But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day (2 Peter 3:8 NRSV).
For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night (Psalm 90:4 NRSV).
The noted theologian and preacher, Barbara Brown Taylor, posed the question pithily: Why look for the Star when we can follow the Christmas lights to the mall? Why indeed? This tension is inherent in celebrating Jesus’s birth on December 25, which was ordained by the early Church in order to cash in on the immensely popular midwinter Roman holiday: The Feast Day of the Unconquered Sun. Ever since then, at this season we have wavered between the secular and the sacred.
We don’t like waiting. We want our desires to be fulfilled NOW. This is what the malls and the Internet pretend to offer us – instant gratification. We have to wait often enough and we like it when our waiting is finally fulfilled, whether it is something as mundane as the arrival of a bus; or a child’s graduation; or the longed-for, once-in-a-lifetime vacation; or, most important, the birth of a child.
We read often enough in scripture the phrase, “When the time came to be fulfilled …” or words to that effect. Our lives are so governed by the clock and the calendar that we can’t conceive when, in God’s mind, the time is fulfilled. We can look at the fulfillment of time when we wait in expectation for a birth. (In today’s world, we probably already know the gender of the infant.) But nothing really prepares us for the miracle of birth. That truly is the fulfillment of God’s time, because only God can provide the deep gratification, which the malls and the Internet, with their empty promises, cannot. This is why as we celebrate this birth of God’s only begotten Son to a human mother, we collectively hold our breath in silence as we hear the angels sing.
O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. (Collect for Christmas Day — Book of Common Prayer)