pain compounded
But will not last;
A pain confounded
Will come to pass.

For here, in humble manger, lies
A child:
Born to die.

Creation groans, like the pain of birth.
But angels sing songs of joy and mirth;
From angels high to shepherds low
They come to praises here bestow.
They come.

They come
And so do we
Amidst the lights and toys and trees;
We stand amidst angels
And recount
With shepherds weary,
A king pronounced.

For Christ is born.

Christ, whom stars and sky sing praise.
Christ, who dies;
Dies to be raised.
So even though
Though we die too,
Because of Christ,
We rise anew.

And so with shepherds and
angels we sing:
“Hosanna!
This day is born
Our King.”

About the author: The Rev. AJ Neugebauer is pastor of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, Lehigh Acres, Fla.

December 2011

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