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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Stranded in Time

Who belong to eternity, stranded in time . . . (Michael Card, Joy in the Journey)

Advent began this weekend, a season that only makes sense from the shores of this island of earth where we are moored.  Living linearly defines the mortal life, chained to gravity, orbits and rotations, cell replication and death.  From Eden onward, humans experienced time differently than God.  We can look back with memory, and look forward with hope or fear.  But we only live in one moment at a time.  Hence Advent, a time of anticipation, of waiting here in our time-stranded need.

To rescue all of creation, the Bible tells a story of the divine entry into time's shackles.  The prophets pointed towards the branch that would shoot from the decimated stump of the tree, towards the light that would shine in the darkness, towards the human Son of Man figure who would terrify the nations with a rod of iron.  After Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection the prophecies continued to look ahead towards his return.  But sometimes the timeline is murky, with the victory being a completed fact that has yet to reach every part of creation, with the battle being won but still waged. The Book of Revelations zooms in on a poetic dragon drama of Christmas right alongside a stunning vision of beasts and battles yet to come.  The dreams and images come from outside of time, from the eternity of the One who was and is and is to come, so that once inside our atmosphere the jumps of minutes, years, and millennia become difficult to differentiate.

Perhaps that is because we are to be reminded in this season of things greater than the temporal.

I put up the Advent Calendar today, and it reminded me that part of the "wonder and wildness to life" that children grasp better than we middle-aged adults is the ability to live in the moment where anything is possible.  On December 1, with the tree sparkling and stockings appearing and the first rounds of special baking, the youngest ones are not thinking of a to-do list between now and the 25th.  It struck me today that the oldest ones aren't either.  There's a certain freedom in being very young or very old, in living in the present and collapsing decades into sharp peaks of memory, in knowing that a wild possibility may arise in the next hour or the next decade or century and not being too concerned which it is.

Meanwhile I feel the melancholy of a house drained of the vibrant life of kids and guests, the days shortening and dreary with rain and chill.  Stranded in time, I look back and miss Christmas past, and look forward with a PTSD kind of pre-mourning nostalgia knowing that this West Virginia Christmas with all 4 kids (and 2 grandparents) under a roof that is ours may not happen regularly.  Advent, then, is for people like us who too easily let time become our chains.  Advent lets us peek into the huge story of God's redemption, looking back to imagine what it was like to experience prophecies fulfilled, looking ahead to imagine a time when Isaiah's words from today's reading are fully true:
    Fear not, for I am with you;
    I will bring your descendants from the east,
    And gather you from the west;
    I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
    and to the south, 'Do not keep them back!'
    Bring my sons from afar,
    And my daughters from the ends of the earth . . .
(Is 43:5-6)

Advent anticipates not only the birth of Jesus, but the time when goodbyes will be no more.  Amen.
(Here is the full song lyric from the beginning)

There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey
And all those who seek it shall find it
A pardon for all who believe
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind
To all who've been born of the Spirit
And who share incarnation with Him
Who belong to eternity stranded in time
And weary of struggling with sin
Forget not the hope that's before you
And never stop counting the cost
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost
There is a joy in the journey
There's a light we can love on the way
There is a wonder and wildness to life
And freedom for those who obey
And freedom for those who obey

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