Tuesday, December 6, 2005

THE ACCEPTABLE TIME

Did the Incarnation make time stand still? Scientifically, surely not. Philosophically, it's debatable. But from the perspective of faith, I like to imagine the universe itself sighing in unison at the moment of Jesus’ birth (Greg Martin's artwork seems to depict something more fantastic occurring!). But at the very least, the advent of Jesus opened a new dimension of time.

CHRONOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE. In the march of historic events and markings of day upon day, age upon age, the birth of one Jesus of Nazareth is notable in annals measuring chronological significance to humanity. Chronologically, the Incarnation is considered significant enough to divide time for much of humanity. Ever after, events would be considered as occurring so many years “before Christ” or “anno domini” (“in the year of our Lord”). But this is not the most significant impact of the Incarnation upon time.

A NEW DIMENSION IN TIME. The new dimension in time opened in the Incarnation is not measured in days or years or centuries. It is measured in depth, in quality, in opportunity; it is marked in terms of hope, love, faith…in terms of grace. In the Incarnation, eternity is present. In Christ, the present moment is eternity accessible. In the Word made flesh an aperture is opened wide to mercy and divine love. Within linear time (chronos) is implanted holy opportunity (kairos) which makes possible a change in the quality of every moment, every day, every century, every age that follows.

IN EVERY MOMENT, HOLY OPPORTUNITY. Time may not stand still in the Incarnation, but now every moment is holy opportunity, is eternal promise, is divine invitation, is sustained beckon, is possibility for redemption, for restoration to original intent, and for unmitigated fulfillment of being and creation. Time marches on, but with grace going before it, opening the possibility for forgiveness and reconciliation and newness at every tick of the clock or step toward the horizon.

THE POSSIBILITY OF CHANGE. Stepping into time (chronos), the Word (logos) has opened opportunity for grace-full living to all. We move in time, but instead of being predictably whisked along a rutted path passively headed toward a foregone conclusion, we are offered possibility for change. We are given the option to forgive and be forgiven, to act in faith instead of succumbing to prevailing doubt, to love instead of hating or numbing out into apathy, to seek peace instead of returning violence. Instead of repeating the past, the Incarnation opens a way to redeem it. Instead of compromising the future, the Incarnation brings its possibilities into present reality.

To me, the most remarkable phrase in the Bible is this line in Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches: “In the fullness of time, God sent his Son…to redeem…” It is mystery, to be sure. But at the least we are to understand that something so significant has happened as to not only radicalize chronological history, but to make all subsequent time full of possibility for transformation. If we can begin to comprehend this, if we can begin to lay hold of this, we will experience the sense that in the Incarnation time, indeed, stands still.

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