Advent 2018: What Time Is It? by Rev. Bill Schram

The First Sunday of Advent

Back in 1969, one of my favorite songs was Chicago Transit Authority’s (aka Chicago) “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?” (Click here to hear the Tanglewood version.)  I can still remember the words:

“Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?
If so I can’t imagine why
We’ve all got time enough to cry/die.”

This week’s Gospel selection focuses our reflection on time. We do care and we really don’t know what time it is, Jesus. What time is it for us? Where is God going with this world? Is time about to run out, or be fulfilled?

Time is a concern this time of year. Will we get it all done before Christmas – gifts purchased, home cleaned and decorated, cards sent, schedules met? We balance the pressures of time against our priorities. And the all the lights, holiday songs and sales fliers become inescapable reminders that time may be running out.

Some have focused on Luke 21:25-28 as if they could check off the the signs of the times, foretell when Jesus would come again and be among the saved. So sit back and nod knowingly at the struggles being faced. This world’s time is running out.

Our Advent experience of time in practice shows another way to reflect on Jesus’ words. We have a Christmas time deadline but we are also enjoying it already. Sooner or later we find ourselves humming along to the 24-hour daily play of Christmas songs. We realize inwardly, if not in so many words, that joy ripples forward from Jesus’ birth and backwards from Christmas 2018.

.Advent is about awakening to an appreciation that Christ comes to us in every moment. Every moment is a “second coming.” Every moment the realm of God draws near.

Yes, we are to stay awake, be alert, “be on your guard that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap.”

Oh, how drunk we can become on Black Friday sales, on consumption, and thinking we can make someone happy with a present under the tree when real happiness comes from a presence – listening, seeing, loving, touching. First Christ’s presence and then our faithful sharing of his presence.

Knowing what time it is in Advent means that we look for holy moments in the small and large events of life. There is a crisis – a moment of decision – and opportunity in every encounter. We can notice the tears of a child or rejoice in her or his playing with a puzzle or turn away fixated on our agendas. A sunrise can just be an annoying reminder that we have to go to work or it can be the face of God. The newspaper can fill us with dread or inspire us to action to become partners in God’s shalom.

Jeremiah speaks words of hope growing among the people. A branch, full of blossoms and eventually fruit, is bursting forth from an arid and broken nation. Jesus recognizes life emerging quietly like the fig tree’s growth. There is a future – God has a vision for you, for good not evil, for a future of hope not despair.

The words of Thessalonians speak of this same gentle providence that is nurtured by prayer and gratitude. Prayerfulness awakens his vision to God’s providential care, which does not determine, but invites us to be companions on a holy adventure.

Do you know what time it is?

This Advent know this as a time to look back in gratitude for the birth. Know this as a time to look forward in hope of the fulfillment. Know this as a time time to look around in appreciation for the Christmas incarnations that ripple forward into our lives from Bethlehem and back into our lives from the time of fulfillment.


Bill was born in Port Jefferson, Long Island, and grew up in Pelham north of the Bronx. He graduated from Williams College, where he studied history, philosophy and political science, and from the McCormick Seminary in Chicago, where he met his wife, Jenny, who is also a Presbyterian minister. They have a home in East Stroudsburg, Pa., three adult daughters and one grandchild. He is currently serving as the Interim Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

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