How do we know there is no such thing as time, you ask?
Ah -- I can document it for you: cast your mind back to the Christmases of your childhood. Remember the afternoon of the great day -- the wreckage of toys and wrapping paper, the ruin of the Christmas feast still littering the table, the exhausted adults surveying it all listlessly. Remember your lust for the toys you received, remember the carefully-selected gifts you brushed aside, so entranced were you with whatever gift it was that seemed to you to be the star. And remember, then, the despair that clung to the edges of your orgy: it would be a whole year until next Christmas. A YEAR! A YEAR, do you tell me? How on earth would you make it through? A year was as good as a century in those days. A year was an eternity.
Now think of last Christmas. How long ago does it seem? About a month? Me, too.
Time is not constant. It is relative. It speeds up -- and not just the human experience of it, either. Time itself is intimately paired with location. It's why there are time zones -- it's already tomorrow in India. And yet I can pick up the phone and speak with someone there: he will answer right away: real time intersects with elapsed time when I do that. If that's the case in India, on the other side of the modestly-sized earth from where I sit and write this, imagine what time it is on Alpha Centauri.
Did I mention that this train of thought can be confusing?
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Just when we think we might have overdosed on Nativity scenes, the gospel reading in church this Sunday will feature this austere reminder: that which is, always has been. It IS. Jesus of Nazareth was born in a time and a place, but Jesus the Christ is not contained in a moment. The moments of Christ are all now.
Don't worry if this isn't coming together for you yet. Sit with it for a few decades and it will. When it does, its implications will, too: if there is no such thing as time, nothing is lost. What was still IS. The sad parade of loss we know as history is only a parade on this narrow stage of earthly life. It stretches out only here. The God's-eye view of our life is not linear. It is all now.
He's got the whole world in His hands. Bet you never thought of it as a Christmas song.
Want to hear Mahalia Jackson sing it? Considerably abridged, but majestic nonetheless: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Tz0PZm3og&feature=youtube_gdata_player
And here are some beautiful Zambian schoolchildren singing it, too:
Tomorrow night, December 28th at Trinity Church in New York City, something that doesn't happen very often anymore: Barbara Crafton appears in a staged reading of Robert Landy's play "Letters From Sing Sing." 7pm at 74 Trinity Place, Second Floor.
Take the #1 or the N/R train to Rector Street.