By The Rev. Sherry Deets
1 Advent – December 1, 2013
And so we begin the church Season of Advent today. Advent is considered a time of waiting: expectant waiting. Waiting with anticipation for something new, something different, new life. Much like a woman waiting to give birth – think of Mary, pregnant with Jesus – a time of waiting for new life.
We don’t usually have baptisms in the Season of Advent, but this Sunday the lessons deal with the idea of knowing of what time it is. And this Sunday we will welcome Michael Anthony into new life, the Sacrament of new birth. It is a time of recognizing that Christ is very present with us in the here and now. Michael will be marked as Christ’s own, forever.
So, all of our lessons this morning deal with the idea of knowing what time it is. The prophet Isaiah, in our first lesson, points to future time; begins with the phrase “in the days to come.” And he goes on to give a glowing description of a future utopia-a time when war will be no more. No more terrorists, no more death; a time when swords will be beat into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks.
In our epistle lesson Paul, too, reminds us of what time it is; he gives us our second wake up call. The night is far gone, he says, and the day dawns.
Even in the gospel lesson, Jesus warns his followers to “keep awake” since they were in the dark concerning when he would return.” But about that day and hour no one knows,” Jesus says, “neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Paul says to us, “you know what time it is . . .” We do?? Of course we do, Paul. We know what time it is alright. Time is this thing that is sliced into twenty-four equal pieces and repeated endlessly every moment of our lives from the second we’re born until the last breath we expel. We have wristwatches and alarm clocks. Factories manufacture five hundred million timepieces each year. In this country alone we buy three hundred thousand of them each day in brilliant colors with creative faces.
But this is not the kind of time that Paul wants us to be aware of. All of this time that we know so well is chronos time. Chronos time is wristwatch and alarm clock time. Chronos is the time in which we live most of our lives. Chronos times are these buckets of time that we pack with feverish activity in our planners and time management systems. The kind of time that we feel guilty when we’re not doing something. It’s the time we try to slow down, yet fall hopelessly behind.
But there is another time called kairos. This is a time not measured by a metronome, nor can it be plotted in nanoseconds. Kairos is the time Paul refers to in Romans 13. Kairos is real time that reaches beyond time. It’s God’s time. Kairos are those moments when God breaks through our Timex lives with his joy and presence. It’s that time which we usually do not recognize while we are experiencing it, but only afterwards we become aware that we have been for just a moment in God’s heavenly time zone.
Kairos is being time, never wasted time. When we take moments to reflect on our lives and on Christ’s coming, we are not only collaborating with chronological time, but we are touching on kairos; we move beyond the normal restrictions of time to God’s time.
Paul says that we are kairos people, people who walk according to God’s schedule. No wonder he knuckle-knocks on the door of our church. Some of us have fallen asleep! Paul throws in quick succession on the screens of our minds images of someone being roused from deep sleep. Of the night and the dawning day with new hope and justice. He throws up the image of light versus darkness, our worst and best locked in combat. He says it’s time to wake up. The night is far spent, the dawning of a new day is near. Don’t waste time, he scolds. Don’t abuse your life or the lives of others. Don’t quarrel and don’t get jealous.
We’ve been so wrapped up in our chronos-jamming more and more activities into briefer packets of time–that we’ve forgotten what time it really is. We haven’t adjusted our watches to God’s clock! Maybe some of us have become too comfortable with our Christianity and have dozed off before the crackling fire in the hearth.
The Advent season allows us to become aware of what time it is. Advent means that we live in chronos time but conduct our lives as if in kairos time. We wait for Christ to return. Even now God’s glorious kairos spills back into our present so that we can actually live now in conformity with God future.
In the play, Our Town, Emily who has died in childbirth wishes to return home to relive just a day. The stage manager grants her request and she goes back to her hometown. But she operates on purely kairos standard time. She sees, as no one else among the living can, incredible beauty in ordinary things. Yet she grieves that no one is aware of these wonderful moments in life. She cries out to her mother, “Mama, just look at me one minute as though you really saw me . . . it goes so fast we don’t have time to look at one another.” And then she goes back to the graveyard and to the quiet company of the others lying there and asks the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” And he sighs and says, ” No, except maybe the saints and poets. They do some.
What time is it? It’s time to let God break into our lives with his son.
Jesus, the Son of man and the Son of God, whose coming birth we anticipate, has promised to come always to be both with us and for us. Lord Christ, help us to be aware, to stay awake and to truly see you in our midst. Amen.
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