A Father’s Questions
How can this be? It seems as if
he gives out light. Can this be mine –
is he the child that’s just been born?
I find it hard to understand
So I ask the animals –
did you see what happened?
Why has the darkness disappeared?
What is this strange new light?
Has someone come to visit here
while I was fast asleep?
Perhaps I’m still asleep, perhaps
I’ll never know the reason why
a simple carpenter dreaming on
imagined angels flying down
with this new baby, first born son…
in the dark before I wake
wondering what a father is,
then woken by a feather touch.
What is a father? I don’t know
everything seems so long ago.
Of course, he’s ours
and they are gone, leaving us
– sleeping wife and confused old man –
with our brand-new shining child.
Not much seems to have been written about Joseph.
Nor, come to think of it, the feelings of any new father, presented with – even confronted by – his new-born child, especially when it’s the first one.
As for Joseph – I'm not sure why he’s an old man. Perhaps that fits better with the idea that he wasn’t the real father?
Nor am I sure that the documentation actually says that he’s old. But that’s the conventional way the story’s told and depicted, and right now I’ll go along with the traditional telling of this tale, accepting the story and not worrying about ‘truth’ – whether it really happened.
To be sure, old or young, becoming a father is a strange business.
To start with, the nine months ago event that preceded all this feels a long time ago – ancient history almost. So much has happened since then. Then there’s the birth, which he may be involved with, but that’s really about other people.
All of a sudden, there’s a baby – his baby, he knows that, but as I have Joseph asking – ‘Can this be mine?’ Does a father – any father – ever ‘own’ a baby anyway?
It may sound silly to ask where it came from, but every new father’s left wondering: he feels a sense of the extraordinary – something astonishing has happened – which could be thought of as little short of miraculous.
Poor old Joseph must have felt exhausted too. He’d have fallen asleep, no doubt dreamed. Maybe that’s when, or even how, many of the well-told events in the story took place.
And then the baby, a shiny, brand-new baby, would have woken him up to a new day, a new world.
Like many babies, his (yes, his) radiated warmth – perhaps even light. No wonder that this particular bewildered father felt the need to talk, to ask some questions.
Who was around? No one at the moment, though various assorted people were to come and go. The silent cattle might well have been as good as any to turn to.
So there I leave this father with his unanswered questions.
A father not much thought about, being incidental, peripheral, to this (literally) wonderful story. But a father who being there, must have felt emotionally confused and full of uncertainties and unknowns.
If I remember correctly
I'm certain there wasn't any tinsel.
Cobwebs, yes, and straw and hay
and animal breath cutting through
the air in great vaporous clouds
unlike the still clear night outside
where the old dog fox's bark
and the frith and wisp of winter
left that large silent star undimmed.
I'm sure there weren't candles.
That one bright star filled the stable
with such a light that each ox
and each ass and all those
sheep and watchful shepherds
were able to bow before the babe
without upstaging the Angel
of the Lord in all its glory.
I saw no mistletoe, no halls decked,
and no scent of pine to override
the comforting bedding smells
of that small stable’s inmates.
There were no bells to ring out wildly.
Only the intimate hush of shifting
hooves brushing through deep litter
to break that awed, hallowed silence.
No mince pies either; nor carolers
standing out in the snow though
I did hear occasional bovine lowing,
and saw an abundance of foreign kings,
their milling camels adorned in tassels,
and the woman, the sore-footed man,
and the newly born child all alert
to day's dawning as the cock crowed.