“Always Winter, but never Christmas!” That was the curse laid on Narnia by the White Witch (she preferred the title “Queen”), the land literally frozen but also frozen in time, never progressing, never offering hope. Eventually, as Aslan begins to walk the land, the first sign of realised hope was the arrival of Father Christmas, followed in due course by a thaw and Spring.
We’ve just had a flurry of birthdays – Aedan, 4 on January 21st, Ben, 2 on January 28th, and now Euan, 7 on February 13th. The mix of birthdays and available dates for celebration can lead to some confusion when you’re little; Ben at 2 was just pleasantly surprised, Aedan full of anticipation, and Euan able to look forward from some considerable period ago (a year?). Euan and Zach came down over the weekend – Euan celebrated his birthday early over 2 days, and then Aedan celebrated his late, after Euan”s early celebration – confused? – so were they! Natalie can make amazing cakes, but we tend to resort to purchased cakes. We chose the wiggly caterpillar consumed by Ben and Euan’s pirate cake widely shared, but Aedan chose his cake. In one of those memorable images, Aedan was sitting in the car as we debated Morrisons or Sainsburys. “Morrisons!” he suddenly declared after being disinterested. Once there, he peered at the cakes, walking up and down, with the words “I need the Thomas cake.” Suddenly, with triumph, he picked up the Thomas the Tank Engine cake and his eyes gleamed with delight. Who could resist? Apparently he had spotted the cake on an earlier trip, his request declined, and he remembered not only the cake he wanted, but even the shop.
For poor Zach, it must be an agonising wait, a sort of “always winter…” as his birthday is May 9th and in the meantime, he sees everyone else opening presents. He was particularly impressive when Euan opened our present, selected by Tom by the “oooh” factor when Euan and Zach were scrolling through the Lego sets. It was a helicopter, and as soon as Euan opened it, Zach bounced up and down with the words “That’s just the one we were hoping for” and was as excited as Euan, yet made no attempt to “muscle in”. The illustration showed the helicopter with a little service vehicle: “Can I play with that when you make it up?” he asked his brother, to an affirmative. When you’re 4¾, 3 months is a very long time to have to wait and hope.
Waiting and hoping is very much a part of Christian theology. The Old Testament expects a messianic age where essentially at the end of time, God wraps everything up and takes back full control through his nominee, the Messiah. When Jesus came, died and rose again, he was identified as the Messiah or Christ (they mean the same). Some of the things he did, particularly his resurrection and ascension, belonged to the “end-of-time” and yet were punched into time and so into our history. It began “the last days” period of time, but it has already lasted 2 millennia. During this time, we already have some of the promises, but not all of them, so we live in a time of “already and not yet” – rather like Zach looking forward to his birthday, seeing so many of the promises realised but still having to wait in hope for May 9th. To us, it seems a very long time, but then so does 3 months to a 4¾ year old!
As I write this, we are beginning Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is meant to be a period of reflection, a drawing near to God and a listening time. If we give up anything, it is to draw nearer to God, not as an end in itself. That reflection should lead us to consider our ministry, the way we serve the living God, but it is also a time to take stock. We can reflect on the multitude of blessings we already have and have had at the hands of God, and we can look forward in hope to the realisation of the promises God has made in Christ Jesus. Whether it is like Aedan seizing his desired cake, or Zach hoping for his future birthday bliss, we have a certainty – the promises we see fulfilled already auger the complete fulfilment of all God’s promises in due course. We already have so much in Christ, and look forward confidently to the “not yet” in all its fullness.
St Paul wonderfully summed it up as “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”(The Bible, 2 Corinthians 1.20). Praying that you may find true joy and peace for today and certain hope for tomorrow in Christ Jesus, the “Yes” of God.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,