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- Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.
-The advent of Internet, or printing press.
For believers Advent is the Christmas season where we celebrate the arrival of Christ the first time as well as looking forward to his coming in the future for a second time.
Advent season is when the Church has historically looked back to his first arrival and looked ahead to his second arrival and then looked around with those two views in mind to remember how to live now.
So advent is a time to reflect on time…past, future, present…and what God is doing in time.
But what exactly is time?
Augustine said, “What is time? If no one asks me, I know; but if I wish to explain it to one who asks, I know not.”
No one really knows what time is.
“I do, its seconds, minutes, days, years.”
That’s like saying “I know what flour is, it’s a cup or a pound.”
How you measure something is not the same as what that something is.
Measuring time in 60 seconds, and 60 minutes and 24 hours and 365 days with an extra day thrown in every 4 years to catch up is largely arbitrary.
We don’t have to use those numbers to measure this thing called time…and in the past they were not used.
Different cultures start the measurement of calendar time at different times…we start at the estimate of Christ’s birth.
Muslims start in the month of Mohammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina in 622
Their calendar is lunar not solar (like ours) so special events move around during their year whereas ours stay put…Christmas is always Dec. 25.
Some cultures are not as careful about time and others are very careful (some say enslaved to time)…but even those perspectives on time are culturally determined.
Several weeks ago a Japanese railway operator issued an apology for allowing the train to depart early.
He said he was deeply sorrow for the “tremendous nuisance” it caused…wow how early was it? 20 Seconds.
Other parts of the world, no one is surprised when the train is a full day late…or they are surprised when it shows up at all.
Humans can move at will around in space…but not in time.
Time can seem to change speeds…for instance time moves slowly when you are running on a treadmill versus sleeping.
Doing some tedious work vs. watching a good movie
It can seem to change speeds as you change age.
For children, a summer is endless…as you grow older, the years fly by.
Infants seem to live in a perpetual present tense.
We know this is all perceptual…because for humans on the planet, time is moving at virtually the same pace.
I say virtually because time is a complex thing.
Einstein (and others) theorized that time is the fourth dimension.
We live in three dimensions of space…and also the fourth dimension of time.
So instead of space and time…he spoke of space-time…a single thing
He theorized certain things about time based on math, and logic…and then multiple experiments as well as practical applications have confirmed his theories over and over.
For instance the idea that objects at different speeds will experience time differently is something you probably used in practice this week.
If you used a gps on your smart phone to get somewhere you can thank Einstein
A GPS can accurately place you within a few yards on this big ole planet.
This is done by 24 satellites about 12K miles above earth.
Your phone gets a timing signal from several of those satellites and it calculates the distance from each of them.
Then using triangulation it can find your location with amazing accuracy.
But to do this so well…the timing has to be accurate to a few billionths of a second.
So with all this motion going on (the planet, the satellites, you)…Einstein’s theory that objects traveling at different speeds experience time differently becomes very important.
Because if scientists and engineers did not take his theory of relativity into account the accuracy of a gps would be off by more than 7 miles per day.
Wouldn’t be very helpful in finding your friend for lunch if it only got you to within 7 miles.
Even worse for more important applications like aviation
It is counter intuitive that things would experience time differently based on their speed, but they do.
Einstein theorized that if you could approach the speed of light you would, in relationship to someone on earth…essentially slow down to the point of time standing still.
Time is a strange thing.
What’s your point?
Advent is my point…
Gal. 4:4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.
It is difficult to comprehend the nature of time…but it is essential that we look back to see what God has done in Christ in space and time…and to look forward to believe what God will do in the future in space and time.
Then with this view in mind…look around and believe what is true so we will valuable what is valuable…so we won’t squander our lives.
What is a life?…it is time…days that have been allotted to us
The advents of Christ…”Christ came, Christ will come” are like two gps satellites…they fix our position in time and tell us with perfect accuracy where we are in relationship to what is real and valuable.
We can’t know when he will return…we do know we are between the times…and that tells how to live in the meantime.
It is no wonder Hollywood and DC and the News media are being steamrolled by their own sins that are coming to light.
Many have lived out of sync with the reality of the world as it is…Christ’s coming is less than irrelevant to them.
They live as if they are not going to die, and will not be held accountable for how they how lived.
They have used themselves and the wisdom of other’s like themselves to determine their position…and they are not 7 miles off, they are 7 million miles out of sync with what is ultimately real and valuable.
And the result is always devastation…the broken gps in their hearts…leads them right off the cliff.
Eccl. 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
That verse is full of references to time… everything beautiful in its time. Eternity in our hearts. Beginning to end.
God exists outside of time…he made it, just like he made space or matter.
We exist in time…but since we are made by God…he has put eternity in our hearts.
We are sort of temporal/eternal hybrids.
We cannot understand fully the past or the future or all that God has and is doing…but we can understand some of who God is and what he wants…because he has made himself known to us.
And we can know how we are to live in time.
Use this advent season to contemplate your time…your life.
Do it in relationship to the comings of Christ…advent past, advent future.
Triangulate your current position using those points of reference.
You don’t have to be rolled by the passing of this next month as if you are powerless to do anything about the onslaught of events that come your way.
Remember last week…you can control your thoughts…at the very least.
Think the right thoughts during this time…so you will believe the right things…so you will live the right way…valuing what is most valuable.
Gen. 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Those words (7 in the Hebrew) form the foundation of all that is to follow in the Bible.
The purpose of this statement is three fold:
- Identify the creator (as opposed to the many creation myths that were in existence)
-The universe was made by the one true God.
-The prevailing creation myth today is that all of reality is either self-created or eternally existing.
- Explain why we (everything else) are here.
-The prevailing myth today is we are here to make life about ourselves…because everything is here by accident of nature not on purpose.
- Tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future.
-This opening verse sets the stage for all that follows, it forms the front cover and Revelation the back cover of the story of God.
-God made everything…all that follows in human history is the work of his hands…and he has already written the last chapter.
The book is written…we are living it out in space and time.
Is. 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
God created space and time (or space-time)…he sees all of created reality like we would see a single sheet of paper…or maybe a single letter on a sheet of paper.
Time is not unfolding before him…it is all right there…his knowledge and comprehension of all of vast space and time…is complete and immediate.
He doesn’t have to study it, look it over, think about it, turn the page…his knowledge is complete (perfect) and immediate (there is no lag time in his understanding).
As we begin (another time reference) our time (and again) of Advent (one more)…Let me read the beginning of the gospel of John.
Mark starts with a grown Jesus
Matthew and Luke with a baby Jesus.
John begins with the eternal Jesus, creator of all things.
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
1, 2In the beginning of what? Everything besides God…Father, Son, Spirit.
God has no beginning…everything else does.
At the beginning of Space and Time or as Einstein said…space-time…was the Word…Jesus.
Word is the Greek “logos” which ordinarily refers to a spoken word, with emphasis on the meaning not just the sound.
It is an expression of personality in communication.
It is also an expression of power…Ps 33:6 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made.”
The Word (Jesus) is the source of all that exists and he is before all that exists.
John said “He was with God” in the beginning which indicates both equality and association.
This is an expression of both the distinction between the persons of Jesus and God the Father and the oneness of their being.
God is three persons, one being.
- The universe with all its complexity owes its origin to the creative mind and power of God.
Universe: word that means the totality of existing things.
Stephen Hawking: the brilliant scientist who has endured ALS for decades is one of several who promote the idea of a “multi-verse.”
He theorizes (without good evidence I might add) that reality consists of an infinite number of universes.
This idea of a multiverse, that many scientists believe to be science fiction, is an attempt to answer the question of why the universe is so well suited for human life.
It has every appearance of having been perfectly designed so we can exist
This is called the Anthropic Principle and it is compelling and contrary to the view that there is no creator/designer.
But instead of going with the obvious conclusion…the universe looks like it has been designed…so it has been.
A theory has been concocted that there are an infinite number of universes and of course one of them by chance would be this one…one that is perfectly suited for us to exist
*Look at this picture: drawn by a child. Would any reasonable person believe it was a product of chance vs. a creative mind?
*What about this? Product of chance?
Not much more complex than the child’s drawing, is it?
The reality of a creator is obvious.
- “Life” can mean physical life but in the gospel it is often coupled with “eternal” to indicate the different quality and power of a believer’s life.
It is commonly believed that what Christ has done is merely to give us “more of the same.”
That is, eternal life is just more quantity of life rather than an entirely different quality of life.
This misunderstanding can lead to diminished expectation of transformation in the lives of believers.
If the only difference between a Christian and non-Christian right now is that one will keep living after this life is over…then “eternal life” is quantitative not qualitative.
And it has little or no bearing on life now…this is of course wrong.
The fact is eternal life begins for the believer at the moment of conversion…they enter into the possibility and power of an entirely different kind of life now
This is a life that includes ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ…with full transformation after death.
The best part of eternal life is not how long it is…but how good it is.
If you told a Hindu that he could have eternal life he would not be impressed. He is trying to escape the cycle of endless life.
The gospel would tell him eternal life is not just more time but a different kind of life.
Those who live in relationships and families that are being transformed by the gospel…get a taste of this life now…eternal life begins now.
- Light is used to demonstrate this qualitative kind of life.
It is the kind of light that the world in its darkness cannot comprehend or understand.
The world apart from God cannot understand or defeat this “life of light”…and the kind of clarity, vision, sight in the dark that it gives…the protection that it gives.
If you are in a dark place, especially a dark and dangerous place…to have light is enormously practical and helpful…essential.
Such is the life of Christ for the believer in this world now…his life is our light.
- A regular (and yet unusual) guy named John was selected and sent by God to be a witness or to give testimony that Jesus is God become man.
There are many others who have borne witness to this fact…if you are believer you are one of them.
But John the author is careful to say that John the Baptist was not the light, no mere witness ever is…but Jesus is the light.
We point to him, not to ourselves.
- The world (cosmos) can mean the physical universe, or the world of humans (culture).
In the first part of this verse it means the totality of what Jesus made…the universe.
In the second part it means the world of people…so it is an interesting and sad contrast…that the world he made did not recognize him as its maker.
- He came to his “own” …both his rightful ownership (he has made it) as well as his own people…he is one of them.
But his own, did not receive him.
12-13. Here is a contrast between those who do not receive him and those who do
“Yet” to those who receive (the gift) by belief in who he is…they become what they were not.
What Jesus would call the “born again” ones.
- The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Word(Jesus) “was” eternally God and in existence forever.
He has “become” flesh and made his dwelling among us.
The phrase literally means “pitched his tent…set up temporary dwelling” among us.
He left his usual place and accepted the conditions of human life and environment, with the temporal and physical limitations (to a degree) that all humans experience.
Jesus is the “one and only”…he is a singularity.
There has never been and never will be another like him.
IMPLICATIONS and APPLICATIONS of the advents of Jesus
First a question…
- How can this be?
“In the beginning was God…this same God created everything and then he became a human and dwelt among us”
Just seems so far fetched…and some are convinced it is a myth.
Some here may be struggling with whether this is real.
You may be like the man who said to Jesus “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
That’s okay…lets think about this.
It is fantastic, amazing…hard to believe (impossible actually without the Holy Spirit)
But reality itself is far fetched…the little we know or think we know is impossible to fully comprehend.
Here is the prevailing view of the cosmos.
At a distant time…an immensely dense and hot singularity “exploded” into an expanding universe…everything came from it.
Not a dense point hanging in space…but rather a dense point that was all of reality…it was the universe…space is something, there was just the dense dot.
Try to picture that…nothing, nothing (except for a dense dot).
Then it exploded and began to expand (and continues to do so at enormous speeds)…so all the billions of planets, suns, empty space itself…came from this dense dot.
What happens if you get to the edge of this expanding universe…what is there?
How can you even begin to get your mind around this?
Why is there something and not nothing…the thought of existence can make you head hurt?
I’m not saying it’s not true…just that its fantastic, impossible to conceive.
Where did the dense dot come from?
-It is said to be self-creating (what does that mean? It was there before it was there) or eternal.
Some believe the universe (time and space) is eternal.
But there has to be a start to time …you cannot cross an actual infinite and ever arrive at now.
If time goes back without end behind us…then you would have to move through infinity to reach today…but you cannot move through infinity and therefore you could never reach today…but here we are.
Time had a beginning…there cannot be an infinite amount of it behind us.
Some ask what they believe to be an impossibly hard question in response to this…”Well then who made God, when did he begin?”
Its not a hard question at all…the answer is simple…no one did…God is eternally existing, and he exists outside of space and time…not tied to it, he made it.
Something or someone has always been…something or someone is eternal.
The harder question would be…how is that the universe of time and space sprang into existence from nothing…or is eternal?
So its not a matter of whether we will have faith or not…we all will.
And its not a matter of whether what I believe is fantastic (the word became flesh) and what Stephen Hawking believes is not. (multi-verse)
Reality is impossibly hard to imagine…but here we are.
The question is…how did it happen?
What view of reality is most plausible?
And there is a lot at stake…what I believe about the beginning of time and space will dictate how I live in my own very limited time and space.
So I believe the universe began with a singularity…(Big Bang? Okay).
But I was talking about…Jesus.
He has always been in existence…he created space and time by his wisdom and power.
The universe may have begun as an immensely dense and hot point…but if so, that point was put into existence as space and time by God.
Later at a precise point in our planet’s timeline…Jesus entered our space as a baby and grew to be an adult human in about 33 years time.
Then at a precise time he died on the cross…and rose again in parts of three days.
Then in 40 days time he ascended to heaven (not into the sky or space)…this was how it appeared to those who were watching.
And at future precise time…he will return.
This is not far fetched at all.
It is not impossible to believe…if you look at the Life, claims, and ongoing impact of Jesus.
But it is fantastic…amazing…surprising.
But its amazing and surprising…that dirt, water, sun and time can make a multi-ton, 80 foot tall piece of wood.
Or a sperm and egg can, given time…become a baby.
“We have scientific explanations for those things…not for Jesus”
Yes, we can describe them using words and ideas, but we can’t explain them.
Its like saying we understand time and can explain it like this…”60 seconds makes a minute, 60 minutes makes a hour”
You are explaining nothing…you are describing measurement.
Science cannot explain ultimate “how” and ultimate “why” of our existence.
And if we were not so used to oak trees and babies…or if we had not seen them, they would be fantastic…impossible to believe.
So don’t be fooled into thinking that “science” is fact, Christianity is faith.
Christianity and some of current science is factual…and both require faith.
What does this mean?
What does it matter in my own personal time line that this is real?
It should matter in every possible way.
If everything was made by God, including you and me.
If everything including you and me will come to an end.
What difference would it make in your thinking, believing and behavior?
What difference would it not make in those things…it would be universal in its application and impact.
So Jesus said…
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
If you believe Jesus is who he says he is…and you have the words he has given…then clearly it would be vitally important to understand and apply them.
When we submit to his rightful authority in our lives…we experience him in our lives.
We see firsthand, experientially that it is true…he is who he says he is.
So what would be a practical application of…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Every part of a single story life would be the application:
Forgive an offense
Take the appropriate risks and sacrifices of faith
Be faithful to your friends, your family, you job, God.
Suffering, sickness and loss
Promotion, recognition, and success
All of our life should be a practical application of the reality of the gospel.
Take the time to contemplate time this advent.
Triangulate your position using the Advents of Christ…Christ has come, Christ will come…what is most valuable now…how am I to live in space-time.