One week ’til Christmas. Are we excited, like children, filled with anticipation? Or panicking about all that is still undone? As we get older, a week is a smaller and smaller proportion of our lives. Our sense of time changes- not just how we use it, but also how we understand ourselves in the context of the whole. Where do we locate ourselves on the timeline- of our lives and of history?
Our words mirror our ambivalence about time. We spend it. We fill it. We kill it. (Unless you have a friend challenging you to discontinue using violent words in ordinary speech.) Time goes by. Marches on. Wasting time. Making time. Doing time. In our present moment, we get stuck between anticipating/dreading the future and dwelling in the past- our main (and faulty) source of prediction.
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord…. Jeremiah 23:5-8
We need something to look forward to. A wise leader who will do what is just and right in the land. Relief from suffering, rest from our labors, joy and celebration. A prophet’s timeline extends beyond their own finite existence, envisioning a future that they will not taste, recalling a past before their lifetime.
Advent reminds us that the future we anticipate is being birthed among us now. That the past is wound up in our present. That we are part of a story that began long before us and whose fulfillment is yet to be revealed.
I think about Joseph’s sense of time- before a wedding that won’t be quite how it was planned, counting the months from a story of conception to a birth far from home. “Don’t be afraid,” says the angel, to proceed with a marriage that will look nothing like you expected. (Mt.1:18-24)
What is time to an engaged couple? How does a pregnant woman count a week? If you have fled your country, do you know a time that is safe to return? When someone you love is suffering, and you have sent a message to Jesus, what happens in that time? If you are in prison, writing letters like Paul, how do you understand your time?
I am running out of time. (Aren’t we all?) To complete everything on my list. A week seems impossible. Because when I am focused too narrowly, I lose perspective. I need a broader vision. Of the past, the present, and the future all intertwined. Here I am, at this point in time- an opportunity that will never exist again. How will I live this time?
We watch, We wait, (We look, We long) as Jim Croegaert sings.
In Advent, we anticipate.
But as Brian Courtney Wilson sings, we also recognize, Lord, that you are Already Here. May our understanding of time expand beyond our narrow view. May we glimpse our place in the story. May we too say yes, in our time.