Pastor John Roberts
Does Anybody Really Care About Time?
Happy New Year!
This is the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of a new Church
Year. The first Sunday we use a new
lectionary listening to Gospel readings from Luke’s Gospel.
So, one would think that we would begin by reading from the first chapter
of Luke; but instead we begin in the 21st chapter with what is often
called the “little apocalypse,” the series of warnings Jesus gives to the
disciples as they stand in the shadow of the great Temple in Jerusalem. It seems, therefore, that we have done
something strange with the concept of time. And that’s just what Advent is all
about: a strange re-ordering of time.
If you are as old as I am, or if you like the music of the
1960s, you may remember the words of a song sung by
Does anybody really know what
time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why
We’ve all got time enough to
Advent asks us to think about the question, “What time is
it? What time is it in the life of
our nation; our neighborhood; our congregation? What time is it in your life? Do you really know?
Do you really care? While
the English language has one word for the concept of time, Greek, the language
of the New Testament, has two:
chronos, from which we get the word chronological; and kairos, meaning a
distinct time, a special time, a significant time we will always remember.
When I used to wear a watch, I always preferred to wear one of
the old-fashioned watches where two hands moved around the face of the watch;
never a digital one. If I wanted
to know what time it was, I wanted to watch time continue to move forward and
look at where it had been as well. Many people today tell time by looking at
their cellphones. Time, for most
of us has become a series of fleeting moments where nothing really matters and,
therefore; moments for which we never really
The First Reading and the Gospel Reading for today have a lot in
common. Both Jeremiah and Jesus
are reflecting on the Temple with their disciples.
In Jeremiah’s case, the original Temple which Solomon had built had just
been demolished. The people of
Israel had seen the Babylonians tear it down, desecrating not only the place
where they worshipped God but a place which was the very heart of their
nation. (Think of how you felt
when the World Trade Center came down.)
Luke’s listeners had also known the destruction of the Temple; this time
the Second Temple, built by Horrible Herod with Roman money, but it was still
the symbol of who they were, a nation dedicated to One God.
At first glance, Jeremiah’s words sound like Gospel, Good
News. And Jesus’ words sound like
a prophecy of doom.
Does anybody really know what time it is? Isn’t it supposed to be the
other way around? Jeremiah tells
his disciples that the promises of God will be fulfilled. The days are surely
coming and at that time, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in
safety. We think we know what that
means. We hear these words centuries later and interpret them to mean that
Jesus, the Righteous Branch of David, is the One who brings justice and
righteousness to the people of God. But think for a moment like those Jews in
exile. The only way they could
interpret Jeremiah’s promises was to believe that somehow a political miracle
would happen. Maybe the two powers
of the world they knew –Babylonia and Egypt – would knock each other out and
leave them standing alone in peace and security. That’s quite a miracle Jeremiah was
asking them to believe. Israel had
been cut off; leaving it like the stump of a tree of history and they were to
believe that a living branch would grow out of that to become a new
Maybe we will find a better look in the other tree spoken of
today – the parable of the fig tree Jesus tells in the Gospel.
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;” Jesus says, “as soon as they sprout
leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.” But then Jesus connects the sprouting
trees to the signs he spoke about earlier. Sun, moon, stars, earth, seas and waves
all in distress along with people fainting and foreboding what is coming upon
the world. “Be on your guard,” he
tells the disciples and us, “don’t weigh down your hearts with dissipation and
drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly,
like a trap.” “Be alert at
all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these
things.” Sounds like quite a
warning. Maybe we need to think
about December 21st as it approaches. Maybe the Mayan calendar is
right. Maybe the end of the
Oh, stop it! This is Jesus we’re thinking about. His words are
Gospel, Good News. Jesus isn’t
asking us to worry about the calendar, Roman or Mayan. Jesus tells us in the
middle of today’s Gospel, “Stand up and raise your heads, because your
redemption is drawing near.” Jesus
would have us remember today another tree: the tree upon which he died, the tree
of salvation. Upon the tree of the
Cross, Jesus obtained our salvation.
On that tree, our sins are forgiven and life, for us, will always be life
lived in grace and light and love.
Jesus asks us to live in a series of KAIROS
moments. That’s what Advent is
about. These are not just four
weeks of quaint, syrupy anticipation for the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem. This
is about today! Living today’s
moments surrounded by fears that our nation will fall off the fiscal cliff and
that countries like Iran are determined to bring war and destruction again to
Israel; but living in the knowledge that our
redemption is touchable; that we, like Jeremiah’s Judah, have
justice, righteousness, salvation and safety in our very
In this Advent of 2012, stand and raise up your heads to see the
Son of Man coming in power and great glory into
your life. This Advent, see
that time is not the tragedies of the past or the worries of the future but the
powerful present where trees grow out of stumps and figs and flowers and fruits
of all kinds are gifts from a God who cares about
Advent is when Kairos and Chronos come together; when the past
triumphs of Jesus the Risen One and the future Reign of the heavenly Christ are
present in your life today – each day.
So don’t allow yourself to simply live these days of Advent as though
nothing good will happen until we gather around another tree to unwrap gifts
that were placed there after weeks of worrying if those very same gifts were the
right gift for the right person.
Live today and tomorrow with the confidence of a Child of the Child of
Bethlehem and give yourself as a gift to the world.
Look for those opportunities to touch the lives of a hurting world with
the gentle grace of the Prince of Peace.
Seek out LSSI or Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem or Care for Real
or the Salvation Army bucket and give a gift out of your knowledge that Jesus,
the Child of Bethlehem is also your Risen Savior and constant companion. Live each Advent day, opening up your
life as if you were opening doors on an Advent calendar to see the Light of
Christ shining amid the darkness.
Live each day of Advent with the confidence of promises fulfilled. Live out your Advent looking not for
signs of doom and worry but for opportunities to bring your gifts to God’s
people in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your
congregation, and in your world.
Advent challenges us to take the time to know the power and strength of
the Son of Man and to shine Christ’s light through our lives to put out the
darkness. St. Ambrose of
Milan (whose day we remember this week) wrote this beautiful hymn in the second
century which Martin Luther put to music:
Savior of the nations, come;
Virgin’s son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heaven and earth;
God has chosen such a birth!
Not by human flesh and blood
But the mystic Breath of God,
Was the Word of God made flesh,
Fruit of woman, blossom fresh
Now your manger, shining bright
Hallows night with newborn light.
Night cannot this light subdue;
Let our faith shine ever new.