Friday, November 27, 2009

Marking Time

What time is it? we sometimes ask. The question is asked as though there were a standard, uniform reply expected. But if you’ve traveled very much in the world, you know that there’s not. In most places outside the USA, time is told according to a 24-hour clock. “It’s 14:21,” you’re likely to be told anywhere in the world but here. Here we say, “It’s 2:21 p.m.”

The same is true when you ask the question in the larger sense, not clock-time, but calendar-time. Not everyone’s calendar begins in January and ends in December. Know anyone who celebrates the Chinese New Year or Rosh Ha’Shana? We don’t all “mark time” the same way, do we?

Ask a Christian that question and if s/he knows “what time it is” (alas, not all do, but that's another blog), you’ll not get “clock-time” or “calendar-time;” you’ll get “Gospel-time.” Since the earliest church, Christians believed that, with the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, time as we had known it had come to an end. A new world called “the Kingdom of God” had broken in and broken through signaling the “beginning of the End.” The word Christians gave to that “coming” was Advent, Latin for the “coming” of Christ into the world as Bethlehem’s Babe, effectively bringing an end to the world as it had been.

But the birth of Christ was just the beginning of the End, not the end of the End. The end of the End will take place, Christians believe, at Christ’s Second Advent, or “Second Coming,” as it is sometimes called.

And so we live between the Coming of Christ and the Coming of Christ. And in between we live as though the End has already happened, at least the beginning of the End. That’s how Christians “tell time.” Each year in the church we “mark time” by remembering Christ’s first Advent and hoping for and anticipating His Second Advent. That’s why in the church the new year starts not on January 1, but on the first Sunday of Advent. It’s our way of reminding ourselves, and announcing to the world, that that’s how we Christians “mark time.”


Whitney Lonker said...

Dr. Stacy! Whitney Lonker here from Jacksonville! I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I am to have found you & your teachings on your blog! Thank you for posting and for still leading me in my walk...even all the way from NC! I look forward to the next post, and I'll "mark my time" until then...

thank you!

Whitney Lonker

R. Wayne Stacy said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Whitney. Good to hear from you. RWS