Psalm 89:1-4,19-29 | 2 Samuel 7:1-16 | Luke 1:67-79
First Coming by Madeline L’Engle
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 dined 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!
As we close out the Advent season and enter into Christmas, I find myself so hyper-aware of the imperfections of the world. We live in the midst of multiple pandemics and darkness at the end of 2020. COVID-19 of course is separating us from families and friends and causing sickness and death in terrifying numbers. There is also the continued pandemic of racial injustice in this country and ever-widening gaps between the rich and the poor. It all feels so, so far from the Kingdom of God.
It’s not just the world around me that feels imperfect; I feel like I’m tumbling into Christmas after being dragged through the dirt, mud caked in my hair, disheveled and unprepared. I feel acutely aware that I was often not my best self this year and I wonder how I could have been better.
This is the reason I’m so drawn to the comic and poem above as we leave behind the darkness of Advent and creak open the door to Christmas joy. Jose y Maria, by Everett Patterson, shows pregnant teenage Mary and Joseph in a modern-day urban impoverished setting. It’s easy to romanticize watercolor paintings of a stable, but this image drives home to me who Mary and Joseph and indeed, the Christ child are for us in the 21st century. Brokenness surrounds them and like the litter on the ground, they too seem to have been discarded with no room at the inn. But, that green blade of Jesse shines forth from the cracks in the sidewalk, bringing new life where it is least expected, for this is what God does. In brokenness, on the margins, with those who have been discarded and left behind, God shows up. Christ Himself shows up in the mess and opens our eyes to what is truly sacred in our image-obsessed world. And if we follow Him to the margins, we can look at our own messes to see them redeemed as well.
Madeline L’Engle’s poem drives this home: “He did not wait till the world was ready.“ The world will never be perfect; never be fully ready and open to redemption. Yes, wars rage, inequality flourishes, and the earth cries out for justice.
Jesus comes anyway.
I am impatient, tired, and messy.
Jesus comes anyway.
We needn’t wait for perfection in the world or ourselves, for God is always in the mess, with us and for us. And that is worth rejoicing about here and now: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”
Let us rejoice in spite of imperfection because the One who loves us has come to dwell among us. Merry Christmas.
Angie Howard McParland
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