There was a game that we used to play when we were kids. It was called, “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” and all those who thought themselves sheep or chickens would call out to the person who was the wolf this very question… “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” The person acting as the wolf would call out various times of the day: 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock. Each time the sheep and/or chickens would move ever closer to the wolf who was guarding the home free line. Eventually when the wolf thought the time was right the sheep and the chickens would call out, “What time is it” and the wolf would roar, “Lunchtime!” chasing after the sheep and the chickens trying to capture as many as he or she could. When you were caught you too became a wolf. The last one to survive was considered the winner. And he or she was now the wolf instead of the chicken or the sheep. And the game would start all over again.
As we grow older and more mature, we tend to worry about time and what we do with it. We as a society are somewhat obsessed by it. We have lots of interesting ways to express our thoughts and feelings about time and the passage of time. For example, some might say “there is no time like the present!” Or “time and tide wait for no man!” and we can go on with expressions like “There’s no time to lose”, “There’s no time to spare” or “there’s no time on the clock”. We need to saving time for the important people and things in our lives and we need to buy time to forestall events that we are either not ready for or don’t want to happen at all. One of my favourites is Carpe Diem (Latin for Seize the day!). We are challenged to make the most of our lives and to live it out to the fullest because there may not be a tomorrow.
Luke takes this moment to seize the opportunity to communicate the message of the news from God. He takes the time to tell us about John the Baptist and his ministry. He tells us about the message that John preached and the fact that people reacted to it – and not everyone reacted favourably to it. He told people what time it was – time to acknowledge that the One God had promised was on his way and that there were things that the people needed to do to be ready for the coming of the King. He tells us that we need to fix our lives not our roads (A challenge to anyone who lives in rural Newfoundland!) because the One promised is on his way and that this is going to not only be the end but also the beginning because we are going to see the salvation of our God.
And in doing so, Luke tells us about all the important people: kings, government officials, rulers and priests. Luke tells us of how they were upset and in an uproar because of the message that was being preached and they were watching the preacher. Luke also tells us of one insignificant man, a son of a small town priest who was out in the wilderness calling people to respond to God and to mend their lives because the King was coming. John calls people to come to repentance and to baptism as a symbol of that turned around life – regardless of who you were. Baptism was considered to be okay for the outsider but not for those who were children of Abraham. Baptism was not okay for the insiders. The religious and the political structures of that society were shaking even before the time and ministry of Jesus. The country was ready for spiritual revival and was listening not to the politically powerful or the religiously astute. The people were heading the call to be ready for the coming of the King and to fix their lives not their roads. The powerful and the astute think they are being weakened by this nobody out in the middle of nowhere and they do not like it and will not stand for it. They will not go down without a fight. They are willing to kill and to destroy if they cannot have what they believe is rightfully theirs.
That is the risk of playing games and walking roads that have potholes. Life gets dangerous. Without repair the potholes deepen. Games must stop when the call comes for everyone to go in for supper. Advent is not just about getting ready. It is about showing that we are prepared to play and to walk with Jesus. Advent is about being ready to serve, even when everything around us is coming apart when we thought we had it nailed down. Remember, Jesus comes amongst us as one who serves. After all, now is the hour and today is the for salvation. Take the opportunity to tell someone this week that Jesus came to play them that they might be with him forever. Certainly there is no time like the present.