advent journal: the fullness of time


    The company that owns the Chicago Tribune (and the Chicago Cubs) declared bankruptcy yesterday. Much like the domino effect on Wall Street not long ago, I expect some other newspapers will fold before long. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist.) Much of the demise of the dailies has been attributed to our quickly changing technology. With all the instant news available, fewer and fewer take time to sit down and turn the page. By the time tomorrow’s headline is printed, it’s old news. A half century ago, Ben Hecht said,

    Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

    The irony is the twenty-four hour news channels and the web outlets as well may be more immediate, but they don’t give any greater a sense of perspective, any idea of context, any sense of memory. We’re still watching the second hand; it just appears to be moving faster – and it’s no longer a the hand of a clock, but a digital counter. We don’t appear to be telling the time anything of great importance.

    I’m about two weeks away from this blog’s third birthday and I’m learning that blogging is becoming passé, giving way to Facebook and Twitter, both focusing on the immediate, and the brief, all of it reminiscent of Father Guido Sarducci’s “Five Minute University”:

    I read the gospel passage from the lectionary last Sunday: Mark 1:1-8, which begins,

    The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

    I never hear that sentence without recalling a sermon Skip Waterbury preached many years ago now at First Congregational Church in Winchester, Massachusetts. He pointed out that the sentence was not talking about the opening scene with John the Baptist, but was better read as the title for the whole gospel. The story of Jesus’ time on earth was the beginning of the Gospel; the story is still being told these twenty centuries later.

    Good stories take time to be told.

    As we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, Ginger asked us to go around the table and say what we were thankful for. What came to my mind first was gratitude that we have been in Durham long enough to begin to forge friendships. Acquaintances may be immediate, but friendships are not; they must, like a good story, have time to develop.

    When my friend Billy was putting together a Christmas album with some other artists, also some years ago, they called it Christmas in Our Time, drawing from a Meister Eckhart quote that remains an Advent mainstay for me:

    What good is it to me if the son of God was born to Mary 1400 years ago if Christ is not born again in my time and in my culture?

    Digging around tonight I found a more expansive Eckhart:

    We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to His Son if I do not also give birth to Him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time: when the Son of God is begotten in us.

    The fullness of time. I love the phrase. It conjures up the image of something ripening, coming to term, growing into wholeness, in much the same way Luke describes Mary getting to Bethlehem in time for the birth:

    And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

    Mary knew nothing of second hands. She marked time with every step the donkey took on the road to Bethlehem and she kept time as she saw come alive in her arms and those memories in her heart to return when she needed to find time to do so. The seconds have done nothing but tick away between her time and mine. What am I telling my time in order that the days might be accomplished for me to give birth to Christ in my time and in my culture?


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