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Christ and the beauty of time

Unsplash/Christin Hume
Unsplash/Christin Hume

Once again, we experience the garish celebrations of the passage of time and another year. But if we look deeply enough at the Christ and His relation to time, we begin to behold the beauty of time.

William Lane Craig, in his brilliant book, Time and eternity, wrote that “it is not notoriously difficult to provide an analysis of time that is not in the end circular.”

This is not to say that time repeats itself but that the great themes show up again and again in every historical epoch like movements in a majestic symphony.

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To understand the biblical “theology of time” and behold its beauty necessitates seeing time at both the existential and spiritual levels.

Kairos is time in its eternal, God-ordained, “opportune” manifestation in our lives and history. Kronos is time in its finite punctuality and functionality. From this perspective, we better understand Craig’s observation about the circularity of time.

Actually, the Bible's view of time is that it is linear-cyclical. Think of a railroad track and its train: the wheels are cycling on the linear track. So, the schematics of God’s great plan of salvation for humanity constitute the “train” and its revolving wheels that take it from a point of origin to a destination. In Christ, the destination is not “termination,” but telos, an arrival at a new point of purpose for those who join themselves to the Lord of time and history.

The track by itself might be admired but not necessarily hailed as beautiful. Bring the train into the picture and the glory of a great railroad is manifested.

As a child growing up in the 1940s in America, and then, in adulthood, riding trains in many parts of the world, I have discovered the beauty that emerges when train meets track.

There is no awe in a barren string of rails but put on the track a grand locomotive and its cars and the beauty emerges.

Ed, my father-in-law, was a veteran trainman who loved his job and lavished the beauty of the conglomeration of metal and — in his early days — fire and steam, and the high-key notes and rumbling might ringing from the circling wheels. Look into his eyes and you would see a man beholding indescribable beauty.

Look at the train of time and history through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, within the perspective of the Christ and you will take in the beauty of time in God’s glorious design.

Take away the Christ and all you see is the boring, futile stretch of empty time. A track without a train is a sorrowful thing to behold.

The journey to God’s ultimate destination starts in the Garden of Eden, with the bloody remnant of an animal slain and skinned so that sinful humans could be covered.

Look at it through the eyes of biblical revelation and you will see the track running from Eden to Calvary. There are many stations along the way, and at one of them you hop on and at another I join you.

There’s a lot of territory between that Eden origin and the declaration of John the Baptist that day down by the River when he pointed at Jesus and declared: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

How would people recognize the Messiah along that long train-ride of time? The answer is that there were markers along the way. The true Lord would come from the line of David, hence the importance of the “begets” and “begottens.”  These were kairological sections where God’s plan intersected chronological human time.  As each “beget” and “begotten” occurs it marks the fact that the train is on the right track.

The “begets” and “begottens” are thus not meaningless words, but they mark the stops along the track where humans can discern and hop on the train. Those who knew the prophecies about Messiah’s arrival thus knew whether John was right or not.

The Bible’s genealogies are not irrelevancies, but beautiful and blessed indicators that show the train is on track. Jesus is indeed of the line of David. Each of the generational stations is an important stop along the journey to the destination. They also give the opportunity for more people to get on the train.

“What a beauty!” Grandpa Ed might say of one of his glorious trains easing through the yard and station under his management.

How beautiful time is for us as we recognize the Christ and seize the moment to receive Him and allow Him to take us aboard. There we can rest amidst our wearying attempts to make our journey on foot.

With the end of an old year and start of the new we stand at the other end of that journey that started in Eden and reached its destination in the Christ event, from His divine birth through a virgin mother to the empty tomb. We marvel at the beauty of time when it carries its precious cargo all the way to the end of the line, which in Christ can be the beginning of a new line and life journey.

Perhaps as you read this you can look back over the track of your life, and see the places where God intersected the kronos-moments of your journey with His kairological interventions that brought you to Him and His destiny for you.

Maybe reading this now is one of those “opportune times” for you. It could be that you need to hear the cry of the conductor, “All Aboard!” It’s the new year, and it could be time for you to get on a new train.

Don’t hesitate but jump on that glorious and beautiful train that will take you all the way home.

Wallace B. Henley is a former pastor, daily newspaper editor, White House and Congressional aide. He served 18 years as a teaching pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church. Henley is author or co-author of more than 25 books, including God and Churchill, co-authored with Sir Winston Churchill's great grandson, Jonathan Sandys. Henley's latest  book is Who will rule the coming 'gods'? The looming  spiritual crisis of artificial intelligence.

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