The marking of a new year on our calendar exerts a power on our imaginations. Suddenly, the lethargy and cynicism of the dwindling days is wiped away. We begin to think of new habits and practices, new disciplines and stories. Every year I come up with a series of overly ambitious resolutions. Get in shape is always on the list. One year it was learning a foreign language. Another year it was reading specific books each month.
I find that my plans are almost always overturned a few days into their execution. I have no idea how these statistics were determined, but according to one article, 40% of Americans make New Year's resolutions, and only 8% keep them. The passage of time as a marker of hope is literally perennial. In the time it takes for the Earth to make one orbit around the Sun, we have made plans, failed, and then made them again--perhaps dozens of times.
The Bible has its own language of time. In the beginning, are the first words. We are left to imagine if there was time before the beginning. Jesus' first words in the Gospel of Mark are "the time is fulfilled..." When Jesus appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection in Acts they wanted to know "is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" There is God's time--known as kairos--and ordinary chronological time--known as chronos time.
The human need to control and manage chronos time gets us into all kinds of dilemmas. We feel the need to forecast the end with apocalyptic schedules. We wonder if this is the right moment to act or to be silent? We become experts at procrastination and delay.
The poet known as Qoheleth in Ecclesiastes writes that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die. " Jesus was born "when the fullness of time had come" according to Paul (Galatians 4:4). And he died for the "ungodly" at just "the right time" (Romans 5:6).
Hardly anybody knew that the time was full at Jesus' birth. Seemingly nobody knew that it was the right time for Jesus to die. God apparently is working on a different timetable than we are. I'll still make my resolutions, and perhaps I'll follow a few this coming year. But I will take solace this coming year in the hope that God might just do something surprising and new in God's kairos time.