wordsout by Godfrey Rust                                                Incarnate 20 of 21   theme christmas    HOME


The road to Bethlehem begins

in darkness at the dawn of time. The Word 

is God expressed, and when he speaks first

it is law—sacred equations that

Einstein and Bohr will one day climb

the Sinai of science to receive. 

When he speaks next it is pure energy

the birth of stuff, a blowout in the factory 

of quarks and Higgses’ (and who knows who else’s) bosons,

a mess of mass spun into suns

and planets and at last Deoxyribonucleic acid,

the lovely Lego bricks of life. It's all good,

in a too-hot-to-touch, tumultuous kind of way, 

but what he really means by it

is love, for that’s what God is mostly made of,

and nothing is loved at speed. On the 4.8 

thousand billionth day of creation (give or take)

something emerges that can look up to

the skies it came from and ask not only

how? but why? This is lovable, God knows,

but it is troubled and will one day die.

Space-time was born for entropy—

a context for compassion, the first act

of the great narrative of transformation—

and so he makes his entrance—having known 

always that love would be embodied—as

a frightened girl gives out her bloody offspring 

beneath the indifferent stars of Bethlehem. 


What lay sleeping in that house is not

for human comprehension: two

natures that cannot be reconciled 

and a double paradoxa free God

compelled by his inherent character

to do what an immortal cannot do 

and die for his beloved. The road

from Bethlehem never went back to Eden:

this was no Plan B to renovate

a ruined theme park of perfection,

but the primary agenda of a Love 

that is unsatisfied till it is wholly spent.

The road went on by way of Golgotha, 

its shroud shed like a chrysalis to birth

a kingdom where lost shining things 

are brought back into light. It goes on still,

through Pentecost to Revelation's hope      
of earth and heaven renewed; and in between

the God-child and the king of glory walks

his most unlikely incarnation—us,

his body now, in via dolorosa,

the Word made flesh, redeemed by love to love.


Written for the carol service ("Out of darkness") at St Johns Church, West Ealing in 2013 where it was read by Elizabeth Healey. It was originally performed in two parts, as a prologue and epilogue to the service. The first section followed the reading of John 1, 1-5 ("In the beginning was the Word"). It has been revised considerably since its first reading.

The phrase nothing is loved at speed is adapted from a prayer written by the cartoonist Michael Leunig. I have used it in another poem, and make no apology for using it again here as I know no better way of expressing this truth.

4.8 thousand billion is an approximation of the number of days from the Big Bang to the emergence of hominids on earth. If my arithmetic is faulty please let me know.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid is DNA.  

via dolorosa ("Way of Sorrows") is the road in Jerusalem along which Christ is said to have carried his cross  to Golgotha.

Typical performance time: 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Godfrey Rust, godfrey@wordsout.co.uk. See here for details of permissions for use.