When I begin seeing the leaves turn, when I smell the turkey roasting in the oven, when the familiar Christmas jingles start playing on every commercial – I know it’s time. My calendar still reads November, which makes it hard to believe that invitations to Christmas parties are already showing up in my Inbox. But Christmas intrudes into our present like an old friend, who reliably shows up time and again with the promise of something new.
How do you experience time? I know someone who feels time is an enemy. She’s constantly running out of time. Often, life feels frantic and out-of-control for her. She’s always saying, “So much to do; so little time!”
On the other hand, another friend strives to be on time in every aspect of life, so much so that he’s mastered every gimmick and gadget to control time.
And yet, time is beyond our control, isn’t it? I hear Pete Seeger’s old tune rattling in my head –
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose under heaven.
Seeger taps in to the wisdom of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, a book we can all identify with, as a control freak who attempts to manage life through perfectly ordered time, relationships, work, sex, and even religion is invited to relinquish control, and relax into God’s rhythms. If only it could be that easy.
Knowing the inevitably of time’s endless rhythm, a few wise old souls many, many years ago decided to order time in a certain discernable pattern, a pattern that echoed the even more ancient Jewish cycles of worship and prayer, but markedly different. The Christian calendar would become a way of ordering time centering on the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And its rhythm would hold the very real potential of ordering our lives around His Story, so much so that we might be able to relinquish our need to somehow control time, or relax our fear of running out of time.
What if your story was somehow ordered by a larger Story? What if you could relinquish the frantic need to master time, and relax into a more sacred rhythm? What if this season of Advent could mark a renewal in your life, a renewal of your time?
This week, the Christian calendar begins with the Season of Advent, the beginning of our Christian calendar year. We begin our year by laying down the many futile ways in which we mark and master time. Interestingly, the wise men and women who arranged this Christian calendar begin Advent with biblical texts about the Second Coming of Jesus like:
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” – Luke 21:27-28
It’s fitting, if you think of it. Exhausted by our need to master time (particularly at this busy time of year), we’re reminded that we need a Rescuer, a Savior who will set all things right, restoring and re-ordering a disordered world and our disordered souls. In Advent, we anticipate and long for God to renew our lives. That’s good news – the good news.
And during Advent, we’re invited to relax into His arms, His timing, His plans for us. Indeed, Advent is an invitation to re-union with God. You see, when we relinquish our need to master time, we can relax, enjoying intimacy and real presence with God. It’s hard to be present when you’re imprisoned by the past or riddled with anxiety about the future. In the midst of our daily trials, we can say, “Come Lord Jesus. I need you now…”
And so, begin your year anew today. Enter the sacred Story. Participate in its ancient rhythms. Experience how it can re-shape your own Story and re-purpose your life. You may need to sacrifice a few things along the way, including some of the time-sucking activities that steal your joy, or that time-conquering mindset that only ends up frustrating you.
But as we’ll learn throughout Advent – just wait. Wait, even amidst the disappointments that steal your joy. Wait and see the newness, the life, and the freedom that emerges when life is lived in God’s sacred rhythm. Wait and long for the coming Messiah at Christmas, when we’re all re-awakened to that wondrous reality of God’s profound condescension. Wait – and don’t rush – through this season so full of busyness, but so pregnant with purpose and joy.
This Advent, wait on God. Or, as the great J.R.R. Tolkein says:
Do not spoil the wonder with haste!