Today’s Lectionary Reading.
Matthew 24:36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Romans 13:11-12: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near…”
Just over fifty years ago, a Soviet cosmonaut flew into space. When he returned to Earth, he reported that he “looked and looked and looked,” but never found God. C.S. Lewis caught wind of the statement and offered a characteristic reply. Reporting that we could not find God in space, he said, would be like Hamlet climbing into the attic and reporting that he had not found Shakespeare.
For Lewis, God is beyond our normal ideas of space and time. If we are Hamlet, God is Shakespeare–the Author who exists outside his creation and, at the same time, is present in every word of it. We might be bound by the whips and scorns of time, but God is the playwright who brings that time into being.
This first day of Advent, we’re reminded to think about life from both perspectives. If history is a great drama unfolding from Genesis to Revelation, Matthew 24 gives us Shakespeare’s take, and Romans 13 gives us Hamlet’s. God is the only one who has the final act numbered. He alone knows what the last word will be. We characters, meanwhile, strut and fret our hour upon the stage, contributing our verses with little more than an inkling of how they contribute to the powerful play. We have no clear enumeration of our scene and act. We live in soliloquies.
But in today’s passage from Romans, Paul reminds us that we know much more than we think. We do know what time it is: it is the moment for us to awake, to live out in love and devotion the part that God has given us to play. We may not know when this great drama will end, but we do know how–with the return of the King who only seemed to be slain in an earlier act. Paul’s message is more than a carpe diem. It is a calling to be certain in our uncertainty. Every word we speak, write, or think brings us closer to our last, but we’re not racing toward Hamlet’s catastrophe. We’re racing, in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, to a eucatastrophe–a recovery of the paradise promised to us the moment God spoke the world into being.
This Advent Season, we celebrate the moment the Lord wrote himself into our story–the moment Shakespeare turned his flesh into words and dwelt among the troubled citizens of Denmark, humbling himself from cosmic creator to sacrificial hero. For the next twenty-five days, let’s treasure these moments of worship and reflection. The day is near, our time is short, but we can look forward to an epilogue that will never end.
Lauren Spohn ’20 is a senior studying English in Currier House.