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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

John 1:10-18
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church
January 4, 2004

A couple of weeks ago, Scott asked me if we were going to have our annual staff Christmas luncheon. It shows you my state of mind that I’d completely forgotten. And when I forget about something involving food, that’s saying something. “Let’s have it after Christmas,” I think I said. “When we have more time. Like, July.”

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul says that, “AT THE RIGHT TIME, Christ died for the ungodly.” [Rom 5:6] Christ DIED at the right time. But was he BORN at the right time? Did Christmas come at the right time? Or could God have planned it better?

According to today’s scripture, Christ came – and the people said, “No, it just isn’t the right time.” John the Baptist came to pave the way – and the people said, “Maybe later. Like, July?” According to scripture, in the minds of even Jesus’ own people, Christmas couldn’t have come at a worse time. They weren’t ready for it. They didn’t want it. They told God, “Can you take it back? Can we exchange it for something that fits a little better?”

Did Christmas come at the right time, this year, for you? Do you have time for the child born on Christmas day? Will the time of 2004 be any different because of Christ’s timing? Will the days of YOUR new year be changed by the day of Christmas?

Spending and Saving Time.

“Time is money,” goes the old saying. And that’s exactly how people talk about time – as if we can save it or spend it, treat it just like money. I’m not sure why we talk that way, except that there’s never enough of either.

At the beginning of a new year people talk about time. How are we going to SPEND time in the new year? What are we going to do that we haven’t done in the past year?

You know, at the end of 2004 I would absolutely love to know that I hadn’t squandered my health club membership for yet another year. I would absolutely love to read a few books and see a few movies that don’t star large, purple dinosaurs. What about you? How are you going to SPEND your time in 2004? What are you going to do that you haven’t done in the past year?

Or, ask yourself how are you going to SAVE time in the new year? What aren’t we going to do that became a burden last year?

I’m one of those people who sincerely believe that if you just buy and use a little more technology, you can actually save time. At least, you can become more efficient, like the latest upgrade of the robot in the Terminator movies. (“She’s a more efficient killing machine.”) Like, if I just make a few more phone calls in the car, THINK of how much time I’ll save so I can… go to Court South. Right.

We talk about time as if it’s something we can put in our back pocket or a purse – to pull out and process like a prepaid spending card. Save a little time? Add it to the account. Waste a little time? Swipe! There it goes. Spend time wisely? It’ll be credited to next year’s books.

We talk about time like it’s money – like we can spend it or save it, or earn a little extra. But in our hearts we know time isn’t our personal currency. Time’s more like a current than currency, the river that pulls us downstream no matter how hard we fight. We’ll talk about spending it or saving it, or accounting for it as if we’re in charge – but the truth is, the force of time is a whole lot more in charge than we are. If time is money, then we’re hanging on the verge of bankruptcy every day. That we have any time at all is the grace of God forgiving us our debt.

Time for God.

Jesus literally came to the homes of the people of the Bible. Didn’t slide down the chimney. Just knocked on the door. Most of them were good religious people, trying to save time for God or trying to spend time with God just like we do. But when Christ really came, his own people didn’t accept him. His own people wasted God’s time.

What about us? Could we all resolve to have more time for God in 2004? Could we make a resolution today that we’ll SPEND more time with God, or SAVE more time for God in the coming year? That would be something. Good for you if you can pull it off. Most of us have good intentions. But most of us just have good intentions. If Jesus lived off our good intentions, he’d go broke. Like the diets we’re starting this week, so many good intentions will be ancient history by July. When 2005 rolls around, will we be like the people of scripture – not so good, not so bad, but people for whom Jesus just came at a bad time? Oh well. We’ll try again next year, Lord.

In light of today’s scripture, I’m thinking it’s like this: resolving to SPEND more time with Jesus, or resolving to SAVE more time for Jesus isn’t going to work. Not because we’re bad, or inefficient. But because human beings are so limited, and have such limited control over our time. More to the point, we can’t SAVE or SPEND more time with God because it’s not ours to save or to spend in the first place. ALL time is God-time. All time belongs to God, the maker of time, maker of heaven and earth, and maker of all of us.

From the very first Christmas, by becoming Emmanuel – God-with-us – Jesus declared that God was forever more going to spend time with us. Spend it, waste it, invest it – whatever it took. Jesus and John both declared that God was going to spend His time saving us. So as far as we’re concerned, Christmas most certainly did come at the right time. ANY time is the right time to learn that your debts have been forgiven, that life has been extended on your overdrawn account, one more day.

God’s wild times.

One day last week I was driving to work, and I probably was driving a little too fast. I’ve been known to do that. John Brichetto once told me all I needed was a helmet and a fireproof suit and I could go out for NASCAR. I don’t drive fast on purpose. I don’t do it for the thrill. I’m usually going too fast because I’m worried that I’m going to be late for something. Like the time I got pulled over for speeding on the way to do a funeral. Right at the entrance to the cemetery. Policeman’s standing at my window. All the family and friends are driving by, pointing and laughing.

Anyway, I was driving to work one day last week, and I probably was driving a little too fast. I can gauge the left-hand turn from Alcoa Highway to Maloney Road so I barely even have to put on the brakes. Again, it’s not the thrill; it just saves time. I make the turn and get past where the seafood shop used to be (and where they now sell all the cars that get crashed at that intersection). Oh yeah, and did I mention that as I’m driving I’m listening to a book on tape by some pastor about how important it is to spend time alone with God each day? I was doing that. I make the turn and just past where the seafood shop used to be, a family of five white tail deer leaps across Maloney Road right in front of me. Except for this one little fawn that gets scared halfway and turns back. I slam on the brakes and start waving the little deer across (like they understand hand signals). I watch as she rejoins her family, and they all go bounding into the woods together. An absolutely beautiful sight of wild nature that I was just lucky enough to get to see.

After I caught my breath, I thought about what had happened. I came down that road just at the right time to get to see those deer. If I had been a few seconds earlier, I might have hit that little fawn. Or one of the larger deer might have come through my windshield. If I had been a few seconds later, I would have missed getting even a glimpse of them. The difference between the right time and the wrong time was a split second.

I have a theory. It’s not original, but it’s still mine. I have a theory that God has made our world – and daily commands our world – so that on any given day a thousand “right” times jump across our paths. While we’re moving along like blind bats out of Hades, generally oblivious, consumed with the time we’re spending or saving, on any given day a thousand “right” times leap out in front of us. These are the times when God reminds us, “I’M the one in charge, here.” These are God-times. Wild-times. Events and chances that happen regardless of whether we have time for them or not. Regardless of whether we receive them as gifts from God or not. Like Christmas.

Regardless of what we’ve turned it into by our saving and spending, Christmas is the ultimate wild time of God. Christmas was and is and always will be a great sign unto us, a sign that God is in charge. A sign that God is with us today and every day, whether we accept that or not. We can’t save Christmas, because Christmas is here to save us. We can’t spend Christmas, because Christmas – God – is with us every day.

Christ was born once again ten days ago. And it was the right time. Christ is born again today. And today’s the right time, too. Whether or not you have time for him, the child born on Christmas has time for you. The child born on Christmas has an eternity of time for you. Look! Do you see it?