On Time

Jeremiah 33:14-16 – First Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 2, 2012

“The days are surely coming…” (Jeremiah 33:14)


I am “skirting” Bethlehem this year. Click here for why.

Do you have a minute? Want to grab an hour? How does today look?

What time is it? It’s time to go . . . now . . . soon . . . later.

What time do I start? Half past six. Zero dark thirty. When you’re ready.

Who could improve on Charles Dickens’ timeless opening line in his Tale of Two Cities?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Whoa! Dickens scribed an opening line with 120 words! No twenty-first century editor would take the time to read such a lengthy opening to a novel. After all, time is money.

Time is money, and back in the old times, the more Dickens wrote, the more quid he received.

Recently I chatted with a friend planning to retire soon. His “last day” looms. After thirty and more years of working a job he loves—and a job he did very well—it’s almost over. He approaches the end of time, if you will. How could those decades flash by so quickly? How could years of a cluttered desk and an overscheduled calendar become an empty office in a matter of days?

As a pastor, I recall leaving churches, where the bookshelves were emptied and the final sermon had been given and I relinquished the keys. I’ve left a parish six times in my mostly uneventful clergy career. Sometimes I cried; sometimes I sighed with relief.

My, my, how time flies.

In my current hospice work, huddled against my small desk with its broken drawer, I call people who have experienced the recent death of a loved one. Their voices mingle; melancholy overlaps with stoicism, faith bumps against fear, a sentence of acceptance is followed by a rambling paragraph of denial. Death hurts.

  • I guess it was her time . . .
  • We just wanted a little more time with him . . .
  • Our time together was so precious . . .
  • Where did the time go . . .
  • I thought I was ready for this time, but I’m not . . .
  • Once I didn’t have enough time, now too much . . .

Time is the harsh clickety-clack of an old wind-up clock in the corner of today’s darkest, loneliest room.

Time is a stroll on the beach, fingers laced within your lover’s hand, as you plan the future together. Moments ago the sun rose and now dusk casts long shadows across the sand.

Time is an old man in the grief support group who reminisced about day he met his future wife. Spontaneously, he spotted her, took a deep breath, and whistled at her. (How rude!) And yet she glanced back and then, Alleluia!, she smiled. Less than a year later they were married. “I remember it like it just happened,” he said.

Time is the child nestled in yesterday’s arms who seems to be begging for a driver’s license this morning. And every morning.

Time is the first snowfall and a scent of lilac in the spring and Belgian waffles with real maple syrup and the first sip of coffee and a gulp of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Won’t time end? Didn’t the Bible promise that? Well then, I say let it be today. Let the whole of time end and let holy time begin, here and now. Let me see enough, listen enough, believe enough, hope enough, remember enough, plan enough to have enough of my time—and I’m the only one with my time—truly matter. Yes, I’ll waste too much time—I’m only human—but I can also create blessed time when I take time for others. When I take time to be curious. When I take time to be grateful. When I take time to listen. When I spend less time judging the stranger and more time celebrating with neighbors.

Truly, I don’t care—personally or theologically—about the end of time. I prefer the beginning of time . . . with a new day, in a new (or old) friendship and the next opportunity to learn something new.

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    1. Casey…

      Hey thanks. I don’t mind having a few days where I’m two for two! Hope you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  1. Larry, this is lovely. My seven year old cannot seem to grasp the concept of time (“hurry hurry hurry…”) and it is good to remind myself we could all benefit from staying that way.

    1. Tobie…

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I suspect your seven-year old is sometimes learning from you . . . and you are learning from your child! Hope you have a delightful Thanksgiving!

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