Perhaps you have seen in classic movies or older popular cultural references the Latin phrase “tempus fugit,” which means “time flies.” If the old saying holds true, then we must be having a LOT of fun. These days of Advent feel special in so many ways, and it really seems like time flows differently. With our long list of things to do, our many once-a-year events to plan and attend, and the sense we have of turning a corner on the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we naturally reflect on all that has passed in a mere twelve months. In some ways those months feel like they passed in the blink of an eye, and in others we recall wondering when the year would ever come to an end. Such is our experience in time, limited as we are to dwell in the present. Yet we are made in the image of God, One who is the creator of time and outside of it Himself. He alone can see past, present, and future as though they are singularly present, and while He exists to us as the Ancient of Days, the One who is and was and is to come, He also has chosen to reveal Himself to us as the great “I AM.” He has given us memory to recall God’s faithfulness in the past, and He has given us promises to expect His faithfulness in the future; but in the present, He has given us Himself, inviting us to experience Him in each new moment as He most is in Himself–the ever-present living God, the I AM. What a gift this is. We know that Christmas and time go hand-in-hand as part of God’s plan for the salvation of His people: Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Maybe that’s just one of the reasons we love Advent calendars so much. How wonderful it is to count down the days to the Long-Expected Jesus! Advent invites us to remember God’s faithful dealings in the past with His people, and it asks us to trust expectantly in His promises as we long for His future revelation. But perhaps most of all it challenges us to find joy and faith in this moment, neither wishing time away nor wishing we had it back, but simply enjoying Christ as He meets us in the new mercies and wonders that each day brings in this season. He gives all good gifts and the power to enjoy them. “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
In addition to the way Christmas points to the redemption of time, this week I’ve been struck in numerous ways by how Christmas reinforces God’s love for children, deepening my convictions that what we are doing at CCA matters more profoundly than we know. By coming as a child, Christ affirms the value of children. By growing as a young man and a student, Christ affirms the value of learning and education. We may not know much about the details, but we know that Christ lived and learned like any other boy. The author of Hebrews tells us He learned obedience as a Son through the things he suffered (5:8). Back in Nazareth, “the Child [Jesus] grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40). As a twelve-year-old (can you imagine Jesus as a 6th grader?), Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem when His parents began their trip back home from their annual temple worship, and they “found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). He was evidently a good student, too, for “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47). And this pattern continued throughout his youth, as Luke records: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (2:52). Time and space do not permit us to look at all the instances in the Scriptures which demonstrate God’s love for children, but we can quickly recall the number of times Jesus pointed to children or set them in His midst as a testimony to His love and the nature of the Kingdom of God, where all who enter must do so as children or with faith like children. Jesus forbids His disciples from preventing children from coming to Him, and we are challenged to clear the path as well, doing all we can to make sure our children get the best education and access to Christ we can give them. By being a child, Christ embodied the value of children. By loving them, he taught us to do the same. By drawing them to Himself, he showed us the priorities of education. From the start, Christmas has been about this, among other things: “Jesus loves the little children.”
Before I wrap up, I want to share one more fun detail about children and Jesus that John highlights in his account of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus, who is the Bread of Life, asks His disciples where they will get bread to feed the multitudes, knowing all along what he would do (6:5-6). The disciples understand the impossibility of their situation, and as if to emphasize it even further, “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?’” (6:8). In other words, all we have is a boy with barely anything to offer, yet this is exactly who Jesus chooses and uses to demonstrate his power. Only John records that it’s a boy who has the offering that Jesus multiplies beyond imagination. We never know when the smallest amounts from the least among us may be selected by God to bless and feed the multitudes. How many boys and girls with a few loaves and fish might we have in our midst every day? This, too, points to Christmas and gifts upon gifts through Christ. Praise the Lord!