It’s easy at this time of year to be lulled into the numbness of familiarity. Quirinius’s census and roundyoungvirgins start to merge into a nostalgic miasma of non-meaning. In counterpoint, therefore, I offer this Christmas Day alternative imagery. Jesus’s birth is also recorded in the Qur’an and has a completely different soundtrack.
Maybe next year I’ll celebrate Christmas with a palm tree hung with dates, and a silence broken broken by the screams of childbirth.
Wishing all on these next twelve days of Christmas new birth.
“And so it was ordained: [Mary] conceived [Jesus]. She withdrew to a distant place and, when the pains of childbirth drove her to cling to the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, ‘I wish I had been long dead and forgotten before all this!’ but a voice cried to her from below, ‘Do not worry: your Lord has provided a stream at your feet and, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you, so eat, drink, and be glad, and say to anyone you may see: ‘I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation and I will not talk to anyone today.’
“She went back to her people carrying the child, and they said, ‘Mary! You must have done something terrible! Sister of Aaron! Your father was not an evil man; your mother was not unchaste!’ She pointed at [Jesus]. They said, ‘How can we converse with an infant?’ But he said: ‘I am a servant of God. He has granted me the Scripture; made me a prophet; made me blessed wherever I may be – He commanded me to pray, to give alms as long as I live, to cherish my mother – He did not make me domineering or graceless. Peace was on me the day I was born, and will be on me the day I die and the day I am raised to life again.’ Such was Jesus, son of Mary.”