The Mountain

'Learning to Walk on Water' by Ineke Hopgood
‘Learning to Walk on Water’ by Ineke Hopgood

 

For me, Christmas is about women.

Of course, the child is holy, precious and perfect – the child is a promise fulfilled. Yes, we read of strong and complex men, seeking God. They are useful in this story, but they are not necessary. Joseph is required for his lineage, covering, and gracious complicity, but certainly not his seed. Zechariah is first to see an angel, but is henceforth silenced for his stifling lack of faith. Men are led into this story, to behold God and to make safe passage for their families – and men are born, men that would change the shape of all humanity.

But this story is about women.

The obedience of women. The courage of women. The absolute humility and service of women, letting life into their bodies, in order to let heaven onto earth.

The women of Christmas are imperative, and empowered. This story is not so much of a child born, but the journey of a pregnancy and birth, by a new mother. A process of growing, stewarding and protecting, to allow that child to survive. A shaming, and a surrendering. An aching journey, and a fierce labour, under some of the harshest circumstances.

Both Mary and Elizabeth are active collaborators, tested to the edges of their faith. They stand, front and centre of the narrative, commissioned and honoured by God, with nothing to their names but their trust in Him.

These women are offered impossibly difficult tasks. They give the same immediate, joyful response:

‘Yes, I’ll do it.’

*

Earlier this month, I was commissioned to write a series of short spoken word pieces for The Salvation Army, to be performed as the nativity scenes in their carols. I chose to write the story from the perspective of Mary. I may not have received an immaculate conception, but I too, was pregnant, and I too, felt incredibly nervous about the weight of responsibility handed to me.

Writing this piece connected me to the birth of Jesus, and my own child, in a way I never expected.

 

This is the mountain of Christmas, a journey so freely gifted to us all.

 

The Mountain

 

Scene 1 – Mary and Elizabeth

 

'Ministry' by Ineke Hopgood
‘Ministry’ by Ineke Hopgood

 

Gabriel:         There was once a priest, Zechariah, who had a faithful wife called Elizabeth. They had given up on having a child, until an angel came and told them they would become parents to a true man of God. When Elizabeth was six months pregnant with her son, John, her cousin Mary came to see her. She too, was miraculously pregnant.

 

Mary:             

It takes a long, long time to make a child

 The stirring of a love so devoted

The slow dance between the groom of God

And his blind, beautiful people

To the song of all songs

 

The yearn to reconcile them

The fight to make them one

 

Elizabeth:

And we wait

Where it seems love has turned to law

Through the divorce of the divine from the earth

In this dark night

We sit in Israel’s dust, and we wait

We wait for God

 

Mary:

We wait for God

 

Both:

We wait for God

 

Mary:             

We wait

For the small whisper in the ear of a young bride

The suggestion

That this ember of love

Might be made manifest inside of

Her heart

Entrusted to the little woman

Who has no lineage, no wealth, no education

Who

just – has – God.

 

And what can you lose, if you just have God?

And what else in this world can you gain, if you truly have God?

 

Mary:             

You are my portion.

Elizabeth:

You are my portion.

 

Mary: 

How do you hold the whole world inside of your heart?

 

Elizabeth:

How do you take the tongues of angels as a promise?

How do you tell the ones you love that God has entrusted his message to your body?

 

Mary:

When your betrothed will not understand the claim

And your parents will not abide the blasphemy

 

Elizabeth:

That you’ve been given the son

Set to prepare the broken way to peace

 

Mary: 

That you’ve been given the son

The one son

Who will choose to walk that way faithfully

 

Elizabeth:     

And what can you lose, if you just have God?

Mary: 

And what else in this world can you gain, if you truly have God?

 

Elizabeth and Mary face one another, kneeling.

 

Elizabeth:     

My child leaps for joy at the presence of his brother-saviour. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

 

Mary:            

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

 

Elizabeth:

It takes a long, long time to make a child.

 

Mary: 

How do you hold the whole world inside of your heart?

 

 

 

Scene 2 – Mary and Joseph

 

'Hazaq' by Ineke Hopgood
‘Hazaq’ by Ineke Hopgood

 

Gabriel:         Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire, and all had to travel to their ancestral hometowns to be accounted for. Joseph – Mary’s husband – was from the line of David, so Joseph and Mary travelled from the Galilean town of Nazareth, up the steep road to Bethlehem, in Judah. Mary was heavily pregnant.

 

 

Mary: 

It takes a long, long time

To pace this pilgrimage

To reach

The summit as a destination

The place of our fathers

The lofty goal that will count us

As three

 

Sometimes I wonder if this journey is a test

This impatient wait my punishment

 

But I breathe you in

And I know –

 

Both: 

Obedience is only walking the path

Already paved by the Spirit

And we never walk it alone.

 

Joseph:

Obedience is an embrace of the mountain

And it always embraces us back.

 

Mary:

Climb, little wife

Joseph:

Climb, little bodies

Mary: 

Climb little donkey

Joseph:

Climb, little man

 

Mary:

I am carried by every inch of heaven

And I choose to believe it.

 

 There are nights I wonder

If the heaviness

Is not part of the gift of God

If the pressing against my lungs

Or the aching in every bone

Deems me unworthy

Of the call

Because I do not feel strong

Because I do not feel ready

Because I do not feel blessed

Because I am tired

And I cannot

I cannot

I cannot –

 

Joseph:          

Climb little wife

Climb little body

 

Both: 

Obedience is only walking the path

Already paved by the Spirit

And we never walk it alone.

 

He turns out to audience.

 

Joseph:

There are nights I wonder

If the mystery is just my foolishness

If my belief is my gullibility

If this child is just like my flesh

Broken, and weary, and naïve to

the pain of this world

To the brutality of this road.

 

Then I wonder

If, perhaps, God is within it

If perhaps, He is beyond it

Perhaps that’s the very reason He has come.

 

I wonder if I am unworthy

Because I lead them up this mountain

Because I lead us to be counted

Because I lead them deep into that I do not know

And I cannot

I cannot –

I cannot –

 

Mary:

Climb little man

Climb little body

 

Both: 

Obedience is an embrace of the mountain

And it always embraces us, back.

 

Mary: 

It takes a long, long time

 

Joseph:

We are carried by every inch of heaven

And we choose to believe it.

 

 

 

Scene 3 – Mary and Gabriel 

 

'The Lampstand' by Ineke Hopgood
‘The Lampstand’ by Ineke Hopgood

Gabriel:         When Mary and Joseph arrived after their long journey to Bethlehem, she went into labour. There were so many travellers, that there was nowhere left for them to stay. In desperation, they accepted the offer of an animal’s stable, where Mary laboured into the night.

 

 

Mary:

It takes a long, long time to birth a life

To birth a new age

A new hope

A new day

A new kingdom

 

We have waited so long

And yet I still claim you’ve come early

 

It is a surge

This universe contracting

Even the stars are moving

To push my heart

Open

 

I choose to receive it

I choose to receive you

 

Gabriel:        

Do not be afraid

This is the last night

The final break of light

 

This is the other side of the mountain

The rush at the revelation

 

You have waited

And you have fought

And you have pushed

And here is your portion

 

Mary:            

Here is my portion

And I tremble

For I have no roof

I have no women

I have no bed

I have no towel

I have no blanket

I have no candle

But Lord

I have you.

 

The shepherds enter.

 

Gabriel:

You need no lantern

You need no sun

The light is coming

We herald the arrival

Of the eternal flame

The constant comfort

Comes to Earth

 

Mary:             

Do not leave me

 

Gabriel:

Do not be afraid

 

Mary:             

Do not hurt me

 

Gabriel:        

Do not be afraid

 

Mary: 

Do not break me

 

Gabriel:

Do not be afraid

He comes not to break

But to be broken

 

He comes not to hurt

But to heal

 

He comes not to leave

But to remain

Forever

 

Mary:             

I have not got the breath

But I breathe in truth

I have not got the strength

But Lord I have you

 

Obedience is only walking the path

Already paved by the Spirit

And we never walk it alone.

 

Obedience is an embrace of the mountain

And it always embraces us, back

 

Climb, little wife

 

Climb, little body

 

I am carried by every inch of heaven

And I choose to believe it.

I choose to receive it.

 

Joseph walks in carrying the baby

 

Jesus.

 

Received by every piece of this earth

As son, as friend, as God, as King

As lamp unto my broken feet.

 

The nativity scene gathers.

 

Gabriel:

Bethlehem your night is over

Warm yourselves by this, His fire

Hallelujah, hallelujah

The heart is open

The light has come.

Hallelujah, hallelujah

The heart is open

The light has come.

 

'Beauty for Ashes'

‘Beauty for Ashes’ by Ineke Hopgood

About Anna Weir

Anna is an actor and writer, based in Melbourne, Australia. She can be found on Facebook under @annaweir, and on Instagram and Twitter under @annamcgahan.

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