The only time we have to live is right now, in this present moment, where God comes and fills the time with grace and love; so will we be kind, will we love, will we be Christ, today, right now?
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The First Sunday of Christmas, year B
Texts: Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:21-40
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
It’s December 31st, Two thousand seventeen. What direction are you looking?
Are you looking to the past today? It’s the day to do it. Websites, news organizations, magazines, everyone does their lists this time of year. The best and the worst of 2017 are chronicled and numbered for our entertainment, and sometimes our depression.
But are you also doing a list for 2017? Regrets, loesses, bad decisions? Remembrance of loved ones? Joys, love found, moments of happiness?
It’s December 31st, Two thousand seventeen. Are you looking forward?
That’s usually tomorrow’s job, January 1st. Are you joining millions of others making resolutions for 2018, plans for being a different person this time? Are you looking forward with dread over impending personal crises or what might happen in the world?
Or are you looking forward in hope? Are there things planned you can’t wait for, coming events that will bring you joy?
Time is tricky.
We think we live time in one direction, past to present to future. But often we get trapped outside of our present moment. We linger on the past, or dwell on the future, and don’t live in our present. So on this arbitrary day that someone decided ended our 365 day trip around the sun, we’re either focused backward or forward. But it’s often how we live our whole lives.
What if we learned to really live in the present?
In the fullness of time, Paul says, God was born among us.
Actually, Paul says “When the fullness of time had come,” so he’s saying the birth of Jesus happened at just the right time in world history, when everything was ready, at exactly the right moment for God’s Incarnation among us.
But maybe there’s more we can see here. Maybe “the fullness of time” isn’t just a question of a moment in history.
What if Paul is saying that God fills time by coming? That is, the timeless God from before even the birth of the universe enters our time, our history, in this moment, and fills it with God?
Time itself would be transformed. There’d be no past, no future, there’d just be now, filled with God.
We know a little about this, because we find that fullness here.
There is a mystery about our worship here. Externally, there’s a certain amount of time it takes. We rarely finish Eucharist before one hour and fifteen minutes. This is longer than a lot of other Christians, and some wonder why we do this.
Because: when we’re in here we lose track of time. That is, we lose track of the chronology of time. In this place, we live in time that is filled with God, and we don’t perceive how the clock is running. We don’t check our watches, we don’t drum our fingers on the pews. (Well, maybe once in a while some of us do; we’re human.)
But in this place when we worship, we are here. We’re not living in the past. We’re not living in the future. In this moment we are simply here.
In this place, for this time, we are filled with God. It is the fullness of time here. It is all the time we need. It is outside of chronological time. And in this space, opened up by God in our midst, we meet God’s fullness. God is born among us. We receive God Incarnate in Word and Meal, in each other, in prayer and song. We are filled.
But if God comes to us in the fullness of time here, could we experience this outside of these walls, too? Simeon must have.
Simeon lived with a promise that transformed every moment of his life.
However old he was when he heard it, he lived confident that he would not die until he saw God’s Messiah.
Think of that. Every day might be the day. For however many years, however many decades, this day might be the one. Every day he’d look into each face, treat everyone with grace and compassion because, who knows, this could be the Messiah.
Imagine what a full life that would be for us!
Every day you get up with joy, because this could be the day. Every person you see, you love and respect, because this could be the one. Every moment you are aware of who you are, where you are, what you are, because you don’t want to miss the coming of God’s Christ in the world.
There’s no time to regret the past. No time to worry about the future. Just the joy of being in a world where God is coming to bring life and love, and knowing you’ve been promised to see that coming.
What do we miss when we don’t live such a life?
If we spend our days living in the past, dwelling on past losses or victories, fretting about past actions or missed opportunities, what are we missing in the fullness of the moment we actually are living in?
If we spend our days anxious about what is to come, or anticipating a good thing, or wishing we could become someone we aren’t, what are we missing in the fullness of the moment we are actually living in?
If we spend our days in a present that isn’t really present, distracted by entertainment or news or whatever else we’re chasing, what are we missing in the fullness of the moment we are actually living in?
And not just what. Who are we missing? Who are we not listening to, or loving, or being kind to, or simply being with, when we’re not “here” in our present? Are we missing Christ?
It’s December 31st, Two thousand seventeen. Today, right now, is the fullness of time.
And we are promised what Simeon was, that we will see God-with-us.
Today, right now, this is the day that the Lord has made. In this moment, in this fullness of time, God is here, blessing us with hope and life and light.
The past can teach. We learn from mistakes, remember loved ones, recall graces. But we can’t live there. The future can direct. We hope for good, plan to grow and change, look forward to what God is doing. We can’t live there, either.
But we can be Simeon today, right now, and watch every moment for Christ’s coming. We can be love right now. We can show compassion and do kindness, right now. We can look in every face for the face of God’s Christ, right now.
Today, in the fullness of time, is all the time we know we have. And here, filled with God, right now, is the only time we can really know what it is to live.
In the name of Jesus. Amen