“What time is it Mr. Wolf?” Is the question asked in a children’s game. There are many different answers, but the one to be afraid of is “Dinner time!” In our Community Choir Concert this last weekend we sang a song entitled ‘Now and forever’, which included the words ‘time waits for no-one, time rushes by’. I have been thinking that we live in different time streams. Each of us has a particular time stream, or in fact we might live in several time streams at the same time! We are all time travellers.
For Christians we are in a season of Advent, a time of waiting, looking forward, expectant and hopeful. For many in our culture the period of waiting takes on a completely different meaning, and is often swamped by the early arrival of Christmas. Quakers, for those who are aware of their history, do not live in the same time frame as other more orthodox Christians. Friends do not ‘wait’ either for the remembering of the birth of Jesus nor the ‘second coming’ of Christ. The traditional Quaker belief is that Jesus has already come again – within! They live in a realised or at least a realising eschatology. The end times have begun. I have been at pains to describe this as ‘traditional’ because I am not convinced that many Friends are aware of the reasons behind their current practice. Do Quakers celebrate Christmas or not? There seem to be different views.
Of course the Christian seasons of Advent and Christmas are aligned with the northern hemisphere experience of winter with increasing darkness and the turn of the year when the light returns. For those for whom the changing season and places are significant the dying and rising myths are very important. In practical terms we in Britain have to protect ourselves from the cold and dark and try to survive until the Spring.
But other experiences sometimes overtake these time streams, such as births and deaths, which come in their own time. Endings and beginnings can also happen ‘out of time’. I have just finished a time of service as a Clerk of my Local Meeting and also as a Trustee of Woodbrooke. I will begin service as Clerk to the Area Meeting Trustees in the new year.
At the other end of the scale is cosmic time. David Attenborough has just addressed the United Nations about climate change, and described it as the most significant global event in thousands of years. The effects of our actions today will be with future generations for centuries. But even millennia are small-scale compared to the eons of cosmic evolution. Yet we are part of those time streams as well.
As time travellers how can we be sensitive to this moment, as well as to what ‘this moment’ means to those who are time travelling beside us?