Not My How and When
C.S. Lewis refused to read a daily newspaper saying it was a waste of time. He said that he heard all the news of the day at the pub each evening and if something of lasting importance happened, someone would write a book about it and he might consider reading it. Lewis, of course, was keenly interested in the world around him and his critique of modern culture in his classic The Abolition of Man is still widely quoted for its amazing insight. He just didn’t waste time with the newspaper.
But lacking Lewis’ discipline, I find myself wasting too much time with the daily news, even though, like many Americans, I have given up the paper part of the news for instant electronic gratification. So, as if I didn’t have enough to worry about in my own life, I’m anxious today for Chrysler and General Motors. As if it isn’t enough to be aware of the many stupid mistakes I make, I’m trying to figure out why in the world Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is so dumb. And as if my marriage, like all good marriages, doesn’t take work and commitment, I’m left wondering about Madonna and what’s his name and what went wrong with them.
In fact, God’s Word calls us to be concerned for our world and to pray for it. They say 3 million jobs are connected to the auto industry, 3 million families who just want to live their lives. The covenant that binds the people and their leaders is a covenant of trust and it has grown fragile in our time. The erosion of trust is not good for any of us. Madonna and Guy mock marriage, a precious gift from God. We ought to be alarmed.
I’m left, it seems, with a load of care heavier than I can possibly bear and questions to which I cannot find the answer. I want to know what to do – mostly in my life, but also in God’s world – and how to do it. Or I wonder when God will finally make it all right. If it were up to me, the economy would be better today, stupid selfishness would have ended yesterday and all marriages, mine included, would always be a reflection of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.
My favorite Christmas poem is George Mac Donald’s “That Holy Thing.” It reminds me that I don’t need to know every how or when, and that if I think I do know a how or a when, a what or a why, Christ will not bound himself to those feeble answers. Only Christ can right my lot, the poet says. And in the end he satisfies all my need and answers all my prayers. As at Bethlehem he came “a little baby thing that made a woman cry,” so in our lives he comes to us by his “own secret stair.”
THEY all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.
O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail!
My how or when Thou wilt not heed,
But come down Thine own secret stair
That Thou mayst answer all my need—
Yea, every bygone prayer.
Advent reminds us that Christ has come, a little baby thing, and that he will come again, bringing with him a new heaven and a new earth. It reminds us that even now he comes into our lives down his own secret stair.
See you Sunday for the Third Sunday of Advent.