December 4 – To Risk Hope


1973 did not end well. The vice president had resigned and the long Watergate saga that would topple the president dragged on, dragging the entire nation down with it. War in the Middle East had led to the Arab Oil embargo, a cold winter and lines winding around the block at the local gas station. The cost of living was up by nearly 9%, and the appearance of a comet named Kohoutek was a portent to some of disaster to come.

At the end of that dark and dreary 1973, author and poet Madeleine L’Engle wrote “The Risk of Birth” as an Advent reflection:

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

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honor and truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Savior 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.

We have entered Advent, 2015, at the end of a dark and dreary year. Earth’s betrayal by war and hate has only deepened. Some warn of impending climate disaster, and terror slashes the lives of cities and people around the world. Paris. Beirut. Mali. San Bernardino. Politicians and commentators mock prayer.

Becky and I have five grandchildren, age five and under. Baby Gideon is five months old. What sort of time is this to be raising children?

Yes, we made it through Watergate and the oil embargo. The economy recovered and the comet is generally remembered as a disappointment as far as comets go. People just beginning careers and families in 1973 are retired or thinking about spending more time with beloved grandchildren.

But history makes no guarantee of muddling through, and the Gospel demands a hope much better than “maybe things will work out.”

Madeleine L’Engle is right,

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

Perhaps those who mock prayer will also mock Gospel hope, preferring to leave our future and our children’s future in Rome’s hands, a false hope that maybe this time truth and honor will not be trampled by scorn.

Becky and I have five grandchildren, and we love them. LPC has been blessed with young children and good parents who have made baptismal promises to raise their children to know the Savior who made earth his home and now opens wide heaven’s door.

Our God is the God who risked birth, risked incarnation, to put death’s dark shadow to flight and free us from sin’s crushing grip on our lives. He is the God who always risks love.

Advent reminds us that war and hate’s treachery and Rome’s scornful mocking of truth and honor are not to be the last words spoken in 2015 or in Paris, Beirut, Mali, and San Bernardino. Advent celebrates Christ’s coming as the Babe of Bethlehem. It anticipates his coming again to make all things new.

To the many in our world who mourn and to our children and grandchildren who we love, the Gospel offers a hope of something much better than muddling through. In the words of the old carol, it is the dawn of redeeming grace.

Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

See you Sunday (where we gather around the Word and at the font of baptism and the table of remembrance and grace).