What time is it?

What time is it?

It is 6:11 p.m., November 17, 2009. Tonight I am supposed to write a newsletter article for December, focusing on the advent season, but it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet, and it’s hard to get in the mood. Next week the time will come, though, when we will have worked our way through the endless varieties of turkey leftovers, and the congregation will then spend the next four Sundays after Thanksgiving dutifully concentrating on the advent wreath and waiting for the Lord’s coming…a quiet time.

Meanwhile, everything outside the church doors will be yelling, “Christmas is here; it’s Christmas time! Shop ‘till you drop!” I, as the good Lutheran pastor, will dutifully remind the congregation that advent time is about waiting expectantly for Messiah to come again. What a scrooge a pastor is: no red bows or Christmas lights until Christmas eve. Advent notwithstanding, the congregation sneaks off Sunday afternoons for time to shop, and I sneak off behind my office doors, close them to the strains of “Light one candle to watch for Messiah,” and plow full force into the Bethlehem story and carols of Christ’s birth. After all, there are Christmas eve bulletins and sermon deadlines approaching. There are empty spaces under our Christmas trees in our living rooms, and we must always plan ahead. Sadly, by the time Christmas eve finally arrives and the lights of the trees and candles glow on people’s faces, the world outside is long bored with it all; even I will have already stepped around the bend in planning for the new year.

So what time is it?

It is God’s time, that’s what time it is. It’s always God’s time, and in liturgical congregations like ours we stubbornly take our time to tell the story of Jesus, which includes the fact that he is coming back again and that we are waiting for more because God isn’t finished with us yet. We leave those plans and the season’s frenzy at the doors of the sanctuary like extra baggage. We step into that place of worship and take a deep breath. Here there is space for advent time, just so we and our children can know the whole gospel story: that Christ is coming again. Here we remember how much we long to see him, not as a baby, but as the one who has given birth to our life. Call it silly. Call it scrooge. Call it counter-cultural. We’ll laugh at our closed office doors and our sneaking into department stores. But at least when we are together in worship around the advent scriptures and the communion meal, we have the time, the precious, holy time to tell the whole story to the world.

What time is it? God’s time. Take a deep breath and tell the story.

Comments

  1. “Come, thou long expected Jesus,
    born to set thy people free;
    from our fears and sins release us,
    let us find our rest in thee.”

  2. A great hymn to include. One of the very good things about our new hymnal are that there are plenty of good advent hymns to sing so we don’t have to open the Christmas carol drawer too soon. “Come, thou long expected” is one we will be singing.