First coming.

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.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice! -Madeleine L’Engle

I chose to use this poem because I loved the lines, “In the mystery of the Word made Flesh / the Maker of the stars was born.” I love the idea of the creator entering his own creation, and I think I found another passage or two that talks about that more fully (but don’t hold me to this . . . I could be losing my mind). So I may have more to say about that later.

As I was typing the poem out, I thought about a few things. Just as he didn’t wait until the world had everything together (which wouldn’t have been possible without him) to become one of us and walk among us, we don’t have to get all our stuff together to be able to approach Jesus. And, in fact, as the poem says, he came to share our grief and pain. It’s something he understands, all that pain in our lives, whether because of our own sin or someone else’s (or some combination thereof).

On the first Sunday of Advent, our preacher talked about how Advent, this time of waiting for Christmas, also mirrors our current state: waiting for Christ’s return. How “waiting” doesn’t have to mean inaction, but, instead, should spur us to action.

The purpose of Advent is to get you to experience that, to see what it is like “to wait in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.” There is a reason for that. If you can experience what it was like for Israel to wait for the Messiah, then perhaps you will see that that is what you are doing now. Advent is not only the remembrance of a time back then, but a description of human life now. To the extent that our life is a time of waiting, this, too, is Advent . . . In Advent we look honestly at the distance between what is promised and what has actually happened, what ought to be and what really is. The church’s answer to the hard questions of Advent is, “Christ has come and Christ will come again.” In the meantime we, like Israel, must wait.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here Until the son of God appear.

We’re not just role playing when we sing that. We’re not just pretending that we are back in the time before the first Christmas. We are singing about ourselves, about our own lives. We are singing about a world that still has Herods in it, where people are still poor and homeless, where there are wars and rumors of wars, sickness and pain, absurd suffering and dying. It is still a world in which people cry out for justice; still they cry for some meaning and purpose in their lives; still they cry for someone to save them from their sins, or to save them from the consequences of the sins of others.

Madeleine L’Engle says in her poem that, “We cannot wait till the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice,” and I would add to that that we can’t wait to turn our faith into action, to reach out to the needy and suffering in the world around us, for that, too, is the meaning of Christmas.

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