The passage of time is momentous especially around Christmas. As a child, I felt like a passenger on a train watching motion spinning around me. Nothing seemed distinct or understandable, and I experienced a jumble of people, places, and scenery. Slowly as I grew, people and events took shape and became more distinct. The season of Christmas played a significant role in my understanding of order and the passage of time. Out of the chaos came clarity and predictability. I learned to anticipate, to delay gratification, and I learned patience. This time of year helped me comprehend what “in the fullness of time” means.
Christmas memories are consequential and remain vivid in our hearts forever.
For instance, do you remember the old time Christmas candies that were usually given to children after the Christmas program? Highly anticipated little, brown bags were filled with sticky ribbon candy, Necco wafers, licorice allsorts, Lifesavers rolls with five flavors and my favorite, the chocolate covered crème drops. What sweet deliciousness! Unshelled peanuts filled the rest of the bag and made the size something to behold. That wonderful memory happened the same time every year and the excitement was unmistakably the highlight of the evening. Christmas was the church’s finest event of the year, a feast for all the senses. The sweet flavors activated the gustatory sense, the candles the olfactory sense, the Christmas service and decorations, the visual sense, and the rapturous music the auditory sense. It was worth the wait!
Here is another example of Christians learning to wait. Oscar Cullmann, a Christian theologian whose life spanned the twentieth century (1902-1999) proposed a linear time line for history. He placed Christ at the midpoint of sacred history, and believed that God revealed himself through a series of redemptive acts. For the Old Testament believer, the midpoint is still in the future, but for us, the New Testament believers, it is in the past. The first coming of Jesus and his crucifixion was the spectacular midpoint and it lies behind us. We are now in a state of “already, but not yet.” Our faith tension is the tension between the already fulfilled and the not yet completed.
Oscar Cullman uses a compelling analogy of a disciple of Jesus living between D-Day (June 1944) and V-Day (Spring 1945) during WW II. D-day was when the allied troops invaded Europe and began to push back the German army to Germany. D-Day was when they actually claimed victory. Even though the decisive battle had been won, the war still continued because the official, final Victory had not been declared.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? … But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55,56
The crucial battle has been fought and won in the incarnation and resurrection, but the cease-fire is still in the future. We don’t know how long we have to fight evil and injustice, but we fight with the conviction that someday the weapons will be placed at the feet of Jesus. It is crucial that we stay faithful to the cause until the fullness of time. In the meantime, let us celebrate our past, the glorious birth of the baby Jesus. For now, may our shouts of joy ease our tension of “already, but not yet.” May peace abound in your households during this time of Advent.
In anticipation of what lies ahead, I am,
Kathryn Den Houter