The Tyrant: A Homily by Deacon Alan Doty

Do you remember when you got your first wristwatch? The world has changed, but not too long ago getting a watch was something of a rite of passage, a signal that the hours of your day are taking on a significance beyond what time your favorite cartoon was starting. 

Our concept and understanding of time changes with maturity and with the circumstances of our life.  Here is an experiment to try. The next time you see someone glance at their watch, ask them what time it is. Most will not know without consulting their watch a second time. People don’t look at their watch to know the time but rather to see how much time that have left until their next obligation, or rather, how late they will be. Time, it seems, can be a tyrant. 

This understanding of time is human centered and sequential, focused on our temporal experiences of clocks, calendars, and weekend plans. To the Christian, time is also about a long-awaited hope coming to fruition, it is about times of prayer and worship, walking through one season of life into another, of waiting on God and  the purposes of God in relation to humanity. Time began with the creation of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day and will end with the creation of a new heaven and new earth after Jesus returns. The God we worship is outside of time and created time for humanity to live in… and like everything else God created, it was created for our good. 

That is the sense in which St Paul writes when he tells the Roman Christian community, ” You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep”.  We as humans had a beginning, and while we live, our life is given meaning by our journey to salvation. It is a great gift to know this about ourselves.  It allows us to prepare for God the end of the world we know. To those enamored of the world, that may sound like bad news, but Paul tells us that, with Christ’s return, God wants to bring about a new creation, or finish what God began in Jesus Christ.

‘You do not know on which day your Lord will come.’ Jesus taught his disciples” St Paul, writing to some of those same disciples tells them that “The day is at hand.” We are use our time to prepare. Have you ever prepared for a special event, a wedding perhaps, or a vacation? The more important the event, the more we prepare.  So it is with the coming of the Lord. Paul gives us some guidance on how to prepare.  Awake from sleep and throw off the powers of darkness. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Cast off deeds and thoughts that either benefit from the dark, or worse yet actively promote darkness in the world. Reject “rivalry and jealousy, promiscuity and lust”.  Instead, put on the armor of light.  

The Christian meaning of time means that while we prepare, we at the same time celebrate that what we prepare for has already begun. The new day God is planning for us dawned in the resurrection of Christ from the dead and his gift of the Holy Spirit. The meaning of Advent is that Christ has both arrived and is yet arriving.  We anticipate the kingdom while God has already begun to heal our brokenness, forgive our sins, overcome death. 

Since the kingdom has already entered time, we celebrate the kingdom in the here and now. Have you ever spent so much time and energy preparing for an event that when it arrives, you are so tired or preoccupied that you miss the joy of the occasion itself? For a Christian, that would mean working so hard to prepare for the end times that we forget to celebrate the kingdom that is here and now. This danger is very present during the Advent season. It is the danger of letting Christmas interfere with Advent. The world we live in makes it easy to forget that for us, the season of Advent is a gift itself. After all, the retail stores and catalogues have been celebrating Christmas since October, when the first Christmas trees began to go up in stores. The message of Paul to the Romans and of Jesus to his disciples is: the day is at hand. While preparing, rejoice, for our salvation is already promised. By his coming into the world Jesus sanctified time.

 “Put on the armor of light; put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” admonishes Paul. On our life’s journey, it is Jesus Christ who supplies the light that leads us, day by day, into the kingdom. We who are baptized are clothed in Christ. Immediately after baptism, the baptized are dressed in a white garment and told “you have clothed yourself in Christ”. Gather your baptismal graces around you as the armor of light. There is still plenty of darkness around us, so remain cloaked in Christ’s light at all times until he comes again. We have accepted Christ and we commit ourselves to living in his light and shining that light in the world. 

A new liturgical year begins today. Advent begins today. The Church in its wisdom gives us years and seasons to mark how we walk from one season of faith into another.  During Advent we both yearn for the birth of our Lord and at the same time yearn for his death, because by his death and resurrection our salvation came.  Thus, time is not a tyrant but instead a gift God gave creation. Remember Paul’s words and sanctify each moment by committing yourself to be people of the light. . How can you use the time of Advent not just as a time of waiting but a time of both preparation and celebration? For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 

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