A Sky Full of Children

The first set of books I read that were my introduction into the wonderful world of fantasy were Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Trilogy. It was this very one in fact. I was in 6th grade, and I admit that the books went a tad over my head, but I fell in love with the characters and the story was utterly fascinating to me. A few years ago I had brought those old, worn paperbacks out in an attempt to introduce my kids to Charles Wallace, Meg Murry and the rest. They pretty much fell apart. And so a few months later I was able to purchase them anew and as a quintet. The only trouble is the kids haven’t got to read them yet because I still am. How can you not love any book, let alone a series, that begins with the words “It was a dark and stormy night”? It was because of L’Engle I discovered C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and the rest. I owe her much. After she had passed away in 2007 I read an interview she gave in 1991 in which she discussed her writing and her faith and her search for Truth. Her final book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art has been called The Artist’s Bible.

“Truth transcends facts. If I don’t believe it, it isn’t true. I’m going to stay on the side of truth no matter how much it hurts. Facts end; stories are infinite. Stories have a richness that goes way beyond fact. My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don’t expect to go. That’s what happens when you write stories. You listen and you say ‘a ha,’ and you write it down. A lot of it is not planned, not conscious; it happens while you’re doing it. You know more about it after you’re done.” – Madeleine L’Engle

When I recently read her wonderful meditation on the Incarnation I knew I wanted to include it here for you.

It is yet Advent. Christmas is coming. We are all holding our breath.

*****

A Sky Full of Children
by Madeleine L’Engle

I walk out onto the deck of my cottage, looking up at the great river of the Milky Way flowing across the sky. A sliver of a moon hangs in the southwest, with the evening star gently in the curve.

Evening. Evening of this day. Evening of my own life.

I look at the stars and wonder. How old is the universe? All kinds of estimates have been made and, as far as we can tell, not one is accurate. All we know is that once upon a time or, rather, once before time, Christ called everything into being in a great breath of creativity – waters, land, green growing things, birds and beasts, and finally human creatures – the beginning, the genesis, not in ordinary Earth days; the Bible makes it quite clear that God’s time is different from our time. A thousand years for us is no more than the blink of an eye to God. But in God’s good time the universe came into being, opening up from a tiny flower of nothingness to great clouds of hydrogen gas to swirling galaxies. In God’s good time came solar systems and planets and ultimately this planet on which I stand on this autumn evening as the Earth makes its graceful dance around the sun. It takes one Earth day, one Earth night, to make a full turn, part of the intricate pattern of the universe. And God called it good, very good.

A sky full of God’s children! Each galaxy, each star, each living creature, every particle and subatomic particle of creation, we are all children of the Maker. From a subatomic particle with a life span of a few seconds, to a galaxy with a life span of billions of years, to us human creatures somewhere in the middle in size and age, we are made in God’s image, male and female, and we are, as Christ promised us, God’s children by adoption and grace.

Children of God, made in God’s image. How? Genesis gives no explanations, but we do know instinctively that it is not a physical image. God’s explanation is to send Jesus, the incarnate One, God enfleshed. Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine.

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?

Power. Greater power than we can imagine, abandoned, as the Word knew the powerlessness of the unborn child, still unformed, taking up almost no space in the great ocean of amniotic fluid, unseeing, unhearing, unknowing. Slowly growing, as any human embryo grows, arms and legs and a head, eyes, mouth, nose, slowly swimming into life until the ocean in the womb is no longer large enough, and it is time for birth.

Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ, the Maker of the universe or perhaps many universes, willingly and lovingly leaving all that power and coming to this poor, sin-filled planet to live with us for a few years to show us what we ought to be and could be. Christ came to us as Jesus of Nazareth, wholly human and wholly divine, to show us what it means to be made in God’s image.

Jesus, as Paul reminds us, was the firstborn of many brethren.

I stand on the deck of my cottage, looking at the sky full of God’s children, and know that I am one of them.

Reprinted from Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas.

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