The fullness of time is right now, and God is here, with you – follow Simeon and Anna and see!
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The First Sunday of Christmas, year B
Texts: Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:21-40
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We’re almost done with it. 2020 is nearly finished.
It’s been a year most would rather forget. But I saw a headline in a newspaper online that said, “What makes you think 2021 will be any better?” I didn’t have the heart to read the article. Still, 2020 is nearly finished, and it’s time, most of us think. Well past time. New hope, new realities, are possible, we dream, in this new time.
Paul says today that “in the fullness of time” God sent the Son, born of Mary. That moment, that year, month, day, hour, second, was the right time for Jesus, the Son of God, to be born.
Or, maybe that’s not what Paul’s saying at all.
Because we count time in a line, we sometimes think all things operate that way.
There is past, there is present, there is future. Jesus’ birth, God’s coming, is in the “past,” we say. We take great pains to locate that arrival in our time line. The ancient proclamation of the birth of Christ, sung every Christmas around the world, and also at Mount Olive, gives a number of links to our line of time. Dating from creation, from Noah’s flood, from Abraham and Sarah, tied to the year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, and to the years of the Greek Olympiad, the proclamation places Jesus in our history. On that date, we joyfully proclaim, God was made flesh in Jesus.
But don’t forget: God’s time is outside our time, above and beyond all timelines. So maybe the fullness of time Paul’s talking about means more than we thought, more than just that moment 2,000 years go.
If all times are in God, and God is above and beyond all times, then it’s always potentially the fullness of time.
In fact, it’s God’s coming into our time that fills it. The eternal and Triune God enters our time whenever God so chooses, and fills the space with God’s presence. All the saints of the past who met God, saw God, heard God, and followed faithfully, were in the fullness of God’s time.
Coming in Jesus was a focal point of universal history, to be sure. God in our flesh, in person, Jesus shows us the face of the Trinity. But God had been building up to coming in person for centuries, touching people with God’s Spirit. And after Christ Jesus was crucified and rose, and ascended into heaven, the Triune God, through the Holy Spirit, has kept on coming to God’s people, showing them the light of God, calling them to a path of love and blessing, being Incarnate in many now.
Everywhere Christ is now, there is the fullness of time for God. Even today, as we near the end of 2020.
Simeon and Anna were blessed to see God’s fullness in their time.
Simeon was a faithful servant of God, “righteous and devout,” Luke says, and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit once told him that he wouldn’t die before seeing God’s anointed. He listened to the Spirit throughout his life, and when he was told “it’s today!” he went to the Temple and saw God’s fullness.
Anna was also a faithful servant of God, a prophet, Luke says. She lived as a widow for decades, maybe 60 years, after her husband’s death. She spent every day of those five or six decades in the Temple. And because she was there, when Joseph and Mary came with Jesus she also saw God-with-us, and rejoiced.
These two aged saints wonderfully show you different ways to be in God’s fullness of time and see God.
Simeon says it’s worth listening to the Holy Spirit when she plants a seed of hope in you that God is coming to bring life and healing. Whether or not 2021 is better than 2020, if God’s Spirit gives you any promise, listen like Simeon. And then keep your eyes and ears open. When the Spirit nudges you, says, “look, over there, there God is,” you want to be ready to see, like Simeon.
Anna’s even more helpfully a model. We know of no promise from God’s Spirit to her. But she spent her days in God’s presence, in prayer, in fasting. She went to the Temple every day, expecting God would be there. And because she faithfully walked with God her whole life, she was there to see God’s Son. Imagine that life for you: every day putting yourself into the mindset, opening your heart to the possibility that God might fill that day for you with healing and hope. Stay joined to God and you will, like Anna, see God’s fullness.
Now, right now, is the fullness of time. Because God is here.
It may take patience and keen eyes and ears to see, but Simeon says you can do that. It may take years of practicing being in God’s presence quietly and listening to God, but Anna says you can do that.
God has come to this world, joined our time, and filled it with grace. So even if the world ends up just as hard next year as it was this year, in you, in me, in so many of God’s children, God’s grace will fill the earth and bring joy.
Because it’s the right time for it.
In the name of Jesus. Amen