The Real Meaning of Christmas

I first encountered the Reverend David Keighley, an Anglican priest, in one of Bishop John Shelby Spong’s books. David writes Progressive Christian poetry, including “Leaving Home” in Bishop Spong’s book. I read that poem every Friday during my quiet time.

I asked David if I could use “Leaving Home” in my book Cramming for the Finals. He agreed. After my book was published, I sent him a copy. About six months later, I received another poem entitled “NoOneUpThere” (my name for the god most Christians worship). I was honored.

David recently sent me a new poem called “Nativity.” I loved it and asked his permission to use it in my blog post closest to the Nativity.

David perfectly summed up my views about the Nativity in the last few lines of his poem. I hope you enjoy his insights.

I leave you with my favorite holiday message: Christmas presence—give yourself away.


Rev. David Keighley

I can’t come to your church Vicar, he said.

Why on earth not? Vicar replied.

I don’t believe it, he said.

Don’t believe in what? Vicar asked.

Virgins having babies, he said.

But I don’t believe the other stuff either, he said.

What other stuff? asked Vicar.

Angels bringing news of positive pregnancy tests.

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


Nor the next bit, he said.

What next bit? asked Vicar.

Nearly due pregnant mum travelling 100 miles on a donkey.

And a dad who didn’t book ahead. Hotels full.

Stuck outside in a stable. Filthy animals. Shitty straw.

Who wrote that stuff anyway? Must have been a man.

At least it wasn’t snowing.

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


Nor those shepherds, said the man.

Oh, the shepherds, said Vicar.

Yeah, those shepherds, said the man.

Sudden daylight in the middle of the night and that angel, with more news,

And with his mates this time, singing.

Would you let smelly, filthy, dirty sheep and shepherds into a maternity ward?

Give me a break. Really?

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


And what about that star? said the man.

What about the star? said Vicar. They do exist you know.

Don’t get me going on the star Vicar.

What, a star, circling the universe, destination earth,

Stopping in the sky to shine on a stable

Just to illuminate a birth of a child who no one knows?

Not in my world Vicar, said the man.

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


And how do three kings get in on the act, asked the man?

Wise men you mean, said the Vicar.

Have you seen a Christmas card lately Vicar? Three kings on camels, said the man.

Trekking across the hills, day and night,

Only for the magic star to get them lost in Jerusalem.

Find the king (see, as I said, kings stick together), sent off to search.

Why search? What happened to the magic guiding star?

And led, do you get this, led—by a star! To Bethlehem, where it stopped!

Stopped, Vicar! Stopped in the sky. Brian Cox will be apoplectic.

Where they give a brand-new baby gold and perfumes and herbs. What!

And if the baby grew up poor, Vicar, what happened to the gold eh?

Tell me that.

Really Vicar, too much communion wine?

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


And then Vicar, it all goes pear shaped, said the man.

How? asked Vicar.

Well, NoOneUpThere (whom you call God) gave the kings a dream to push off home without telling their king mate about the baby as he wants to kill it.

So mum, dad, and brand-new baby jump on the donkey again and run for it to Egypt, of all places.

While, get this Vicar, their kingly mate goes and slaughters all the newborn boys.

Not very Christmassy Vicar, you must agree?

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar.


I don’t need telling Vicar.

I don’t believe a word of it.

It’s not real. It can’t happen. It didn’t happen. No one believes it.

Then don’t believe it, said Vicar,

Thinking of his congregation who believe every word.

If it stops you seeing the baby as one of us, you shouldn’t believe it.

If this story sounds like a fairy tale, and banishes the baby to an unreal world of fairy lights, then ditch it.

But if you see in this unbelievable Christmas story

The man who grew up to show us the meaning of life,

To reveal the heart of the universe,

And to help us handle the most powerful thing in the world,


Then do believe it, said the Vicar.


By the way, do you know the Easter story?

Now there’s something for you really not to believe!

Read more from Rev. David Keighley at


Image courtesy of sputnik (CC BY 2.0)

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