My favorite time of the year is this between time between Christmas and New Years’. It’s a favorite because it describes a pet word of mine. Its meaning means what we all love …and… sometimes hate. “Inbetween.” I know that it’s two words, as it should be, because it combines the “now” and then the “then.” But the Church thinks of it as, truly, one word.
After December 25, when do we stop saying, “Merry Christmas?” Is it the 26 or does the 26 still count but not the 29? When do we begin to say “Happy New Year?” Is it December 27, or do we wait until New Years Day, 12:01 a.m., to call all our neighbors and friends? (I wouldn’t suggest that, by the way.)
The time that is “in between.” You find yourself grieving and anxious at the same time when you leave one job and anticipate another. “Maybe I should have stayed on just a few more years,” you think to yourself, “But this new job looks better.” So why not. If someone tells you that she’s “in between jobs” then it becomes an uncomfortable time. It means that the “in between” is twining (being joined together) waaaay too long. Her saying “in between jobs” is a polite way of not saying “unemployed.” You raise a family during this “in between” time, typically lasting around 18 years. But you find that that time gets longer and longer as you wake your 30-year-old son to get to work.
The doctor tells you “two weeks” for those test results, and you’ve now created for yourself the space that becomes those two words. A spouse or good friend passes away, and that dreadful space is again created between the death and periodic cemetery visits.
Our whole lives are an “in-between” time from our birth to our death. We live in this temporary world temporarily with always a Christian eye toward the eternal life that promises not to be “in between” anything. But we hardly have a clue what that is.
Jesus lived “in between” his birth and his ascension. In the gospels, what comprised His “in between” time is boiled down for us as three years. We continue to live those three years of His during our “in between’s.” His life destroyed time’s duration and erased all of our “in between’s.” And, on this feast day beginning a new year, who’s the humble but strong woman who lived the “in between” time of Jesus. I believe it’s the name that we honor as each new year begins to unfold. All under her guidance and protection.
St. Luke said it best, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, (“in between” time anyone?) and to be a sign that will be contradicted (Mary lived with the many of life’s contradictions) and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” A sword toward Mary breaks the difference between then and now. The Blessed Mother confirms the unity that her Son lived and died for.
Retirement can rightly be called an“in between time.” We’re “in between” whatever we did and what follows receiving that gold watch. What does time mean to a retired person? An extra cup of coffee with a good friend because time moves slower? Or, do you say to yourself at 11:00 p.m., “Ah, go ahead and finish the movie. I’ll sleep-in tomorrow morning.” Or, better yet, “I’d like to volunteer for something, but I’m not sure what.”
And for those who continue to work? That “in between time” from Friday night to Monday morning belong? How is that time spent and honored?
Well, so much for my “in between” behavior as though there is “this” (earth) and “that” (heaven). The two have been miraculously united. “On earth as it is in heaven,” anyone?
So, there you have it. I’ve been happy to be your spoken “in between guy” during Mass. I’m the guy sandwiched between the sacred scripture readings and the good part that happens at the altar. It’s the Masses’ ending part that joyfully offers us His Body to erase our “in between” times as He showed us how to do it.
So … do I wish you a “Merry Christmas,” or have you already thrown away your Christmas tree when it’s properly disposed of on February 2? Or … do I wish you a “Happy New Year” because I’m wearing that silly pointed cap with my noisemaker?” Or, should I say the elusively inclusive, “Happy Holidays?”
Or, from a Christian perspective, is it both/and all performed and lived at the same time?