September 29, 2020

Advent II: Mercy takes the risk of birth

11th Century Nativity icon in Tokalı Kilise, Cappadocia, Turkey

11th Century Nativity icon in Tokalı Kilise, Cappadocia, Turkey

Advent II
Mercy takes the risk of birth.

I thought of this poem last week, when each day seemed to bring more news of violence, death, and fear. It gave me words when I had none.

It portrays the world in realistic terms and speaks of God’s response to the world at all times: overcome evil with good, overcome death with life, overcome hatred with mercy.


The Risk of Birth, Christmas 1973

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;
Honour and 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 the comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.


• Madeleine L’Engle
The Weather of the Heart


  1. Christiane says

    In 1973, there was a comet called ‘Kohoutek’ which was forecast to be so bright you could see it even in the daytime, but it turned out to be something of a disappointment in the magnitude category, sadly, because the timing was around the Christmas season that year . . .

    There are other Advent poems also, by Madeleine l’Engle wherein she also writes about ‘a star that streaked the sky’, as in this excerpt from ‘The Wise Men’:

    “A star has streaked the sky.
    pulls us,
    Where, oh where, where leads the light?

    We came and left our gifts
    and turned
    homeward. . . ”

    In her writing, I hear echoes of these simple words from John Chrysostom:

    “He called the wise men by a star, the fishermen by their art of fishing. ”
    (St John Chrysostom)

  2. Well put for such a time as this…

  3. Love L’Engle, this is so timely?

  4. This is the first time I’m ever read this. Wonderful. What a blessing! Thanks for sharing it, CM.

  5. Are those animals licking baby Jesus?