Poetry by John McLarty  |  21 December 2019  |  

Baby Jesus, Baby God.
That’s the way I learned it
in church a long while ago
when I myself was scarcely gone from babyhood.

Baby Jesus, Baby God.
The One and Only.
Savior of the world.

They said that it was obvious.
People could have known.
There was no excuse
for the King of kings
to find no room
in Bethlehem. 

Shepherds came because angels sang.
And Persian kings showed up,
summoned by a star.
Old men priests and old lady prophets
saw the child,
knew the Christ.

And so, they said in church,
there really was no good excuse.
The Jews were supposed to know
this out-of-wedlock baby
was the Savior of the world.

But I, not far from babyhood–
Those decades long ago–
I wondered,
how could people know?
If you didn’t hear the serenade by angels in the fields,
If you weren’t a king with a private star,
If you weren’t a priest or prophetess,
If you were just a person,
a regular, ordinary person,
how could you know?

I looked around at all the kids I knew
in Sabbath School
and wondered,
how could you tell?
What if one of them was Christ?
How would I ever know?
And of all the million kids around the world
how could I find the special one,
the only one to save the world?
How could I tell?

That was my question generations ago
when I was young and grandma was old.
But now I am the wise old man,
and I have seen the star.
I am a shepherd, too,
and know the angels’ song.
I have found the child.

I’m a grandpa now and I study kids,
the one that looks like me
and calls me Bapa,
And the ones with different words
and different food
and different hair
But hearts and eyes just like my own.

I watched them last night
in the Christmas play
at school.
I watched their eyes,
their faces,
their lives.
I watched their parents watch,
holding their phones over their heads
to capture the dazzling performance.
I saw their parents’ pride
and delight
and fierce love
and desperate ambition
for these little ones to be messiahs,
for their little ones to save the world.

I saw messiahs all across the stage at school.
One and Onlys
Baby Jesuses, baby gods.

I saw them again this morning,
waiting for the school bus
on the street outside my door.
I see her on the cover of Time
With her ambition to save the world.

Age has fogged my eyes with cataracts
But years have taught my heart to see.
And I see clearly now.
I have seen the star.
I have heard the song.
I have found the child
The special one.
Baby Jesuses all.
Baby gods.
Saviors of the world.

John McLarty is senior pastor at Green Lake Church in Seattle and host of Talking Rocks Geology Tours, camping trips in the American Southwest.

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