Where does the time go? It’s Advent again. And many of us, along with every kid we know, have started our countdown to Christmas… so much to do… so little time to do it. But before we get stampeded into the run-up to Christmas, lets spend some time thinking about time… not from the cosmic perspective of Einstein or Hawking… but from our less elevated view as consumers of time… and from God’s vantage as the Creator of time.
The early Greek texts of the gospels have two words: Chronos and Kairos that we translate into the single English word: Time. As we countdown to Christmas we measure it in Chronos… clock time: seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks. But what we are counting down to is Kairos… God’s time, the coming of his kingdom, the eternal time of Emanuel… the time of God with us… now and forever.
And so, as we enter Advent, the challenge before us is: How will our Chronos advance God’s Kairos? How will we spend our time to bring about God’s time… in this Advent, this Christmas and beyond? This isn’t an academic word game. It’s nothing less than the reason for Creation and our place in it.
When I find myself faced with a really big question like this, I’m reminded of the old adage: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. This Sunday, as we start down the road of another Church year. And rather than wandering off in any direction, we are given very stark notice of exactly where to go and what to do.
Ahead of us lies the Nativity… giving birth to the gospel accounts of Christ’s life on earth… the miracles and parables, the Sermon on the Mount, the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension. But before any of that, we are given this preview of the end-game. We know where the road leads before we take the first step.
If the theme feels familiar, it is Luke’s version of much the same apocalyptic ground we covered recently in Mark’s gospel. The message is clearly important enough for the Church to place these scriptural signposts at the start and finish of the liturgical year. Life and death for you and me and everyone who ever was and ever will be is surely worth this second look.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lived constantly under the threat of martyrdom, offers us this perspective: “It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.” And so, in the class room, in the pulpit and finally from a prison cell, he spent his Chronos building God’s Kairos. He built God’s kingdom until his work was interrupted by the hangman, eleven days before his prison was liberated. From his writings we have the portrait of a man who loved this life, cherished his family, and had so much more to give. And yet he put it all on the line and walked right back into harm’s way… because it was the right way. When he speaks of life and death and judgment, those are not academic musings. The author of The Cost of Discipleship knew intimately the price of facing up to evil. He did not run gladly to martyrdom. But he did not run from it.
In the final days of World War II, his fellow inmates were all fiercely obsessed with survival… with getting out alive. Bonhoeffer knew that come what may, he was getting out alive. He lived in Christ. And his executioners could never take that life away from him. And so it goes with all who have died to sin and live in Christ. We don’t go skipping blithely to earthly mortality. But we know our Redeemer liveth. He has conquered death and guarantees eternal life to those who love and serve the Lord. When our time here is interrupted, whether in a raging apocalypse, or in a quiet hospital room, by living in the love of Christ, we can be confident that, like Bonhoeffer, we’ll be getting out alive… leaving our time to live in God’s time… the time of time without end.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
Image: “Astronomical Clock (8341899828)” by Steve Collis from Melbourne, Australia – Astronomical ClockUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons