There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.
Our lives, like the characters of Dickens’ finest novel, are filled with great expectation. We likewise are often disappointed – in spite of our tenacious optimism – because life rarely matches the lofty dreams of our youth. Adults whose childhood dreams took them to riches and glory are soon resolved to lives much dimmer than their grand imaginations.
Our hearts yearn for God and the grandeur of His company, but His voice is still and small. We expect majesty, but He comes to us as the hungry, naked or imprisoned stranger. Rather than a throne, we find a manger.
John Henry Newman put this point well in the great hymn of the Angelicals, part of his Dream of Gerontius, but familiar to congregations across the world as Praise to the Holiest in the height
And that a higher gift than grace
Should flesh and blood refine,
God’s Presence and His very Self,
And Essence all divine.
As Alister McGrath wrote in Incarnation
The image of a vulnerable child has always served to emphasize the humility of God, both in entering this world in the first place, and in such a menial situation in the second. For Christian artists, the point is simple: the more we trust that God really did enter into our history as one of us, the more we can be reassured that we shall finally be raised up into those heavenly places in which the Christ-child now reigns in glory.
Yes, majesty awaits and accompanies His glory, but our eyes are blinded by lesser lights of the temporal, the profane and the empty promises of the world. Our hearts were indeed created to long for Him but wisdom prays for open eyes.
It is expectancy rather than expectations that guides us home.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Literature, Liturgy & The Arts
Homelessness in America
Tom Darin Liskey
Tom Darin Liskey is an author, poet and photo-journalist. More than twenty years of international journalism and business experience gives Tom a unique perspective. That experience abroad has given him a keen eye to appreciate different cultures and locations. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has been published in literary magazines, both in the US and abroad including two published books.
All images © Tom Darin Liskey