What Time Is It? The Six Year Old Knows.


The final Advent reflection, sent this morning to my email list. If you’d like to subscribe and haven’t, click here. Blessings of the Season to you…

I love so-called “Freudian slips”—those mistakes in speech that often uncover an unexpected meaning or layer of humor. But I’m not sure I want to give Sigmund Freud the credit—rather, these flubs often seem the work of that holy trickster, the Spirit of God.

One of my favorites happened several years ago at a church conference. During a prayer before communion, the speaker meant to say “love is stronger than death.” Instead, whether because of a typo in the script or an error on her part, she said, “love is stranger than death.”

And I thought, Yes. That’s the heart of the Christian story, isn’t it? Love does not follow the rules as we understand them. Love has its own illogical logic, that of grace and new life. It’s truly strange, is it not, that the God who created nebulas and quarks and manatees and sequoias decided to pour into the flesh of a human being, live for a time, die without putting up a fight… and then three days later, that person’s heart starts beating again, neurons begin firing, breath pumps in and out of resurrected lungs. It makes no sense. It is strange.

And it’s here at Christmas that that strange love has its beginning—with an unmarried peasant girl, a confused fiance, a birth in a cave, and a bunch of simple shepherds, mouths gaping open at the holy surprise of the thing.

God became a human being. Amazing.
And that’s the story we participate in this Christmas.

Today James gave me another slip of the Holy Spirit. For some reason, we were talking about what time it was, and he said, It’s heaven o’clock.

Whether he meant to say seven, or eleven, or was simply making a rhyming joke by saying “heaven,” I’ll never know, because he saw my absolute delight at the phrase and repeated it again and again. That’s what time it is, in this season of Advent expectation, as the hour grows close when Christ will be born in our hearts again. It’s God’s opportune moment. It’s kairos time. It’s heaven o’clock.

I told the small crowd at our Blue Christmas service last night how perplexing it is to me, that the first day of winter would also be the day that the days start getting longer. I understand it geologically. But spiritually it seems all wrong. You’d think that (here in the northern hemisphere anyway) the coldest season of the year would also be the one with the least amount of daylight. But no—all winter long, even while many of us experience colder and colder temperatures, the light is returning, bit by little bit each day. It’s a holy disconnect, but one I find tremendously hopeful. Even when we feel discouraged or spiritually cold, even when we shiver against the darkness and pull our blankets and cloaks tight around us, the light is making its slow, relentless way back into the world.

Check your watches, folks—it’s heaven o’clock. Love makes its way toward us again. Thanks be to God for that good, strange news.

I wish you all a most Merry Christmas.


photo credit: YlvaS via photopin cc

4 thoughts on “What Time Is It? The Six Year Old Knows.

  1. Bob Braxton

    Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
    When at the cross the Savior made me whole;
    My sins were washed away –
    And my night was turned to day –
    Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!

    Born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s fam’ly divine,

  2. anne

    i’ve loved thinking about ‘heaven o’clock’ all day. when our kids were little, we sometimes declared that they had used ‘frito words.’ that was when they used a difficult word in a correct and creative way. if we had fritos in the house, which was seldom, they got a couple of fritos at that moment. if we didn’t, they still got the satisfaction of having their creative usage noted. i declare that ‘heaven o’clock’ is a frito phrase.

    i’m sure james must have smiled from the inside out when he saw your reaction!

  3. Charlie Chadwick

    I read this and thought of the concept of “farmer’s time” that Daniel Boorstin talked about in The Discoverers

    “So long as mankind lived by raising crops and herding animals there was not much need for measuring small units of time. The seasons were all important – to know when to expect the rain, the snow, the sun, the cold. Why bother with hours and minutes? Daylight time was the only important time, the only time when men could work. To measure useful time was to measure the hours of the sun.”

    “Heaven o’clock” strikes me as always being a useful time.


    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      You may have remembered my preaching about the petal clock—a garden invented by Carolus Linnaeus, I think was his name, who planted various flowers that bloomed at a certain time each day–so you could tell the time based on what was in bloom.


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