Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation

Bright Evening Star: Mystery of the Incarnation


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For over fifty years, L'Engle has been delighting and inspiring readers with her warm, eloquent prose, and inspirational poetry. She continues this tradition with Bright Evening Star, a personal reflection of the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Bright Evening Star provides a glimpse into the life stories of this prolific author and her encounters with God. With a foreword by John Tesh, L'Engle invites us on a spiritual adventure that leads to hope, joy, and a closer relationship with Jesus. "Christmas," says Madeleine L'Engle, "should be a time of awed silence." If you're looking for a unique and Christ-centered Christmas meditation, Bright Evening Star will be a rich and delightful discovery — year round!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524759285
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 1,135,708
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Madeleine L'Engle was the author of more than forty-five books for all ages, among them the beloved A Wrinkle in Time, awarded the Newbery Medal; A Ring of Endless Light, a Newbery Honor Book; A Swiftly Tilting Planet, winner of the American Book Award; and the Austin family series of which Troubling a Star is the fifth book. L'Engle was named the 1998 recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards award, honoring her lifetime contribution in writing for teens.

Ms. L'Engle was born in 1918 in New York City. She wrote her first book, The Small Rain, while touring with Eva Le Gallienne in Uncle Harry. She met Hugh Franklin, to whom she was married until his death in 1986, while they were rehearsing The Cherry Orchard, and they were married on tour during a run of The Joyous Season, starring Ethel Barrymore.

Ms. L'Engle retired from the stage after her marriage, and the Franklins moved to northwest Connecticut and opened a general store. After a decade in Connecticut, the family returned to New York.

After splitting her time between New York City and Connecticut and acting as the librarian and writer-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Madeleine L’Engle died on September 7, 2007 at the age of 88.

Date of Birth:

January 12, 1918

Date of Death:

September 6, 2007

Place of Birth:

New York, NY

Place of Death:

Litchfield, CT


Smith College, 1941

Read an Excerpt


A Sky Full of Children

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 the century. 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 sub-atomic particle of creation, we are all children of the Maker. From a sub-atomic 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. 

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 a sky full of God’s children, knowing that I am one of many brethren, and sistren, too, and that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Bathed in this love, I go into the cottage and to bed.

Small, beloved child.

I am probably less than two years old, sitting in my grandmother’s lap. We are on the porch at the beach house. Her old green rocking chair creaks back and forth as she rocks me. A white coquina ramp runs east from the porch steps, across the green and prickly scrub, onto the beach. At the foot of the ramp the sand is soft and deep, for the tides do not reach this high and it gets wet only when it rains. Near the ocean the sand is firm and patterned by the wavelets which flow and ebb with the tides. Above the water the stars are brilliant. The high dunes on which the cottage stands are part of a wide, still wild world, but I feel safe, held in my grandmother’s strong arms. She has a high, sweet voice, and she winds the deeper safety of her words into the soft night air as she sings and rocks, sings and rocks. 

Jesus, tender shepherd, hear me.

Bless thy little lamb tonight.

Through the darkness be thou near me.

Keep me safe till morning light.

Jesus, the Christ, Maker of the Universe. Thank you, Jesus, for being born for me. For being part of my life, always.

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.

My awareness of this momentous event of the birth of Jesus was known to me only in metaphor when I was a child.

I grew up in New York, the only child of older parents, most of whose friends worked in the world of the arts, who were singers, dancers, actors. At Christmastime my parents held open house on Sunday evenings, and a dozen or more people gathered around the piano, and the apartment was full of music, and theology was sung into my heart.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come. . . .

While shepherds watched their flocks by night . . .

And glory shone around. . . . 

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. 

The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. . . .

Let nothing you dismay. . . .

O tidings of comfort and joy . . .

O come, let us adore Him. . . .

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Thank you, thank you!

My prayers at night started with thanks, thanks to Jesus for being part of our lives. Prayers of sorrow for anything I had done wrong during the day. Prayers of comfort and immediate forgiveness.

My parents taught me a God of love, yet a demanding God who expected me to be honorable and truthful but who also allowed me to ask questions.

Why was there war? My birth had come shortly after the end of what used to be called the Great War, and all my life I had heard people talking about the war and power; it was the most righteous and powerful nations who won the terrible war. But why was there war at all?

Why were my father’s lungs burned with mustard gas?

Are the Germans bad? Why do we call them Huns?

Do they believe in Jesus, too?

Does God love them?

Yes. God loves. God is love.

God loves us even when we do wrong, but God does not love the wrong we do.

My parents tried to answer me honestly and reasonably. We went to church together on Sunday. I did not go to Sunday school because my father’s work as a drama and music critic kept him up late, so we went to the eleven o’clock service, and I was nourished by the great words of the Anglican liturgy, even when I didn’t understand them, and leaned against my mother and daydreamed.

Sometimes the words of the minister would slip into my mind. Jesus left heaven and came to save us.

Save us from what? I wondered.

From our sinfulness. We are all born full of sin.

At Sunday dinner I asked my parents, “Are we all born full of sin?”

“We are all born full of possibilities of all kinds,” my father said. “What we do with them is what counts.”

“What about war? Is war sin?" 

My father’s mouth tightened. “It seems that it is inevitable.” And then he started to cough and had to stop talking. 

If Jesus was born two thousand years ago to save us, why haven’t more things changed? Why is there still hate and misunderstanding? 

Yes, I was allowed to ask questions, but I would have liked to ask far more than I did. My parents ate late, at eight, or were out at the theatre or the opera, and I had a tray in my room. I knew I was loved and didn’t question our schedule which certainly was not the ordinary one. It was normal for me, because it was what it was, and I ate with a book in my lap, happy in my imaginary world, and didn’t understand that in many households story was not honored as it was in ours. My parents read aloud to each other every night. Story. They read all the Dumas stories about the three musketeers. They read Dickens. They read the modern novels.

I was not part of these nighttime readings, but in the morning before breakfast I would beg my mother to tell me a story. “Tell me a story about when you were a little girl.”

Her childhood was so different from mine it might have been on a different planet. My father’s family came from New York and Philadelphia, but my mother was a Southerner, and after the War Between the States (yet another war) all anybody had left was story. People were poor; many of their houses had been burned; many husbands and fathers had been killed. But they had stories, and they told them and probably embroidered them, and my mother never seemed to run out of reminiscences of her childhood. All her friends were cousins, growing up together in a small Southern town, trying to make a new world out of the defeated old one. I was fascinated and nourished by my mother’s tales, from the story of my great-great-grandmother who was the only friend of an African princess, to the cousin whose first job after graduating from law school was to find Stephen Crane’s mistress, the famous madam. Later, when he learned that no black person could be admitted to a hospital, he set about raising the money and built such a hospital.

Because my mother grew up nourished and informed by story, she and her cousins were able to see needs ignored by those who had not been given the empathy that comes from the insights of story. Jesus told stories, and not everybody understood them. Why? If we understand the truth of story, we are more able to feel at home in the world of the Gospels, and to understand that the Good News is indeed good. Jesus’ stories start with what is familiar (a woman who has lost a coin, a shepherd who goes out into the night after a lost sheep), and as we think about the parables we understand that the simple stories have far deeper meanings than we realized; they are messages for us. And it is important that we read them in the order in which Jesus told them. They are not isolated anecdotes. They follow the pattern of journey.

The messages of Jesus’ stories were important for me. My parents’ loving God was not sentimental; my father coughed his burned lungs; I was nearly eighteen before they burned away completely. Several times my mother was ill in bed with a nurse in a white starched dress tending her; I knew she was very ill but not what was wrong. I suspect it was yet another miscarriage; I was the only baby who made it through the nine months in the womb. But God was still a God of love who could be trusted.

In the outside world things were different. I was unhappy in school. One of the teachers scolded me for telling a story and it took a while before I realized she thought I was lying. Story was a lie! No. Story was truth.

I did not fit in at that school. I was shy and awkward; one of my legs was longer than the other and whenever I was tired my knee ached and I limped.

I went home from the sterility of school to the real world of story, to my favorite books, written by George MacDonald and E. Nesbit and L. M. Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett, books which cared about honesty and courage and truth. Books which affirmed for me that God is indeed love and came to live with us as Jesus of Nazareth because we are so loved. Children of God, God who didn’t mind if we limped, as long as we were truthful.

One of my godfathers gave me a beautifully illustrated book of Bible stories. I read it and reread it, turning the pages carefully, reading the story of God’s love which is gloriously true. With us it may be impossible; with God nothing is impossible. I never tired of God’s stories. The truth of story was always fresh and, despite repetition, always new.

As a child it was easier for me to understand that than it was later when I knew more. The story of Jesus’ birth has been oversentimentalized until it no longer has the ring of truth, and once we’d sentimentalized it we could commercialize it and so forget what Christmas is really about. It should be a time of awed silence, but it has become a season so frantic with stress that the suicide rate mounts alarmingly, and for some people death seems preferable to the loneliness and alienation of Christmas. 

Somehow we’ve almost managed to kill the story, but not quite. It was still there for me when I was a child and slowly turned the pages of my beautiful Bible book. I loved the story of Noah and all the animals. God wanted to save not only the people, but the animals, too, for God made all the animals. They were different from people, but because God had made them, it seemed to me that they, too, were children of God.

I loved the story of Joseph and his wonderful coat and his jealous brothers and how, in the end, they all got together. But my most favorite story was Mary Magdalene seeing Jesus after the Resurrection and hearing him call her name and then knowing who he was.

And I knew that Jesus calls us all by name.

And Jesus was the God we call by name, God, a loving parent who transcends all our limited and limiting sexisms. In my Genesis trilogy I often use el (the earliest name by which the Hebrews called God) instead of him or her, he or she, and I find that helpful and, I hope, unobtrusive.


Excerpted from "Bright Evening Star"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Madeleine L'Engle.
Excerpted by permission of The Crown Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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