I love my weekly parkrun, but I don’t enjoy running. I enjoy the challenge. What I really enjoy is stopping running.
During the fifth and final kilometre, as my brain struggles for oxygen, weird stuff begins to happen. I talk to myself out loud without thinking, so it’s a surprise to hear ‘Come on Turner!’ and realise the voice is mine. Time slows. The world shrinks until my sole focus is on that Sisyphean asymptote known as the finish line. When eventually I get there, there’s a further strange few minutes where I’m conscious of sanity gradually returning. Reality reappears. A weekend begins.
It’s interesting how Christmas sits in the very final week of a long year. It’s meant to be about the breaking in of ultimate reality – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – but by Week 52, the room can be swimming a little. Jesus gets lined up with elves and tinsel, fir trees and reindeer. It’s called the Silly Season for a reason, and we’re ready to suspend reality for a week or three to taste an idealised world where work is rare and cricket plentiful.
So how can we be sensible enough to know we need rest, but also awake enough to the capital-R Reality of the inbreaking Kingdom? How do we keep it from just seeming like a dream?
One way is by Adventing well. Advent reminds us that the Kingdom has been coming in off the long run. It’s a dawning, not a random lightning flash that leaves you wondering whether you only imagined it. Come, thou long expected Jesus.
Another is by Christmasing well. Read the story as a news story and pinch yourself – this has really happened. The hopes and fears of all the years are met – are met – in Thee tonight!
And finally, let’s New Year well. The return to school, work or other mundane rhythms are no longer a doom, because they’ve been put in a new perspective. In Christ, we find that that Reality doesn’t bite, it kisses! Our Messiah comes not to condemn the world but to save it! Not to extort productivity out of us, but to offer an easy yoke! Not as a disgusting medicine only palatable if mixed with elves and tinsel, but living water! Not to mete out our wages, but to offer us gifts!
Christ is not blind to or immune from the world’s pain, nor should we be. (Lenting well is next.) But he shows us that it’s a passing nightmare, not our defining reality. So we approach the new year driven by hope rather than dread, knowing that our Hope is not a Sisyphean asymptote, but closer than ever and certain to arrive.
Merry Christmas, sacred agents!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Crossover exists to Help Australian Baptists Share Jesus. Check out their resources, ideas and recommendations at crossover.org.au
*Andrew Turner is the Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries
Photo by Kira auf de Heide on Unsplash