Way back in 1965 I sang with four of my friends in the Oak Park and River Forest High School’s “Senior Follies.” One of the songs we performed was Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” But, as it turns out, Alphonse Karr was correct, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (the more things change, the more they remain the same). So, I think I can appropriate the opening line of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis series without distorting his original intent: “These are the times that try [our] souls.” (I could have used Dickens’ opening to A Tale of Two Cities, but it’s too long.) Since life is this way, I’m not surprised that James opens his letter by directing us to “count it all joy” when we encounter various trials; or that the writer of Hebrews begins and ends his exhortation to persevere in faith by affirming the immutability of the Father and the Son (1:12; 13:8).
As times of trial go, the past year has provided many “opportunities” to rejoice. But, as I look back at a year in which much seemed to change, I realize that not much really did. Our family is still together and in love; the world still seems chaotic; and the God who continues to work in his creation has not relinquished control. Times change, as is the nature of time, but in this season, we celebrate the Lord of Time. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). “The love of God was made manifest among us, in that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). So, “with confidence we draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). So, join with me in celebrating the Lord of time at Christmas time.
O God, your timing was, as always, right;
Your plan, conceived so wisely long ago,
Unfolded with precision, and in spite
Of all the opposition from your foe,
Who caused “How long?” to echo through the years;
Dismay, despair, defeat, distrust, denial, death
All crushed our hearts and overflowed in tears
Of gnawing grief that tortured every breath.
But when the time was right you sent your Son
To manifest your gracious love for us,
Appease your anger at our rebellion,
And bring us home as heirs, victorious.
So, now we celebrate a plan well done;
We live today because you sent your Son!