What's Tony Thinking

Poem(s) for Advent IV


So we wrap up our series of poems for the four Sundays of Advent today, December 20, the fourth Sunday of Advent 2020.

I’ve selected two poems by Madeline L’Engle. The first “After Annunciation” is short and well-known, deservedly so. It is also a good companion to the Gospel lesson for Advent IV, the annunciation to Mary in Luke 1: 26 – 38.

‘This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.”

The emphasis falls on Mary’s willingness to entertain that which makes absolutely no sense, and is even scandalous. “Love blooms bright and wild.” But there’s Another in this picture who is choosing that which makes no sense and is scandalous — God.

God chooses a poor, unwed peasant girl in an out-of-the-way, no-where of a place, Nazareth. So off-the-beaten-track is Nazareth that, a bit latter, someone will ask, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” God’s “irrationality” is manifest here, as throughout the biblical story, in God’s preferential option for the unlikely. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways,” says the prophet Isaiah, speaking God’s word.

So, if you are feeling an unlikely candidate for God’s presence or for God doing something in and through you, take heart! Or maybe, “watch out!”

The second Madeline L’Engle poem, “Come Lord Jesus” is less well known, which is telling, as the focus in on the “second-coming.” This future advent is really the primary focus of the Advent season — God’s ultimate or final purpose.

It seems fair to say that we find the first coming, the babe in the manger, far easier to warm up to than the second, Christ coming on the clouds in glory. But Advent reminds us that we as Christians trust that the future belongs to Jesus Christ and that life and history will find their final consummation in him. Our job, as I said in my sermon last Sunday, is — in the meantime — to be smaller lights pointing to his great light, which shines in the darkness and which the darkness shall not overcome.

Here then is L’Engle’s, “Come Lord Jesus.”

Come, Lord Jesus! Do I dare
Cry: Lord Jesus, quickly come!
Flash the lightning in the air,
Crash the thunder on my home!
Should I speak this aweful prayer?
Come, Lord Jesus, help me dare.

Come, Lord Jesus! You I call
To come (come soon!) are not the child
Who lay once in the manger stall,
Are not the infant meek and mild.
You come in judgement on our all:
Help me to know you, whom I call.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come this night
With your purging and your power,
For the earth is dark with blight
And in sin we run and cower
Before the splendid, raging sight
Of the breaking of the night.

Come, my Lord! Our darkness end!
Break the bonds of time and space.
All the powers of evil rend
By the radiance of your face.
The laughing stars with joy attend:
Come Lord Jesus! Be my end!

We live, always, within this horizon of hope. “Come Lord Jesus! Be my end!”

As this different, pandemic Advent gives way now to a different Christmas, we may be frustrated or disappointed that Christmas won’t be picture “perfect.” Take heart! If there is one thing the first Christmas was not, it was “perfect.” From every conceivable angle, it was a fricking mess.

An unwed mother, no room at the inn, birth in a barn, attended by low-wage essential workers (a.k.a shepherds), an oppressive empire seemingly forever, and a mad king (Herod) taking out a hit on a baby.

God comes not because we are wholly ready or finally have our act together. God comes to the unready and unlikely, to an inhospitable world. This God is intent on finding the lost, loving the least, and dwelling in grace and mercy with the likes of us. Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace.


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