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Incarnate

The word speaks into darkness
before the start of time
—though darkness 

makes no sense when light's not yet created,

and couldn't be before when time's unmade. 


The word is the god expressing. When it speaks

it says order, sacred equations that

Einstein and Bohr will one day climb

the Sinai of science to receive, 

and with it energy, the birth of stuff, 

a blowout in the factory of quarks

and Higgs’ 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 it really means 

is love, which is what the god is mostly made of,

and nothing is loved at speed. By the 4.8 

thousand billionth day of creation, give or take,

something has emerged that can look up 

to the skies it came from and ask not only

how but why. This is lovable, the god knows,

but it is troubled and will always die.

Space-time's the working out of entropy,

a context for compassion, the first act

of the god's main enterprise of transformation,

and so it makes his entrance, having known 

always that love would be embodied here. 

                            *

The being born at Bethlehem is not

for human comprehensiontwo

natures that cannot be reconciled 

and a double paradox, a free god

compelled by his inherent character

to do what the immortal cannot do 

and die for his beloved. From Bethlehem

the way never went back to Eden:

this was no Plan B to renovate

a ruined playground of perfection

but the primary agenda of a love 

unsatisfied until it's wholly spent.

Love went on by way of Golgolta, 

its shroud shed like a chrysalis to birth

a kingdom where lost shining things 

are brought into the light. It goes on still

through Pentecost to Revelation's sight
of earth and heaven renewed, and in between

the god-child and the king of glory walks

his most unlikely incarnationus,

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 it is a great 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 Golgolta ("skull" in Aramaic) where he was reportedly crucified. The more common name Calvary is derived from the Latin Calvariae Locus, "place of the skull".   

Typical performance time: 2 minutes 30 seconds.

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