Bright Evening Star

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

Madeleine L'Engle, religious thinker, is a new aspect of her personality for me. It should come as no surprise, give the way her novels ask young readers to think about big topics. To consider the universe and their role in it. And that's what she's doing here. She's not explaining anything. She asks questions, contemplates. It's a celebration of musing on subjects and the value of k=not understanding things.
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“Sometimes Madeleine writes things that are a little...out there. When you come across those parts, don’t get hung up. Just say to yourself, Ha ha. Oh that Madeleine and keep reading.”

~  Judy Hougen

I loved this quote Addie Zierman added to the foreword .  After reading several books by Madeleine L’Engle recently, I can honestly say that I have felt both uplifted by her books and at other times puzzled. At this point, I’m going to keep on reading because I always walk away with some thoughts that enlarge my faith, and at other times, I smile when I come across something that goes against what I believe because that quote comes to mind.

I picked this book for the month of December, and it was a lovely choice. Madeleine’s Christian beliefs are largely influenced by her parents and Episcopal background. In this book, she shares her lifelong love of Jesus, and no matter how you feel about her beliefs, you can not possibly walk away from this book doubting her relationship and love for God.  Like me, perhaps your own faith and love will be treasured in a deeper way.

I highly recommend her books, and feel this is worth 5 stars.
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I read about a quarter of this book and was just not able to get into it sadly. I wish I had been able to, and I'm sure if you've loved L'Engle's other works you will enjoy this one as well. 

This was a second chance for me and this other and I just don't mesh with them sadly. I wish them all the luck in the world though and to have continued success.
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Bright Evening Star

Mystery of the Incarnation

by Madeleine L’Engle

Crown Publishing

Convergent Books

Christian

Pub Date 18 Sep 2018

I am reviewing a copy of Bright Evening Star through Crown Publishing and Netgalley:

Bright Evening Star is Madeline L Engle personal reflections on the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation of Christ. The stories in this book look into the life stories and her encounters with God.

This book offers its readers who are looking for a unique Christ Centered book of Christmas Meditations a great choice.

I give Bright Evening Star five out of five stars!

Happy Reading
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A lovely collection of Ms. L'Engle's speeches and writings about faith and God. A perfect gift!

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my ARC. All opinions are my own.
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I'm reading Bright Evening Star while a CD (yes, a CD and not a playlist) of Yo-Yo Ma performing Bach plays quietly in the background. There is something about L'Engle and Bach that just go together. Certainly, there is her love for his music but both she and the composer reach for the infinite in their work. They both inspire a sense of awe and wonder about creation and the Creator when I read or listen to their work. As I say this, I come to a passage where she first discovers his music while hearing a choir at school performing his "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

Bach once described the intent of his art in this way, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul." In Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own."

Both Bach and L'Engle have had profound and lasting impacts on my own faith, which changes and transforms as I grow older. I have periods where I reevaluate what I believe and why I believe what I do. I question and reflect, meditate and evaluate, I investigate and doubt, I dig more deeply into myself and into my notions of God and Christ and grace and the tenents of my faith. I always have and will until I draw my last breath. But throughout my spiritual path, I have had the work of Madeleine L'Engle to guide and direct me. So it is provident that I began Bright Evening Star during just such a period. I continue to grow and learn from Madeleine, who reminds me of the truth that lies at the heart of all stories, including biblical ones. Certainly, the notion of Incarnation to many seems far-fetched, unbelievable and beyond the realm of pure reason. I was having lunch with someone I know who likes to have discussions with me about my faith. He is skeptical and a doubter, to say the least. As we were eating, he brought up the tenet of Incarnation and asked me with incredulity, "You really believe that? It just seems so . . . so incomprehensible."

"Exactly," I said as I took another bite of my lunch.

"But you don't find the whole concept of it as unbelievable?"

"Yes. Exactly."

He sat there, waiting for me to get upset or debate him. I didn't. I ate my lunch. Seeing that he was really asking me, not out of simply wanting to bait me into an argument but out of a real seeking, I stopped eating and said, "Yes, I believe in the Incarnation, but I do not in any way claim to understand it." 

I thought of this conversation while reading L'Engle's words, "My mind balked at the stupendousness of it all; only with my heart could I accept the infinite God becoming incarnate, enfleshed, human and divine. Does it offend our reason? Of course. It is totally unreasonable."

This may offend those who accept without question the Bible, but I have never been one of those people. I love Madeleine L'Engle's honesty about what she calls "the scandal of particularity" or "the Divine Interference." 

Belief is a choice just as unbelief is. 

Yes, I grew up in a home where Christianity was a given, but I have never been one to simply go along and just accept something. I am one who questions and doubts and, because of those questions and doubts, finds myself often closer to faith than if I had never done so. 

"If we want a God we can prove, or an Incarnation we can prove," Madeleine L'Engle asks, "aren't we making an idol, rather than falling on our knees in awe of the wonderful mystery?"

Perhaps it's the title, Bright Evening Star, but I love reading this book at night so that I can read a passage or a chapter and then stop. I don't plow my way through this lovely, insightful work but meditate on Madeleine's words. If the weather permits, I go outside. Summer fireflies blink throughout the yard. Overhead is a sky filled with stars. I stand there, looking up, and pondering the questions I have about the very Creator of those stars. On just such one of those nights, I had just finished reading this passage, "At night after the children had been put to bed I would take the dogs and go outdoors and look at the stars and suspect that we human beings were as far from knowing the truth of the manner of Creation as we ever were and that there were many more extraordinary revelations to come."

Why do I believe something so clearly unbelievable as the Incarnation? Is it simply because it does defy reason and explanation? Is it that I prefer a God who would do something to surprise us by not doing this in the expected and reasonable way? Incarnation is offensive to reason. It is illogical. We like everything to fit within our scientific theories (theories that keep changing as we slowly bump our way in the dark finding no theories in the hopes they can explain the unexplainable universes that surround us). It's amazing to me to pause during my daily life to consider that there are hundreds of billions of stars (that some of those we see are no longer there, that I am seeing the light from a star that is seventy light-years away) and that there are other galaxies and solar systems. It is staggering to imagine and it's no less incomprehensible than the Incarnation. How can we possibly believe there are finite answers to such infinite questions? Why would we want there to be?

Because of Madeleine L'Engle and having read her A Wrinkle in Time as a boy, I have never thought of theology and science as being opposites. For me, they are interconnected. God creating and there existing the Big Bang and evolution are not opposed because, as God reminded Job, I was not there at the beginning of time, when all things were created, when God laid the foundations of the earth. Do I stick to a literal interpretation of Genesis? No. I never have, even as a child in Sunday school, but I also do not doubt that behind it all is a Creator. Science only makes God that much bigger, each new theory makes my theology that much more profound and complex.

As I'm reading her Bright Evening Star, I have also started the only work in her Time Quartet that I had not read yet, An Acceptable Time. In the introduction, she writes, " . . . stories have a life of their own, and they say different things to different people at different times. And it is an affirmation that story is true and takes us beyond the facts into something more real." Something more real. Isn't that what faith does as well? Isn't that what the Incarnation asks of us? To believe in something more real?

That is why I have cherished the writing and wisdom of Madeleine L'Engle ever since I first read her. I am someone who has been shaped and formed by story. I understand that something does not have to be fact to be true. Like L'Engle, I discovered truths found in the works of  George MacDonald, E. Nesbit, and C.S. Lewis (also influenced by MacDonald). They have made me realize that it is not childish to believe in a world beyond this one, that it is childlike and such is the kingdom of heaven. Christ understood that story is revelatory and has the power to reach into the lives of everyone he spoke to. He grasped that parables that always worked on multiple levels and did not offer easy or comfortable answers.

The Bible is filled with stories, including the story of Jesus. "It is not that in believing the story of Jesus we skip reason," Madeleine L'Engle says, "but that sometimes we have to go beyond it, take leaps with our imaginations, push our brains further than the normally used parts of them are used to going." This is why I return to her writing again and again and again no matter what my age. She, like any great writer, understands that all great stories and great faith require us to go beyond, to engage our imaginations and our creativity. It requires us to choose belief over unbelief not only when it seems unreasonable, but especially when it seems unreasonable to do so.
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