In one sense, the church year begins with Advent. In another, it begins with Easter. How can the church year have more than one beginning? Well, it depends upon how we recon time. If we figure it chronologically, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. If we figure it kairosically–yes, I probably just invented an adverb–then not only are both Advent and Easter beginnings of the year, but so are each and every moment as well.
Chronos is the Greek word for chronological time. We use it to figure how long things take and when to meet people for appointments and the like. We even use it to figure out when we are going to celebrate Advent, Christmas and Easter. But there is also another Greek word for time, kairos. Kairos expresses the fullness of time. In the fullness of time God sent Jesus to be our savior. In the fullness of time Christ rose from the dead. It is the time we talk about when we want to express the presence of God’s actions in our everyday lives.
We call the time before Christmas, Advent. Advent means beginning, it also means coming. And in this Advent time of the church year, we seem to be playing fast and loose with time, all the time, because we talk about Jesus coming in all three tenses, past, present and future. We can make such jumps in time, because we are not talking in chronological terms, but in kairos terms. We talk about the humble birth, nativity, of his first coming, his second coming, parousia, to reign and his daily presence with us, coming through word and sacrament.
The great paradox of Advent is that Christ has already come and yet at the same time Christ has not yet come. Another trick of kairos time. The presence of Christ is more than just a vague feeling that somehow God is present with us. We are supplied with the means of grace, word and sacrament, to assure us that God is present in our lives. At the same time we anticipate the fulfillment of God’s coming to us in the parousia, when Christ returns to the earth a second time. All the while, we look back with historical wonder at Christ’s Coming at Bethlehem over two millennia ago. This moment is made real for us as we conflate time once again at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service as we sing Franz Gruber’s cradle hymn “Silent Night” bathed in the gentle candlelight of the Christ child.
Has all this speculation about time made your head spin? I hope not. Rather, I hope that talking about Christ’s coming in kiaros, the fullness of time, has provided a way to live in each moment of God’s grace. For God in Christ does truly come to us, as we live at the Advent juncture of time. Each moment of every day, God’s love provides openings to shine into our lives and brings the grace of Christ’s comings and goings in all their fullness, to our days. Greetings favored ones, the Lord is with you. Luke 1:28
— Pastor Wendell Hendershott