The Fourth Sunday of Advent

hadn’t rowed for quite a while and sitting at the rowing machine meant that my ‘muscle mem-ory’ kicked in as I turned on the machine, tightened the foot straps, and slowly started rowing. I have goals in terms of distance that I’d like to achieve depending on how long I row. I thought I’d row for 10 minutes – it isn’t long and I hoped I would reach my ‘usual’ distance. I often row with my eyes closed and so I’m back on the Hawkesbury River for a while. I’ve never rowed in Syd-ney Harbour except in Mildenhall! 😉

At the 5 minute mark I knew I was behind by about 20 metres. I was rowing ok but not what I’d’ve preferred. Why can’t exercise be easy?! If I wanted to reach my goal I’d have to pull that bit harder. At 6 minutes I’d pulled the distance back 4 metres but … I could easily have slackened – why work harder than one needs to? (‘It’s only my own stupid goal? I’m in charge of my life – if you don’t want to do it, don’t!’) I kept the pace but closed my eyes and checked at 7 minutes – 11 metres behind. The goal was in sight and certainly possible but why bother? At 9 minutes I was on target and I felt the strangest sensation – that now it was the most tempting to slacken. Bizarre. I closed my eyes and didn’t put in any extra energy, just kept the rhythm but I obviously did pull harder than I thought because I finished 14 metres ‘over target’.

It occurred to me that this wasn’t a movie or a novel or poem or even theatre where time can so easily be manipulated in the telling. I can use a moment to talk about a year and I might take an hour to describe a few minutes. Just thinking I wanted to reach my rowing goal wasn’t a matter of just a few strong strokes but took me longer than it has taken you to read to this point! To row for 10 minutes means that I had to row for 10 minutes – not 5. To reach my goal meant that I needed just under 4 minutes to do so. I needed the time to make it happen.

So often we look for ‘short cuts’. I hear about them in the gym – be more efficient with your exer-cise in this or that way. Or maybe there’s a new way to achieve weight loss. Advertising bom-bards us with new (which means quicker) ways to get rich, to get educated, and the like – and the subtext is often that this new something is ‘easier’. We just don’t want to put in the time. Nev-ertheless we appreciate time when it is given to us – the knitted jumper perhaps over against the bought one. I think we appreciate any gift our children give us but I’m guessing we treasure more the card or present made for us by them because of the time involved. Certain things take a cer-tain time.

I have made the comment before that Jesus didn’t beam down to Earth ‘Star Trek’ like as a 30 year old. Mary went through a regular pregnancy – ok, the beginning wasn’t regular – and she gave birth to a baby who didn’t mature to be 30 years old in a few minutes – the time it takes us to read from Luke 1 to Luke 3. No, it took Jesus 30 years to get to be 30. Perhaps this was his ‘training’ in humanity? I don’t know if that’s a helpful thought but Christians say that Jesus is truly human and truly divine – the God-Man – Immanuel to use his ‘Christmas name’ (God with us) – and that Jesus died as one of us – locked in time, living each second one second at a time. If our

salvation required such time then if Jesus took that time – then he must really care for us – have wanted to do it. The ‘it’ is that bit of Christmas we – and especially the world – prefer to ignore or downplay – that baby Jesus came into this world to die for us. That’s what his empty tomb tells us.

What does this mean? Lots of things! But at this time perhaps when I would like to take short cuts – and I think sin is very often all about ‘short cuts’ – I should instead live the moment as God in-tended. Why? Because God in Jesus has shown us that he is with us in time – in the good and the bad times – when we struggle and when we relax – all the time – so we can live the moment – the day – as best we can. And that starting point is knowing that we are loved! GS