Galatians 4:3-4 Before Christ came, we were like children . . . But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman . . .
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about these verses, and about how confusing time is. I know, I used this text on November 28, but here I am again. I like the expression used in some older translations, “the fullness of time.” The phrase carries for me the idea of ripening; of waiting until a fruit is at exactly the perfect texture and sweetness before cutting into it. Perhaps we can’t get that moment precisely right, though with experience, we may come close. In his wisdom, though, God knew the right moment for Jesus to be born—even though people had been waiting for that moment for thousands of years.
In Advent, we consciously anticipate the right moment for Jesus to come again. We’ve been waiting for such a long time. Has God forgotten his promise? Will he come, and set the world right? When will the “fullness of time” be completed before the creation of the new heaven and the new earth?
As I tried in vain to get back to sleep, I felt like Caleb, who when his mom leaves him to go to work has no way yet to measure how long it will be before she comes back to him, or before his dad comes to pick him up and take him home. Caleb’s joy when either of those events happen is commensurate with his distress when they leave—although he knows me, and his Aunt Rachel, well enough to let us help him fill the time happily until they return.
Karis and I used to talk about how uncomfortable time can be. She experienced “hospital time” as completely different from “home time.” In the hospital, despite our best efforts, time seemed interminable. At home, there weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all that she wanted to do. And then, without warning, everything would fall apart, and there would be a rush back to the hospital, minutes and hours filled with intensity as she was stabilized from the current crisis was. And then once more the s l o w n e s s of hospital time as she waited for her body to heal enough that she could go home again . . . for an unpredictable amount of time before the next crash.
At the beginning of Advent, it seemed we had so much time spread out before us, time to meditate on Jesus’ first coming and to anticipate his second coming. Now, suddenly, it’s almost over. My Advent wreath doesn’t look like it’s almost over—only three of the five candles are lit.
But tomorrow we’ll light the fourth, and just two days later, the fifth. It feels like the fourth week of Advent has been shortchanged. Like a life that is cut short sooner than we think it should have been. But hurrah—Tuesday is only the first day of Christmas!
“Time is the very lens through which ye see–small and clear, as men see through the wrong end of a telescope–something that would otherwise be too big for ye to see at all.” (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)