It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss –
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.
It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight –
and yet the Prince of bliss came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.
And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
~Madeleine L’Engle “In the Darkest Hour”
The Advent Series theme on Barnstorming this year will be “Awaiting His Arrival” ~~ both the anticipated Advent arrival of God on earth as a helpless newborn, and when He comes again someday to this sick and sorry world.
His first arrival was in the midst of great distress between people whose faith was eroding into legalism and gods of their own making, along with interminable conflict between nations fighting over the same land and same issues as continues today.
Into such mean and gloomy darkness came a great Light. As stated by modern martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God’s coming to earth is “frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.”
The editors’ introduction to one of my favorite Advent books Watch for the Light includes this thought:
“The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon. This love reveals sin and overcomes it. It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53).”
So it is this love in action within our midst to be pondered in this Advent month of reflections — how His love came to change our world and ourselves and how we are meant to respond. As Jan Richardson writes in Night Vision, “That’s just how Advent works. What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s hindquarters fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder.”
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He died with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait
till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.
~Madeleine L’Engle from “First Coming”