Pondering Jesus Christ’s birth, death and “immaculate reconception,” via Lawrence Ferlinghetti

christmas_jesus1Image courtesy St. Nicholas Eiscopal Church, Hamilton,GA stnicholashamilton.org

I informally call myself a Unitarian Universalist, though I attend church only occasionally. I was raised Catholic and what still holds up most for me in the Christian tradition is observing and living with Jesus Christ’s historic legacy. It’s something I’m inclined to ponder this time of year. Other writers help me.

My October road trip to San Francisco, highlighted by a visit to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s legendary City Lights Bookstore, prompted me to go back to my autographed copy of A Coney Island of the Mind, that poet’s most famous book. I bought it years ago at the great Milwaukee bookstore Woodland Pattern, where Ferlinghetti appeared and read and signed copies of his books.

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I hadn’t looked at the book in a while but today (Sunday, December 21) my Woodland Pattern book mark immediately opened it to Ferlinghetti’s poem titled “Christ Climbed Down.”
The poem was published by New Directions Publishing in 1958, first copyright of 1955, and yet it speaks as eloquently and pointedly today about how we’ve lost track of the meaning of Christ’s birthday. I don’t mean to diss anyone’s religious practice, as long that practice doesn’t diss other practices or beliefs.

LFLawrence Ferlinghetti, courtesy elpoetaocasional.blogspot.com

But Ferlinghetti was speaking of how we commercially exploited, desecrated and indulged, to “honor” Christ’s birthday in the 1950s, which continues unabated today and probably in far worse manner.
So I reproduce the poem here for your consideration.

CHRIST CLIMBED DOWN

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck crèches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
Pennsylvania
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carolers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
iceskated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jinglebell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest
of Second Comings

___________

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Christ Climbed Down,” from A Coney Island of the Mind, New Directions Paperback, 1958  pp.69-70, or http://www.blogcitylights.com/2012/12/17/a-coney-island-of-the-mind/

B/W New Directions book cover of “Coney Island” courtesy of citylightsblogspots.com.

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50th Anniversary edition image Courtesy blogcitylight.com

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