Friday, December 4, 2009
Time: Chronos and Kairos
The season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, is a time of waiting expectantly and hopefully for God's coming. The key to waiting hopefully is centered in our concept of time. In the New Testament, there are two Greek words for time. The first is “chronos” from which we derive our words chronology and chronometer. Chronos is “clock time.” It’s time that is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years.
The second Greek word for time is “kairos.” The best translation of kairos is “appropriate time” or “right time.” In some places in the Bible, it’s used to describe God’s timetable. One of the classic examples of kairos is in Ecclesiastes 3. “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” The poem goes on to say that there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Kairos can’t be measured by clocks. In kairos time, events unfold on their own schedule and can’t be rushed or slowed down.
Understanding time as kairos can help us in our waiting because it means that some things unfold on their own timetable and not on ours. While we measure things by chronos, so many things occur in kairos time. For instance the maturing of a person. There are “early bloomers” and “late bloomers” and you can’t rush a late bloomer. And there are others: the birth of baby happens when the baby is ready. A traffic jam unfolds on its own timetable. A spiritual awaking happens when we’re ready. There are so many things in life that must happen in their own time.
When we accept kairos time, waiting becomes easier. We wait knowing that we don’t control all of the events of our lives and when they happen.