Excerpt from WinterSong

As we move into Advent we are called to lis­ten, some­thing we sel­dom take time to do in this fre­net­ic world of over­activity. But wait­ing for birth, wait­ing for death-these are lis­tening times, when the nor­mal dis­trac­tions of life have lost their pow­er to take us away from God’s call to cen­ter in Christ.

Dur­ing Advent we are tra­di­tion­al­ly called to con­tem­plate death, judg­ment, hell, and heav­en. To give birth to a baby is also a kind of death — death to the incred­i­ble inti­ma­cy of car­ry­ing a child, death to old ways of life and birth into new-and it is as strange for the par­ents as for the baby. Judg­ment: John of the Cross says that in the evening of life we shall be judged on love; not on our accom­plish­ments, not on our suc­cess­es and fail­ures in the world­ly sense, but sole­ly on love.

Once again, as hap­pened dur­ing the past near­ly two thou­sand years, pre­dic­tions are being made of the time of this Sec­ond Com­ing, which, Jesus empha­sized, even the angels in heav­en do not know.” But we human crea­tures, who are a lit­tle low­er than the angels,” too fre­quent­ly try to set our­selves above them with our pre­dic­tions and our arro­gant assump­tion of knowl­edge which God hid even from the angels. Advent is not a time to declare, but to lis­ten, to lis­ten to what­ev­er God may want to tell us through the singing of the stars, the quick­en­ing of a baby, the gal­lantry of a dying man.

Lis­ten. Qui­et­ly. Humbly. With­out arrogance.

In the first verse of Jesu, Joy of Mans Desir­ing, we sing, Word of God, our flesh that fash­ioned with the fire of life impas­sioned,” and the mar­velous mys­tery of incar­na­tion shines. Because in the mys­tery of the Word made flesh,” goes one of my favorite prop­ers, for it is indeed the mys­tery by which we live, give birth, watch death.

When the Sec­ond Per­son of the Trin­i­ty entered the vir­gin’s womb and pre­pared to be born as a human baby (a par­tic­u­lar baby, Jesus of Nazareth), his death was inevitable.

It is only after we have been enabled to say, Be it unto me accord­ing to your Word,” that we can accept the para­dox­es of Chris­tian­i­ty. Christ comes to live with us, bring­ing an incred­i­ble promise of God’s love, but nev­er are we promised that there will be no pain, no suf­fer­ing, no death, but rather that these very griefs are the road to love and eter­nal life.

In Advent we pre­pare for the com­ing of all Love that love which will redeem all the bro­ken­ness, wrong­ness, hard­ness­es of heart which have afflict­ed us.

From Win­ter­song, Christ­mas Read­ings. Copy­right 1996 by Made­line L’En­gle and Luci Shaw. Pub­lished by Regent Col­lege Publishing. 

Originally published January 1996

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