Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, c. 1515
Sometimes it’s not the infant’s holy face
that awes us, but the teeming blitz of cherubs
wielding horns and lutes to fill the Arab
stable with their overweening praise.
If neither Mary nor the shepherds glance
their way, remember that, while putti bow
the beams and swell their cheeks in this tableau,
such hosts are rarely seen and sing in silence.
Still, we need directions to which manger
holds the Christ. We want melodic wings
to tell us God has come. We usher them
inside and close our eyes to hear. The danger
then is that we crown the worship king:
hymn blunts our prayer until we look at Him.