Abbey 2011 First Sunday of Advent – B
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
Jesus speaks today of not knowing when “the time” will come. The Greek word in the gospel for this “time” is kairos. But there are two words for “time” in the New Testament, one is that used today, kairos; the other word is chronos. There is a difference between the two. Chronos is the kind of time we usually mean. “Mass these Sundays starts at 8AM;” this is chronos time. We live very much in this chronos time. It is when programs start, airplanes take off, when the semester begins in school, what day of the week Christmas falls on, when is Chuseok. We are very much preoccupied with this chronos time. It marks minutes, days hours, weeks, months. Some are always wanting to know exactly when someone is coming or when we should start. I think everyone here is wearing a watch. And I can tell you there are many, many clocks in our house and at least one calendar in each room. That is chronos time. It can be measured. Often times we give our lives to it and this chronos runs our lives….
The time word Jesus uses today is not chronos but kairos. Kairos time is a special time; it is charged with possibility; it is uncommon time, filled with the unexpected; kairos is a moment when the unexpected happens; something unplanned breaks into our routine. Kairos time is a time of opportunity; it is a gifted time. It is not something you can look at your watch and say it will come at 2:30 this afternoon. You can’t write it on your calendar like a doctor’s appointment or the day your vacation begins.
If you hear yourself saying “when” will she come, “when does it start” or looking at your watch because something did not begin on time, you are living in chronos time…..it is orderly and sequential and for the most part predictable. But Jesus did not come in chronos time when he first came; and today’s gospel makes it clear that he will not come again in chronos time. When he comes is kairos time, unpredictable but yet wonderful and worth waiting for. Don’t feel badly if you are living in chronos time for the greater part of your life. Most of us are. So were the disciples….when Jesus started talking about what was to come, the disciples started saying “when” meaning, what month, what week, what day…chronos time. But Jesus always answers in kairos time: it will come when you are not looking at your watch, when your calendar runs out. Jesus says, I will come when I will come and even I do not know when, in chronos time, that will be.
The parable Jesus tells his expectant disciples makes it very clear that looking at their watches will not help. The calendars and watches will reveal nothing. We have to live in kairos time, only knowing that the great moment is coming but unable to calculate it. We can know that this kairos moment will be an opportunity such has never happened before. We know that the whole world will be transformed into a new paradise. We know that our relationships with one another will be cleansed and purified; we know that forgiveness will reign. And we know that this kairos moment will bring with it the resurrection, meaning that the chronos moment of death will suddenly be taken up and transformed into a future life beyond imagining. What we do know about this kairos moment is that nothing human will be left untransformed and all will be made to shine forth in all its glory. It will mean a living in the presence of and in the heart of the Trinitarian God and its all embracing love.
But for now the key word is “watch” “stay awake” “keep vigil” Since you do not know the coming of the time, you must always be ready for it. It can come at any moment on the chronos scale: morning, evening, noon, midnight…any time is a good time for ‘the time’ the great moment to break in. So watch.
Notice that Jesus does not oppose the chronos time with the kairos time. Rather it seems that the chronostime, the passing of days, years months, hours, seasons takes its meaning when they are centered on the coming time, the kairos, the moment of opportunity, the moment God offers. The time we live day in and day out has meaning because we are watching for the time of opportunity, the moment God has planned to take us in his hands again like the potter of Isaiah and make us utterly new. For us Christians, the kairostime, the moment of opportunity, has in fact begun. Jesus has come we profess; and his coming was unexpected—in fact, nearly everything about it was unexpected: that he came at all; how he came in utter simplicity and poverty; how he spoke so clearly of God’s working now; then how he came to see that his death would be the final act of loving us and the world. Then for the last great unexpected moment, his rising from the dead by the power of the Spirit. We Christians have already been touched by God’s time, his kairos.
But still our time here is not yet an opportunity of grace fully realized. It has yet to be completed. Ours is the time of watching. The final advent of Christ governs how we live in chronos time now; how we live with our clocks and watches and calendars. The parable Jesus shares with us makes it clear that Jesus’ absence from us means responsibility and service on our part. Waiting for the great moment is not dull, inactive, passive. Rather it is itself a kairos, an opportunity to live the gifts that knowing and believing in Jesus have brought us. This is Paul’s point to the Corinthian community. Yes, you and we are waiting for the revelation of the Lord Jesus. But you have already been filled and enriched with so much. You are not lacking in any gift, Paul says. We have the gifts we need for our way of watching and keeping awake. In fact, living out the gifts we have is precisely how we stay awake and watch.
The Advent season is a kairos moment. It is an opportunity to experience longing for what is to come, to stay close to that longing. It is a moment to refresh in Christ what the vision of God’s future is for the world through the words of the prophets and the life of Christ himself. Advent is the kairos, the opportunity to awaken and realize that we live for someone, that we live for the Kingdom. And Advent is an opportunity to be sober about the quality of how we have been living. If the prophet Isaiah is right, we are blown about like the dry leaves of autumn, caught up in our worlds and drifting. Advent is an opportunity to wait for reconciliation and healing, to let ourselves be taken up into God’s hands and molded again, like a potter, into his image.
Three times Jesus cries, “Watch.” Watch for the opportunity to experience God’s coming to be with us again. Watch, because we have a future worth waiting for. Watch and yes, work and be responsible, because then you will be like the gatekeeper who will catch the sound of the first knock at the door and gladly open so that the Lord may eat with his servants that banquet where all will be satisfied.