Archive for December, 2013

(re)Imagine Time

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2013 by yhcreligiouslife

clockIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us . . . .

John 1:1, 14a

Like most religious traditions, Christianity follows an additional calendar, one that coincides with the secular calendar, occasionally crossing over that secular calendar and often wandering far from it.  This week, the Christian calendar finds itself somewhat divergent, preempting the secular one.  Yesterday, the Christian church began a New Year.

Welcoming the New Year, Advent is this season of the Christian year that begins a religious journey, a journey marked by reflection and expectation—reflection for what God has done and expectation for what God might have us to do.  With so much energy of this season dedicated to arranging manger scenes, singing songs about the birth of a baby, and the exchange of gifts that echo the giving of gifts at a birth or on a birthday, it is easy to forget that this religious season that is almost upon us is not so much about a little boy born in a hay-bedecked cradle.

The story of Christmas is not about nativity.  Rather, it is about incarnation.  Moreover, the beginning of the Christian year starts with Advent not as a reminder that time passes but as a reminder of the possibility in all time, that time is “pregnant” with potential.

The idea that the Creator of the cosmos is also the one resting among the creatures of a barn is a lot around which to wrap our minds.  In the above opening to his gospel, the writer of John tries to open us up to this possibility through both the words and the literary structure used at the beginning of his text.  Juxtaposing light and darkness, story and song, the mundane and the mysterious, the gospel writer is preparing the reader to be open to the paradoxical possibility that the impossible just might be possible, that the God “out there” might be found “among us.”  And, if this paradox proves to be the case, the writer implies, then all sorts of unexpected possibilities are before us, including the healing of the sick, the empowering of the powerless, the embracing of our valued physicality, and the injection of new life in a world weakened by all sorts of death.

One of the most significant expectation alterations this season of the year requires is a re-calibrating how we understand time.  Throughout the New Testament, a tension builds in the writing, contrasting the notion of the passage of time with the notion of an appropriate time.  The first notion of time marks time’s movement.  The second notion of time speaks of time’s potential.  The first is flat and constant.  The second is vertical and dynamic.  Routinely, the disciples and the other bystanders assume that this first sort of time defines what God is doing, assuming that God is shaping the present toward the future.  However, Jesus and later the apostles assume an existence of that second sort of time, moments defined not by God’s shaping the future but by God’s creative presence rendering possible previously unimagined potentialities.

God’s possibilities in defiance of our anticipated impossibilities are the essence of the incarnation and a radical reordering of our experiential claims and those claims’ assumptions and derivative logic.  This reordering is the message and the continuing mystery of this season of the church year just begun, an enduring mystery we will celebrate this week in at a special Christmas vespers service and on Sunday with a new service of lessons and carols.

For now, enjoy this ancient songwriter’s lovely attempt to grapple with the incarnation:

“Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

by Aurelius C. Prudentius

Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the Source, the Ending He,

Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.

O ye heights of heaven, adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him
And extol our God and King.

Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.

Christ, to Thee, with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And unending praises be,
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.