I discovered this poem last Christmas, in an Advent book called Haphazard by Starlight, which has a poem for every day of Advent and loved it. It is another poem that connects the Christmas of long ago with now, but in a very different way, focusing instead on the hope that Christmas gives us. Hope for the future, that Jesus will return and the hope we have in us now, a hope that cannot be counted in a census or understood by the powers of this world.
In the days of Caesar
By Waldo Williams, translated Rowan Williams
In the days of Caesar, when his subjects went to be reckoned,
there was a poem mad, too dark for him (naive with power)
It was a bunch of shepherds who discovered
in Bethlehem of Judah, the great music beyond reason and
shepherds, the sort of folk who leave the ninety-nine behind
so as to bring the stray back home, dawning toward cock-crow,
the birthday of the Lamb of God, shepherd of mortals.
Well, little people, and my nation, can you see
The secret buried in you, that no Caesar ever captures in his lists?
Will not the shepherd come to fetch us in our desert,
Gathering us in to give us birth again, weaving us into one
In a song heard in the sky over Bethlehem?
He seeks us out as wordhoard for his workmanship, the laureate