Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Quaker Advent Reader: Day Twenty -- "The Risk of Birth"

"The Risk of Birth"
by Madeleine L'Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.


Yes, I know that Quakers don't recognize liturgical seasons. But I like Advent and so will be sharing various readings/thoughts during this season (all of which fit with my understanding of Friends faith and life).  And I share this poem almost every year. I have loved it -- and been challenged by it --ever since I first read it in The Risk of Birth: A Gift Book of Christ Poems selected by Luci Shaw (my copy is so old that the retail price was just $1.45).

Right now, given the recent actions of the current U.S. administration and congress, the first two lines of the first stanza strike me especially hard. Instead of "the earth," in my heart and hearing I substitute the word "humans." Especially the most vulnerable among us.

The hatred and lack of civility in our discourse disturbs me. The nasty wall-building -- rhetorical and literal -- dismay me. The self-centeredness of many politicians and those who voted for them confounds me. The seeming intentional provocations of international "enemies" alarms me. As a result of the actions of the administration and congress, it does feel as if "time runs out & the sun burns late."

All those things bother me, if I am honest, because I behold the seeds of them all in myself. Seeds which, if not for the grace of God, could too easily flower into bad fruit. Hatefulness, inequality, bigotry, warlikeness, and more. Far from the fruit the Christ-child, that Love who took the risk of birth, came to bring us -- "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

I wrestle with how to be a person of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control when it feels like the times call for outrage, action, protest, and rebellion against the powers and principalities.  Perhaps they are not incompatible. How do I channel my outrage into appropriate soulful action while abiding in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In other words, how do I let Love still take the risk of birth when I'd rather be angry and in-your-face?

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.  



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