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Twelfth day of Advent: faith and reason

One of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time), happens to have written some about Advent. I didn’t know about this until this morning, when I was poking around on the Internet and Google led me here.

A bit more poking around, and I found this lovely, short poem by L’Engle:

This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.
— Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve been thinking some about faith and reason lately, because of Advent and also because I recently finished The Life of Pi, which addresses their differences and meanings (May I recommend the book to you! And then, may I recommend this review of it?).

I consider myself to be a person of reason. I live in the modern nation of America, after all. I studied philosophy in college. I come from a family of scientific people.

And yet, I agree with L’Engle when she says, “Had Mary been filled with reason there’d have been no room for the child.”

Faith is different from reason, but it’s not unreasonable.

In fact, faith is highly reasonable. We do things out of faith all the time. When we love brightly and wildly, we trust that what we feel isn’t a mere chemical imbalance and that the person or thing that we love actually exists and isn’t a mere figment of our imagination. When we eat, we trust that the food isn’t poisoned. When we step outside in the morning, we trust that gravity won’t reverse and send us floating off the Earth.

It is a good thing we’re filled with faith instead of reason. It’s a good thing Mary was, too.

Reason would have said, “There are no such things as angels. I have never seen one before. People tell me they don’t exist. I must be having a hallucination.”

Reason would also have said, “A virgin can’t have a baby. It’s scientifically impossible. Didn’t you take eighth grade biology?”

I’ll confess to you: Advent makes me uncomfortable because faith makes me uncomfortable because I am a person of reason.

But discomfort is good because it moves me to wrestle with faith and reason. And in this irrational season, when we meditate on the love that formed a baby in a manger to save us from the horrors of this world, wrestling with faith is good. Wrestling with faith is making room for the child, not in the manger, but right here in the center of our hearts.

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