Every creature has an end in time, because we have bodies; but our End is God. Our life’s story ends as the body dies, and is laid to rest in a cemetery, or at sea, or as ashes buried on a mountainside, beneath a lonesome pine. The story of our life, in the sense of a body enlivened by soul, ends in time; but in the mind of God, one is alive forever. In the One who brought us forth from nothing, we who lost ourselves in time, find a home forever. What else could be the end of our human longings, hopes, knowing, loving, but in God?
In time, Advent blends into Christmas. Waiting for God is ultimately fulfilled in eternity, but even as we wait, we do so not in the void of nothing, but in the human condition of in-between. Into our human lives God is ever sending Himself forth, living in us and with us. If it were not so, our human lives would be essentially empty and futile, or rather, nothing at all. All that lives and breathes, and all that exists, does so in God, not in and for itself. In every moment of one’s life, God is taking flesh, incarnating Himself. Christmas shows us the essential nature of each moment of our lives: God being with us, in us, and for us. Advent ends in God beyond time; Christmas is the celebration of God in time: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
Together, Advent and Christmas mark our human condition as the in-between: the time of longing for God, and the time for partial completion. Christmas is God’s gift in time, for time and for eternity; our celebrations of Christmas pass away in time. And yet, God’s action is eternal, and the One who becomes flesh in time, is the One who inbreathes each creature for all eternity. The inbreathing is not of breath, for non-physical beings do not need breath; God’s inbreathing is of life, love, wisdom, peace, and joy. All of these we celebrate at Christmas in time, and share in forever beyond the limits of time in death. The One for whom every being hopes, the One in whom all beings have their beginning and their blessed end, is the One who is ever and forever giving Himself freely to each and to all. This is the true gift of Christmas, and it is for now, for tomorrow, and for ever.
The One for whom we long and hope is ever the One who is more present, more alive, more real than we are ourselves. We beings are the little ones whom the Almighty is ever indwelling. “And when this earthy dwelling turns to dust,” our home is where it always was: not here in this passing world, but in the heart and mind of God. So bury the body of your loved one where you will, and honor the site where his or her life came to its end in time, but know with wonder and love that the one whom you love is not there, not in that grave, or confined to ashes and dust in the earth, but is forever in God alone, where all begins, and all ends, and begins ever afresh.
LORD, say to my soul, “I AM your salvation.”