The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

— W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Saturday is Christmas Eve and all across our state, across a divided America, a divided world, Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

For you who read me each week, I give you this gift, not to put under your tree, but to remind you that children like yours are dying on this eve — not in hospitals on white sheets tended by gentle hands, but in the blood wet, cold streets of Aleppo and all over Syria and indeed throughout the Middle East.

You’ve heard of the Middle East, have you not? It’s where our Christ was born.

The following breaking news — which is courtesy of recent news reports quoting those on the ground in Syria — has been softened with the interspersed words of Luke in chapter 2, verses 1-20.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria) And everyone went to their own town to register.

“When jets are overhead we go down to basement in our building, where children and women begin to scream and cry and men are also afraid, especially after the use of bunker-buster bombs. We feel we are waiting for death.”

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Plea to Michelle Obama: Dana Alabed’s mother Fatemah last night called on help to evacuate them from the war-torn city.

Her last update three hours ago read: “My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die.”

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

“It shows a civil defense worker carrying the little boy to an ambulance. His cartoon character T-shirt is covered in dust, the left side of his face is bloody. He is silent despite the cacophony around him. He was not crying at any point during the rescue.”

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

“He was in extreme shock. He looks dazed as he sits on the vehicle’s orange seat, his hands on his lap, as he waits to be treated, as he waits for somebody to help him. He raises his left hand to his eye and feels the area around his temple as if he has been hit there. He wipes his face and looks down at the blood.”

11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

“His right arm was gone, amputated above the elbow. The stump had been heavily wrapped in new, cream-coloured bandages, like both his legs. Hani was being sent home to start his new life. He will have to live it without four cousins, who were killed by the shell that maimed him.”

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

“They went through hell — people were shot on sight and hundreds of children were trapped in the crossfire. Hundreds of people remain crammed into small spaces, meaning any new direct strike will hit dozens if not hundreds of people.”

On this Christmas Eve and feast of Hanukkah, when we light the tree and the first candle in the menorah, remember that there is darkness around the world. Remember that when we sing our carols, that there are screams in the streets of Aleppo tonight.

And remember that when we eat our holiday meal, that there is hunger everywhere, maybe only blocks from our tables.

There are children in need of our love.

Will there be, as the Irish poet Yeats tell us, a “second coming?”

Stay tuned for breaking news.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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