You know the drill – reposting of Advent Writings, new ones coming around number 14, 15…
Temporis – time, condition, right time; season, occasion; necessity.
(Source: William Whitaker’s Words)
We are a time-conscious people. Clocks in our vehicles, on our cell phones, in our computers. Places that we spend time or just hang out, we’re always aware of the clock, and we keep an eye on it. Alarms, reminders, beeps, blips, or cool ringtones – we find all sorts of ways to be mindful of time. If you use it efficiently, that’s good, but if you’re watching the clock, you’re just killing time until you get to split, and that’s bad. Planners, Palms, PDAs, smartphones, apps, tablets, netbooks, calendars – all sorts of ways to divide time, to account for it, to “spend” it, as if we had the ability to hold it like currency or control where it goes like a budget.
Or lack thereof.
So from our limited temporal view, trying so valiantly to corral time, to break it and domesticate it, God’s abundance of eternity seems like… well… actually, we don’t have any way to even begin to comprehend it. Our whole existence is made up of start and stop, of beginning and end, green for go and yellow for punch it, ’cause it’s gonna turn RED!
So no wonder God’s schedule eludes us. I mean, just thinking of asking God to check His calendar? Forget about it – a Day Timer the likes of which we’d never be able to lift. To understand His view of how sometimes it takes an entire human life for one lonely soul to finally turn to Jesus? Or how a faith begun at 5 years old can grow so beautifully through teen and young adult years, only to turn cold and bitter near the end, just at the doorstep of “faith made sight?” A young man, heart set on ministry with youth, steps into eternity the night before spring semester of his freshman year of college?
(And yes, that last young man was a friend of mine… we were freshmen together at GR Baptist College in 1977.)
Why do some lives, filled with such hope and promise, seem to get shortchanged on number of days, yet some lives, filled with bitterness and regrets, go on and on?
How can we understand God’s timetable? We can’t.
Think of the centuries of waiting, the looking and hoping for the deliverer. Seeing (or hoping that we are seeing) signs of His appearing, only to remain alone. Believing that things can’t possibly get worse, and this must be the time when the redeemer will arrive, only to see things indeed get worse, and no relief in sight.
“O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here until the Son of God appears…”
Now, maybe like me your longing hasn’t lasted for centuries, or even decades. Maybe your season of suffering, of change, of upheaval, of uncertainty has been relatively short in the scheme of things. Yet the depth of that season is just as deep for you as it ever was for the ones who waited long and weary years for the promise to be fulfilled.
To you, as to them, He gives Advent. Advent isn’t just longing, not just preparation – Advent is hope of a promise fulfilled, and remembering that He who kept His promise by sending the Messiah is the One who promises that He will wipe away all tears, that death and sorrow will be no more, that He is coming and will make all things new.
Advent is the sure and certain hope that the One who gave His Son as a gift to us all keeps His word; that He remains faithful and true; that He understands us in all our sorrow and hardship; He understands us in our joy and delight; He knows how to laugh and He knows how to weep. He knows fellowship with friends and He knows how to endure loneliness, the kind of deep loneliness that we can’t begin to understand.
And He knows the proper time for all of them. He not only knows the “what,” He knows the “when,” the perfect “when,” the time when the season or event or trial or blessing or joy or sorrow will accomplish exactly what He intends. There’s never an interruption, never a delay, never a little glitch, never the blue screen of death. (Of course not – God uses a Mac.)
** Sorry – couldn’t resist a little Microsoft baiting. Besides, the Linux folks are smugly saying to themselves, “we KNOW what operating system is the OS of the Throne…” **
** Wouldn’t it be funny if when we tour the IT department of Heaven, that all we see are the names Atari and Commodore? Hee hee hee… **
At the right time, God spoke to Abraham.
At the right time, God spoke to Moses.
At the right time, God introduced Ruth to Boaz.
At the right time, God raised up David.
At the right time, God spoke through Isaiah.
At the right time, John was born.
At the right time, Joseph met Mary.
In the fullness of time, God sent His Son.
So as we count down time to the holidays, as we struggle to find enough time for all the preparations we think we need, when we run out of time for last-minute shopping, when we wish for more time to spend around the tree or table, when we hope for more time with loved ones, or wish we had spent more time while they were here…
As we try to slice and dice time like a crazed Japanese steakhouse chef to make everything fit; as we stuff and cram and juggle to fit in all the celebrating with as much wild abandon as our overburdened lives will allow; as we work hours upon hours to have minutes upon minutes to spend on Christmas day…
And when we get to January 2nd and wonder where it all went…
It’s good to remember that He who sent His son has all of time in His grasp. None of it escapes or eludes Him. He gives us exactly as many days, years, hours, minutes as we need for what He has in mind. If our lives are cut short, it’s no shock to Him – they lasted as long as He intended. We react with human emotion, with dismay and sadness, but He remains in control. When a dear saint finally says goodbye, and closes their eyes here in this world, they open their eyes before Him exactly at the time He knew they would.
Perhaps this Christmas season, it would be a good thing to let our fast-paced plans go for a while, and adopt a bit of God’s view of time. To slow down, mindfully approach the season with a sense of longing, quit trying to fill every nook and cranny of the calendar and instead thin out the thundering holiday herd to have some significant time and memories for the days / months / years ahead. To have time to allow Advent to grow, to see it bloom in its arrival on Christmas, and to enjoy its beauty into the new year.
Yeah, it might make us feel like we’re missing out on things. It might drive the kids batty to see so much going on around them only to be doing less at home. Maybe comparing a meager, reduced Advent season to all the hyper-jingling-jangling-multidimensional-overstimulating-flashy-shiny-impact-of-a-bullet-train festivities we see in media will make some feel like they got robbed. Maybe you thrive on the full-impact assault that is your major holiday celebration – maybe the only way to get your jingle on is to hit it full throttle, take no prisoners, go big or go home, and wring every drop of jolly out of every day, so a reduced calorie Advent ain’t how you roll, baby.
Fair enough. It was just a suggestion.
As for me and my beloved, a quiet Christmas is a better one. A mindful Advent is the way to make sure that I’m very aware of what God did when He showed us what giving is really all about. Personal, intimate connections in this season remind us that God made the most intimate, personal contact of all – Himself. So I think I’ll follow, ever so slightly and imperfectly, His example. I want my Advent to be one of connection, of intimacy, of contact. And in that way, I can establish a pattern that can continue into the new year, walking with Him each day.
Temporis – time, condition, right time; season, occasion; necessity.
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn…”