From time to time I’ve experienced situations which bring the past, present, and future together all at the same time. Sometimes it happens with family or high school reunions. But for me, the best example is when Joan and I attend the Navy Musicians Reunion, which we look forward to doing in June 2013, We’ve been doing this every other year for about 12 years. At these events I get to meet some of my fellow Navy musicians that I served with over 50 years ago. We spend time talking about and remembering things we lived through in the old days, which for me means the 1950s. But most of the time we are playing music together, like we used to. We are to some extent reliving the past.
We also talk about what’s going on in our lives in the present. And much of the music we play consists of relatively new songs and new arrangement. So while we remember the past, we are at the same time experiencing the present.
Then there’s the future. One of the frequent questions we raise with each other is, “Will you be at the next reunion?”. We also make sure we are up to date with phone numbers and e-mail addresses, so we can be in touch until we meet again. In this way, even as we are remembering, and to some extent, reliving the past, and as we experience the present, we are looking forward to the future. Maybe you’ve had similar experience with the past, present, and future coming together at the same time.
Here’s another example. While I am retired from serving as a pastor, I am sometimes asked to serve as a substitute preacher in nearby churches. I’ll be doing that on this coming Sunday (Dec.2). I had no problem deciding what to preach about, since I knew that in the Christian faith this date will be the first Sunday in Advent. This season continues until Christmas Eve, when the Christmas season really begins, and lasts for 12 days, which is where the song, The 12 Days of Christmas, comes from. All of this comes to an end on Epiphany, which is a celebration of the arrival of the Wise Men , who came to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. As I thought about this I realized that this whole five week Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season is a time which can remind us that in Jesus the past, present, and future always come together.
We have a saying in the Christian church – “Jesus is the One who was, who is, and who is to come”. Most of what we say and do during this season reminds us of the past (about 2,000 years ago). We celebrate God’s entrance into the world in the form of a human baby named Jesus (The Jesus who was).
But if all we do is remember the past, we’re missing the greater message. The message that Jesus lived, died,and ascended into heaven, where He lives now and forever, in order to save, and not condemn, the world (which includes all of us). He promised that He would be with us always. This means that through the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us now(the Jesus who is).
But if we are content with Jesus’ presence at the moment, we are still missing an essential part of the message. Jesus will come again, gathering all those who choose to accept His invitation to live eternally with Him in a state of perfect peace and love (the Jesus who is to come).
Patty and I invite you to use this Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season as a time of Hope -when the past, present, and future come together. Remember the past (the birth of Jesus), experience His continuing presence, and look forward to the future by preparing for His return. And regardless of your faith (religious or otherwise) may you experience Hope from the Past, Hope in the Present, and Hope for the Future, not just during this Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season, but always.
Grace and peace, Ray