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The Poetry of Faith (December 25, 2018)

Sometimes it seems to me like a pipe dream, a wisp of a vision that fades into the wintry air, leaving only a brief hint of a sweet smell that also soon disappears.

The light came in the darkness … and the darkness did not overcome it.

Peace came in the midst of conflict … and the conflict did not win.

Joy came in the midst of unbearable sadness … and the sadness did not diminish the joy.

Healing came in the midst of brokenness … and the broken were made whole.

Sometimes I wonder how we can continue to proclaim this good news in a world that is so broken. The world seems increasingly troubled, so full of hopelessness, so divided between the few who control so much and the many who have so little.

Sometimes the Grinch in my soul whispers in my ear that I must be naïve to believe such foolishness.

And yet …

And yet ,,,

It strikes me that in the story of our faith, it was always thus.

Isaiah speaks words of comfort and hope while the people are still in exile.

Other prophets proclaim a powerful hope based in God. Jeremiah laments the fall of Jerusalem, and is able to imagine a new future with God.

Zephaniah speaks powerful words of hope in the midst of a time when empires were ravaging smaller countries like Israel—just as they do today.

It continues beyond the story of the Bible.

Martin Luther speaks powerful words of hope to a church hierarchy that has lost its way—and gives birth to a new movement.

Martin Luther King, Jr stands at the Washington Monument in the midst of a struggle for civil rights and proclaims, “I have a dream…”

William Wilberforce spends his life, and finally the British Parliament passes an anti–slavery bill.

In the midst of the powerful Roman Empire, a young woman dares to say yes. A young man who has every reason to cast her aside … also believes her—and they give birth to a child.

And that child speaks truth to the empire, and the empire squashes him like a bug, and they thought they were done with him.

But about a century later, John describes that child this way: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

And today, once more, we celebrate God’s audacious promise that God is with us, that God is for us. God’s light shines. God’s hope blazes.

Once again, the babe is born, and in his infant cries we hear once more God’s whisper of peace and hope in the midst of all the dreadful realities.

Some scholars talk about this as the prose of reality and the poetry of faith. The world is governed by prose, by control, by working with harsh realities. Politicians know this when they say that they campaign in poetry and govern in prose.

In the midst of the prose which governs this world, we are poets. We speak the language of poetry, or imagination, of creativity, words of grace and compassion, of a hope which is stronger than the prose which runs the world.

We become poets of the dream of God, and as we do so, we live in the wisdom and joy of God’s dream. And as we dare to dream with God, life becomes unimaginably dear, impossibly wonderful, extravagantly hopeful.

And we can say to that Grinch, “Not so fast, green one. The poetry of faith gives life its abundance.”

Thanks be to God.


Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt

December 25, 2018 (Christmas Day)

John 1: 1–14

Isaiah 40: 1–11