The week between Christmas and the New Year is usually a vacation week for pastors and church related offices. Starting with the first Sunday in Advent (which this year started with November 27th) until Christmas Day (another Sunday this year), the church calendar was filled with enjoyable activities. By Christmas Sunday evening I was so exhausted that I did not write my usual church-wide email of Vespers of Praise and Thanksgiving.
On Monday morning I had a brief meeting with a church leader who reminded me that this was my vacation week. This was my week to relax, to be with my family, to visit friends and to stay away from the church office. I did fairly well, with the exception of a funeral happening before the New Year.
Enjoying my relaxed time and good conversations, I was reminded that the whole church’s existence is in between times. When I checked some of my references I found that I remembered an exact quote from George Ladd who writes, “The church lives ‘between the times:’ the old age goes on, but the powers of the new age have irrupted into the old age.” Jesus Christ ushered his Kingdom in when he began his ministry, saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near.” Other translations read: for the kingdom of God has arrived. The presence of Jesus Christ meant that the kingdom of Satan has been attacked. Other scholars have phrased the expression “in, but not yet” to declare that the certainty of the Kingdom is undeniable, but its full force is not here yet.
In between times! The celebration of the birth of Christ creates one pole of the history of the church. The birth of Jesus Christ and his life among us is undeniable. The human history is just too full of His presence for even the most ardent opponent of Christianity to deny that Christ lived and that the Christian Church has come into existence as a result of his work. The Christian Church varies in presence and strength, but it continues to exist not because it exists unto itself but because it declares that something else is coming.
The One who is coming has come already. Jesus Christ has come the first time and after His resurrection He told His disciples that He is coming again. The Christian Church is a part of His Kingdom. The presence of the Christian Church is the messenger of the in between times.
Paul writes that God sent his son in the fullness of time. Jesus came into the world not a day late or a week early. He came in the precise time of God. We do not know when Jesus Christ is coming again, but He will come in the fullness of time. We live in between times, waiting for the new time that Jesus will usher in at His second coming.