At the stroke of midnight, December 31, 2015, the famed six-ton ball slid down the pole from high above Times Square, New York City. The skies then lit up with flashes of dazzling fireworks, while the wall-to-wall audience below, dressed in all sorts of interesting costumes, cheered wildly. Levity filled the air.
Interviewers circulated with mikes at the ready. Talented musicians mounted stages here and there and filled the air with song. Kisses and hugs were exchanged freely. Meanwhile, around the world a billion people watched all this through the wonder of television.
What was it all about? Why the throngs? No great name was being celebrated – like Alexander the Great or Charlemagne. No historic day was being remembered – like D-Day or the day the Iron Curtain fell.
It was observed as the precise moment separating a spent year from a new one. It was the observance of the passing of time itself.
When the ball would come to rest, the year 2015 would be forever spent. It could be remembered, but never re-lived. A new year with all its hopes and fears would begin. It, too, in about 365 days would pass forever. That’s how mankind experiences time.
On this New Year’s Eve people in lesser numbers went to church. My nephew, David, told me he and his family would go Saturday night and again Sunday morning. It was a family tradition and he anticipated it eagerly. Think about it – honoring God in worship for the gift of time.
Those across the land who went to church were celebrating the same reality as the celebrants in Times Square. The worshipers, however, would perhaps spend moments thinking of the year now closing and giving thanks for the Lord’s mercies. They also would ponder what they would like to do differently or better in the New Year and ask for God’s grace. Most of all, they would give thanks for the Savior.
But they would think especially of time itself as a gift from God. We all do not have the same amount of money, talent, or opportunities. But we all have the same number of hours in a day – 24 – and days in a week – seven!
The Greek of the New Testament has a word for the measuring of time. It is chronos and the name registers with us because almost all of us have chronometers on our wrists. We look at them scores of times a day because these instruments keeps us alert to the flow of time in our busy world.
But the Greek language has another word for time and that Is kairos. This word does not so much mark the flow of time as the significance of particular moments or occasions in time. Call them opportunities.
About a special situation we might say, for example, “The time is ripe” meaning circumstances had fallen into place that should prompt us to act at this special moment.
Using this very word, Paul writes to the Ephesian Christians to “Make the most of every opportunity (kairon) because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)
Christians should need no six-ton steel ball gliding silently from above, and no swirling, cheering masses rending the air, to alert us to kairos in this new year. We will watch for these moments. And whether they come in the form of great break-throughs in our circumstances or unexpected disappointments we will treat them as providences and pray for grace and wisdom to act.
Photo credit: Kohei Kanno (via flickr.com)