Slowness is soooo frustrating. Waiting is no longer in our DNA. We used to joke about a goldfish’s attention span being two seconds, but I really do wonder what the average human one is. Whether it’s driving, waiting for a parcel, or waiting for something to happen, that time of waiting can seem endless. Amazon did indeed revolutionise the world of shopping, but it also arguably fed into a really unhelpful part of the human psyche which loves instant gratification. It’s what we spend years learning as we grow up, that not everything comes now! Only, these days, it does. And when we don’t get it now, we can become angry, upset, disappointed, and sometimes even rude.
But here’s the thing. How often have you ordered something online and then realised you didn’t really need it, and that if you’d had to go to the shop, you probably wouldn’t have actually bothered with it.
One of the readings for this Sunday is from the second letter of St Peter (2 Peter 3.8-15). This bit really stood out for me:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I confess I’ve never read A Brief History of Time, but I’ve often wondered whether the whole thing about the spiritual realm is that it is actually outside of time. Time is something which only mortal things experience, because in essence time is used to measure change, decay, destruction, and rising to new life. Time and death and birth are inextricably linked. But those who dwell in the world of the spirit, who are all around us, are immortal. They are not born, they do not die, they do not have organic bodies that slowly fade. So for God, for the angels, and for those who have died and are with God, time is literally immaterial.
Frustratingly for us humans who are still alive, and for all created and living things, time is an essential part of the experience. When time is not against you, when there is no rush, then a longer view can be taken. One can think in terms of decades and not just the next couple of years (or the next electoral cycle!).
I keep reminding myself of this. God made a promise to Abraham that through him all nations on earth would be blessed. God repeated that promise to Isaac, to Jacob, to the nation of Israel throughout the centuries. God reminded them of that promise through Moses and the prophets. Millennia later it came to fruition through Mary’s willingness to say Yes to God, and so Jesus was born. St Paul and the apostles expected Jesus to return in their natural lifetimes. Yet two millennia later we are still waiting. But God’s promise, made so so long ago, is still unfolding through the work and witness of the Church throughout the world, as we bear witness to the love of God through his Son Jesus Christ.
Advent can seem endlessly busy, a time of waiting and yet absolutely frantic and frenetic. But it’s also in some ways a reflection of life as a whole. We are still waiting for God’s promise to come to completion. And in the meanwhile, time rolls on and on, marking off the days for us. A thousand years is like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. It all depends on one’s perspective. And at the heart of it all, in mid-December, a baby is born, who has already transformed our lives, and one day will transform the whole world. Thanks be to God.