Little Nellie and her father were visiting an elderly neighbor. They were raking the neighbor’s leaves, organizing the neighbor’s garage, putting the trash out, and performing other small jobs around the neighbor’s house. The little girl had not really seen the elderly neighbor closely, but on this day she was going to meet the neighbor up close for the first time. When she met her neighbor, she asked him how old he was, and her father was horrified by his daughter’s question and attempted to apologize to the neighbor, but the neighbor laughed and said that it was ok, she’s just curious. The elderly neighbor told Nellie he was 92 years old. The child had a look of unbelief and quickly asked her neighbor, “Did you start at the number one?”
As we sit here this morning, there have been so many events throughout the world this year that have caused us to laugh or cry or something in between. The boys’ Thai soccer team who was trapped in a cave for 18 days, the wild fires in California, IHOP briefly rebranding to IHOb in order to endorse their burgers, the Tide pod challenge, online DNA testing breaking onto the market with the advertisements saying “Your gift will be the most remembered if you offer the gift of ancestral history,” the passings of both Barbara and George Bush, and the Philadelphia Eagles winning the Super Bowl.
As I have reflected on the events of this year, I noticed various perspectives, much like little Nellie, in observing what happens in the world when we read the Scripture passages for today. Isaiah calls Him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah continues to speak of the power and righteousness in which He will come as He brings truth and light to the world.
Our Psalm speaks to God’s majesty and glory and splendor and honor and holiness. Throughout our Psalm we see joy. We see hope. We see nations of people brought together in praise of Him.
Salvation is brought to the world as we read the passage from Titus. This text, written after the death and resurrection of Christ, proclaims His majesty and intention of redemption and purity for us. Titus writes for those who “are zealous for good deeds” will have hope as they wait for the coming of Christ our Lord again. And this is the nugget of truth for us today. Hope. However, this simple word is actually not so simple at all.
I heard something a little over a year ago. This definition or perspective of time has forced me to rethink all I assumed, and I simply cannot shake this theory. Time, according to God, is like a ball of thread. It’s wound tightly with all the threads rubbing against one another, and it can fit within the palm of a hand. And while we see time as linear: a start, beginning, and end, God knew and still knows. While little Nellie saw her neighbor as a very old man moving through each number from one to 92, he likely saw his own life as having passed in the blink of an eye.
So, with this idea of time as a process that happens all at once, folding and swirling and bending within itself, it sheds a new light on our readings for today.
Isaiah states, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us…For the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice…” Our Psalm exhorts us to “Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.” There are other passages of Scripture that speak of salvation through the Child, but these passages are Old Testament. Titus, which was written after the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, states that “we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior.”
And so, this morning, as we read again about the decree going out from Emperor Augustus and the child in the manger and the shepherds traveling to Bethlehem to see this baby, let us remember — no, let us KNOW — that God gives life to us and He offers hope to us through His Son. God was and is and shall be.
And as we move out from this place into the world, let us carry this hope of God’s love and salvation with us. In our places of work, our families, our neighbors, and even ourselves let us know that even through stretches, tangles, knots, and breaks, God sent Christ Jesus for us then, now, and always.