A Nativity in the Palestinian Territory

A Nativity in the Palestinian Territory

I cringe at the Nativity.  

The one that I walk past each Christmas in the shopping centre as I listen to the jingle of Carols and the rattle of coins and the soft cooing of baby Jesus so porcelain and so white. 


But Mother Mary, she comes to me. 


Her son came into this world all bloody and crying and squished lips searching for breast. He came with sweat. He came with agony. 

The wailing of birthing heard piercing through Palestinian sky.  

The women gathered around.  

The men not allowed. Mary screamed and the animals bucked.  

The manger smelt like s–t that night. 


Like every newborn the Christ was pushed from the warmth of a stretched womb and out into the harshness of reality.  

Straw covered in blood and placenta. 

Like too many newborns, he had no home to lay his head.  

From the beginning,
a refugee,  

forced to escape, 

to seek asylum in Egypt.  

I think today of the many babies born in this way, in the wake of war and dictators. Fleeing. 


But Mother Mary, she comes to me. 


The bitter wailing of women is still heard on the breeze, on the night after Christmas, in Bethlehem. Where every single baby boy  

was needlessly slaughtered in the wake of the saviour.  

And they were my children. And they were yours.  

Their fathers broke in their shame as they tried to stand between the soldiers sword and the soft forehead of their baby boys. 


And I think today of Aboriginal children taken away and the Fathers desperate cries and their heads beaten by rifles just trying to stop the white man from stealing their most precious things. 

Too many taken and too soon.  

I wonder if Bethlehem cursed Mary and Joseph for bringing this slaughter down upon them,  

I would have. I would have cursed God.  

I would have cursed the night of our dear Saviours Birth. 


O’ little town of Bethlehem in Palestine, just beyond the wall, where Shepherds watch their flocks by night now guided by a star or winking satellite or drone in flight.  

Burnt and bombed.  

Where babies never get a chance to grow up to be saviours.  

In the midst of occupation
and resistance and fleeing
and seeking asylum and governments built on power  

and a world built on atrocity,  

the inequality of patriarchy.  

In the midst of wrapping paper and gift.  

Mother Mary, she comes to me. 


Let every heart prepare him room. 

Not for the nativity too quaint and too cosy.  

Prepare for the bloody.  

For the wailing.  

For the fleeing.  

For the burning. 

For the broken.  

For the dispossessed.  

For the lonely. 

Prepare for the Christ,  

he comes disguised and desperate. 


Joel McKerrow is a writer, speaker, educator, community arts worker and one of Australia’s most successful internationally touring performance poets.  


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