Friday, January 14, 2011

When He Came

Some readers, on seeing the opening verse of today's poem, may wonder if it was intended to post before Christmas, not three weeks after. Or you may feel a bit chided if, like some of my neighbors, you haven't yet taken down all your decorations. However much we talk in December about "keeping the spirit of Christmas all year," few of us really seem interested in Christ-in-the-manger by January. Which would be a minor problem except that for many, the story of Jesus stops at the manger. As one Advent writer put it, even Christians tend to prefer the cute baby to the "bossy, grown-up Jesus."

We shouldn't forget that the concept of Advent was created to encourage not only the remembering of Christ's first coming, but the looking forward to His return--and that's an attitude that can come naturally in any season. Now, I don't endorse the obsession with an imminent Parousia (if indeed it is imminent) that consumes many believers to the point that their whole concept of "God's work" seems to be harping on the sorry state of this world. But probably as many go to the opposite extreme and live for worldly success while treating God only as a source of material blessing. What He wants is for us to work hard under His guidance to make this world more like His future Kingdom, while maintaining a humble yet eager awareness that only He will bring it in fullness and permanence.

That's the way Jesus Himself lived--making the Kingdom a present as well as a future reality.

No proper rooms were free that night; no lodging could be found
Except among the animals; few people gathered round
That peasant woman as her Baby took first earthly breath,
And cried, as newborn infants do, within this world of death.
And just a few, among the lowest in the land’s esteem,
Would know the coming of their Lord, would see their God’s light gleam.
There was no wealth, no great renown, no trace of mortal fame,
Upon that night that touched the world with starlight when He came.

No hope, it seemed, could yet remain when that dread day was past
When, hanging bloody on a Cross, the Master breathed His last.
For human hearts crave earthly might, and dream of crown and throne:
Who would have thought the Lord of All could die in pain, alone?
And just a few, in coming days, despite the empty grave,
Had eyes to see the Risen One, to realize all He gave.
Although His power would shake the city through the Spirit’s flame,
The quiet dawn was little stirred when from the tomb He came.

Still mocking God and all His ways is this world as a whole,
This world that worships human pomp and scorns the humble soul.
Still mortal hearts crave wealth and power from their first earthly breath,
And still the helpless mourn and weep within this world of death.
But, someday soon, the day will come when Heaven shall open wide,
And from the heights there shall descend our Lord, the Glorified.
However many years we wait, as daughters and as sons,
We know all pain will melt away forever when He comes.

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