These few weeks of Advent are packed. There’s shopping and decorating and social commitments. Ideally, it is also a time for deeper reflection, when we examine our hopes, our longings, and our deepest desire to meet the Lord who comes to us. It may take some serious effort to carve out the space that allows us to reflect and pray. It means finding the time, even a few minutes, and the quiet space that allow us to take a deeper look. Let me share a little of my Advent journey with you.
This Advent I’ve been considering time. It’s a natural theme of the season, because we remember that time when the Word was made flesh and came among us, and we recall his coming among us now in Word and Sacrament, and we look ahead to the time when he will come again with glory for us, his people. Time—past, present, and future.
I also know that for many people a reflection on time past, present, and future is not simple or easy. Elements of time carry their own burdens. The past, for example, for many people is freighted with regret, with a sense of what might have been or could have been, opportunities lost, possibilities missed, mistakes made, and sins committed. For others who have been hurt, the past burdens them with continuing pain from that time or with anger or even resentment that still simmers. The past can be difficult and, sometimes, even unmanageable.
The present can also be difficult but for different reasons. We feel pulled in a million different directions. We never feel able to be in the moment or really to be present to ourselves. In this “now,” we feel constantly distracted, pushed and pulled. And so the present, too, has its own difficulties and burdens.
The future—what can we say about the future? For many of us and for many reasons—health, finances, relationships—the future is loaded with anxiety, fear, and even dread. What will happen? How will things go? To probe the future can mean encountering a heavy burden that we would rather avoid.
Time, our time, whether past, present, or future, can tell us how broken and fragile we are. In Advent, however, something else can happen. We can enter God’s time—Christ has come, Christ is coming even now, Christ will come again. Past, present, and future. And moving into God’s time can heal us.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus, his coming among us when he was born in time of the Virgin Mary. He became one with us in all things but sin. And so, he took on himself all of that wounded past that we carry within ourselves to heal it, redeem it, and transform it.
We celebrate his presence among us now, especially in Word and Sacrament. Even as we are stretched in many different directions, we find in him and in his time now with us a sure center, a stable point that we know will lead us home.
We celebrate and anticipate his coming again in glory. In that time that belongs to him and to our future, our difficult and anxious future finds healing. We know that everything is in his hand and that he draws all things and all people to himself.
Past, present, and future—our time and God’s time—come together in this Advent season. So, in this season, hold your time in God’s time. In his birth, in his presence now among us, and in his coming again in glory, find your healing.