“He did not wait till the world was ready”.
That line from Madeleine L’Engle’s poem First Coming has been dancing through my head like a leaf on the wind after many of my fall Pastor Parish Relations Committee (PPRC) consultations this fall. Some churches are terribly worried about who has not come back, if they will come
back, when they will come back, what they might be able to do to get them to come back. Not “worried” in a “let’s talk to them and find out” way, nor a “let’s look at the indicators of when it might be safer and make plans for then” way, but rather “if they didn’t make the same decision as me does that mean they don’t like us any more” way and “we can’t make any plans until all of
this is over and what if no one gets out of their pajamas any more by then” way. Some churches, PPRCs, and individuals are understandably caught up in grief for what their church was and fear that not only will it never be that again (and it won’t!), but also despair that there is nothing for their church to look forward to.
With the angels of the Bible, I say, “Fear not!” and “Good News!”
With Madeleine L’Engle, I say, “he came when the Heavens were unsteady.”
The world was terribly unsteady for people like Jesus’ family. The Herods were guilty of such crimes against humanity that there was a saying attributed to Augustus, “Better to be Herod’s pig than his son!” The emperor could order a nine-months-pregnant woman to make an arduous journey without giving a single thought or care that his census would have that effect—among other things he could order on a whim. The religious leaders sold out a whole village of babies. Think of life without an understanding of germs, let alone all the ways we have to deal with them!
The “unsteady” world part is not the Good News. Don’t we know that?! No, the Good News is the “he came” part.
“He came when the Heavens were unsteady” is the truly Good News part. Jesus didn’t wait until all the Jewish people were following all of the Law perfectly. He didn’t wait until they had driven out the Romans so the palace and the throne were empty. Jesus didn’t wait until the rabbis figured out that the Messiah would not be a military general. “He did not wait till the world was ready.” He just came, “and pitched his tent among us.” (John 1:14)
Fear not, because Jesus is not waiting for the pandemic to be over to come back to your church. He will come to
however many are gathered IRL (in real life). He will come to the guest who shows up to your service for the first time, who doesn’t know what used to be, but who came seeking Christ and has shown up for who and what are here now.
Jesus will come to those who tune in from the parking lot or their device. Yes, perhaps they are sipping coffee in their pajamas—perhaps they are exhausted and afraid and have come seeking hope and connection to a community in Christ.
Good news, Jesus will come to those who haven’t felt safe enough to come back and don’t have internet, too. (Hint:
he especially comes when you—yes, you—call, write, or visit with precautions!)
The world will continue to be unsteady. But Christ will continue to be God-with-us. This sick, scared, despairing, and hostile world is desperate for the peace, love, hope, and joy of Christ. It can’t wait! Christ isn’t waiting! As L’Engle’s poem closes,
“We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!”
It might be time to start the Christmas carols early this year. I did.
Shared with Permission from Rev. Abby Auman