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In the Fullness of Time – December 24, 2010

As Unitarian Universalists, the living tradition we share draws from many sources. Among those many sources are the teachings of the Christian tradition. Tonight is a night held sacred by followers of Jesus, some here in our congregation, some our neighbors, family members or friends, and billions of others all over the world, unknown to us by name. So, it is fitting that on this night we should take time to appreciate the insights of that faith tradition.

In just a little under 2,000 years, Christianity has grown to be the most populous religion in the world. It is so popular, in fact, that it can serve as the measure for the popularity of other things. In our age of powerful information technology, we may be approaching the point where that measurement could actually serve as a clearly quantified unit. See for instance a report published online last month comparing the number of times people have used the Google search engine to seek information on various celebrities and popular subjects during this past year. Out of the 25 subjects considered, Jesus was the fourth most common search – a respectable, though not quite commanding performance. The three search terms that beat him out were, in order of popularity: the pop music and fashion icon Lady Gaga, the teenage musical sensation Justin Bieber, and cats. As far as I can tell, no distinction was made between the animal and the Broadway musical.[i]

Close competition with pop stars and furry household pets not withstanding, Jesus of Nazareth, as he is described in the stories and scriptures of his followers, is a radical and prophetic figure. It is written that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” And also that he taught, “Judge not, that you yourself should not be judged.” Followers of Jesus recorded him as saying, “Whoever is not against us, is with us.” And it is said, that he said, “The Kingdom of God, is within you.” You see, one of the other sources that our living tradition draws from is the words and deeds of prophetic women and men, and certainly the prophet born in Bethlehem is on that list as well.

Tonight is the commemoration of that rabble-rousing, street-preaching, spiritual revolutionary’s birthday. In one particular passage of the Christian scriptures, it is said of that birth, that it came “in the fullness of time.” That phrase in English, “in the fullness of time” is an attempt to translate the ancient Greek term kairos, which means the right moment, the time for action, the time at which something special may occur. In the biblical story of Jesus’ birth, this is shown as a disruption of the status quo: children are born into mangers, and shepherds leave their flocks behind in the night. And at its best, the season of Christmas is a sort of a kairos. At their finest, these days are a time to celebrate generosity, and the pursuit of peace. Now is an opportunity, for those who observe the holiday, to show love for each another, and to see that no one should be hungry, or lonely, or without a warm, safe place to sleep. And that is fine, and good, and a reason to be glad.

But Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”[ii] The text does not say once a year, or on special festivals. Jesus’ vision of a world of justice and peace, what he called the Kingdom of God, is not described as something that happens every now and then. It is always present as a possibility – every moment that human beings live, occurs in the fullness of time. Unitarian Universalism affirms that each night a child is born is a holy night, and each and every person has within them the promise of a finer and more noble world. So those of us who do not call ourselves Christians are in the same predicament as those who do. To each of us is entrusted a treasure trove of moments, and in each one there lies something for which the time is full, and ready. Just as there is a moment in which I am ready to breathe in, followed inexorably, by the instant in which I must breathe out. The process of building a world of love and justice may be more challenging and complex than breathing, but we are blessed with just as many opportunities to undertake its work. The key, then, becomes recognizing what action each moment calls us to undertake.

Finding such insights would be impossibly, tragically hard, if not for the mercy that we do not have to do it alone. We come together as people of faith, we gather in spiritual community, to help each other discern the kairos of the present hour, and to share our strength in responding to the signs of the time. So in the coming year, may you live out every moment in the fullness of time, to turn the world and your own heart towards justice and peace. And if that seems too colossal a challenge for you to take on your own, come back here, where there are others who will share the bewilderment, and the struggle, and the wonder, and the work along side you.



[ii] John 10:10


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