We’ve all heard the question. You have embarked on that summer car trip where ten minutes in a voice will chime out from the back, “Are we there yet?”. My stock reply is always “NO, we are HERE”. This never seems to satisfy, and the same hopeful question will be called out again in another ten minutes. Are we there yet?
It’s common to feel we are not getting anywhere. The urge to arrive assumes that our journey has a goal and a destination We want to get there. That, interspersed with the sense that the passage of time here on earth is not just spinning our wheels; the time itself should have meaning.
Time… which one is it? Going around in circles, or making a bee-line for a destination? I’m sure the children of Israel did not know either. A revelation would be nice, except that in the story of Exodus, the dynamic intervention of God is all up front, followed by… forty years of wandering. In other words, if you have ever felt like you are rushing around without meaning, purpose or destination - you are not alone.
I can recall once boarding the Arab East Jerusalem bus. The bus driver was smoking and chatting on the road,. He had one cigarette, then another. Then he walked across the road to a restaurant, came back after a long time, and proceeded to smoke and chat once more. Finally, I asked the driver… “When does the bus leave?”. He replied nonchalantly “When it’s time.” After a long time, he finished with the smoking and loitering, got back onto the bus, turned to me and grinned. “It’s TIME” he said while he put the bus in gear. In my humble opinion, a little bit of hunger might helped. This guy had no urgency to arrive anywhere.
When I was a court sketch artist, time would seem to tick by like paint drying. There were endless deliberations, the judge would retire to chambers and you would be wondering if he was in for a game of solitaire. And yet…my job was to connect the dots and show the story. Behind it all, something was happening, even though it seemed to be happening very slowly. When the court sketches were featured on the news together with a soundbite, it was a bit of an illusion. People would come up and say “WOW, YOU WERE THERE!!!!!!” It makes me smile, that the purpose for being there was not very apparent when I was in the midst of it.
Christian eschatology, the study of end times, tells us that there is some revelation in life that we simply cannot see at present. In the story of the Exodus the divine and temporal orders meet. Time is a story with a beginning, middle and an end - with a distant purpose which is transcendent. You finally get both wishes. You get somewhere and it lends meaning to the journey, even when it might not seem so fun.
The Exodus is a story of Moses’ own sense of vision for a destination he could not yet see, and that it equalled faith. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11: 27) “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt”. (Hebrews 11: 26) I don’t know if you ever linked Moses and his Exodus mission in one sentence as being about Christ, but the Bible does. If the Bible is a story about God and Mankind, then Exodus is just part of the intro.
All of this, makes me understand a little better, the yearning in my own heart as we approach Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We are waiting for the same thing as Moses, for HIM who is invisible. There is a beauty hidden within the Advent period, that lives in the waiting and the hunger. Advent frames our inner longings as a necessary part of the journey of faith. We are left with a holy discontent even as we are mindful of the gap between God and man that history has not yet closed.
And so we light our candles, and we wait, savouring that inner longing and wondering at the promise that will be fulfilled, in the “fullness of time”. I too, am waiting for the final part of the Exodus story and even though I have skipped ahead to the last chapter, it has not ruined the story for me . “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. ” (Revelation 21)
God… It is Christmas and I am so hungry. ARE WE THERE YET?