Many things can change in an instant. All you have to do is watch or be a part of enough sporting events to know that one second has the power to change almost any game, any career, or the trajectory of an entire franchise and city. If a player had taken one step in another direction, swung just a little sooner, zigged when instead they zagged; everything would be different. Sometimes it’s just the difference between making a play or not – getting a first down vs. punting, hitting a home run instead of a double, or scoring a goal instead of a seemingly meaningless possession. But in other situations, it’s the difference between winning and losing, advancing or going home, winning a championship or the heartache of knowing you came up just short. Moments matter. One second can be the difference. In the time it takes to take a breath, everything can change.
It’s true for more than just sports too. Take example a romantic relationship. It’s made up of hundreds of thousands of little moments that form and decide what the future, or perhaps really the present looks like. A glance at the High School dance that let someone know you were interested. The deep breath they took to gain the confidence to come ask you out for Friday night. A choice someone makes to order something safe and keep the dinner going well, or to order BBQ chicken wings and turn the whole thing into a disaster, from which there’s no coming back. The moment you choose to follow your heart and grab their hand, lean in for a kiss, or say those three magic words; followed by a response that means just as much. The power of self control during a fight, that keeps you from saying something you didn’t mean, and you could never take back. All of these moments and more, in the time it takes to take one breath, can alter the future’s of many, forever.
And not all these instances are quite so positive in nature. For many of us, we live in the reality of all the moments we wish we could take back. The things we wish we hadn’t said. The hands we wish we hadn’t grabbed. The choice to take the easy way instead of the right one. If, in that critical moment, we could’ve held our tongue or said something else. If we would have looked over our shoulder before changing lanes, or stopped when we knew we’d had enough. If we’d waited until we were married or listened to those we love and who cared for us when they said things were moving too fast. If we hadn’t followed them to that school, decided to take the job with more money that kept us away from family, tried to impress the wrong person, or made a joke that cut too deep just to get a meaningless laugh. In these and in seemingly endless situations, one second, one choice, one breath can be the difference between experiencing the things of life, or the things of death.
Your life and mine is made up of these moments. These life altering choices and changes, that come and then are gone so fast we hardly even notice. In the time it takes to take one, single breath, our eternity can change. But then, all eternity did change, with just a single breath.
From the beginning there had been a plan. God and man would spend eternity together. Side by side, in the perfection of His creation. But then, with a single choice, a moment of weakness, with just a bite, God’s most precious creation took an unimaginably decisive step away from Him. The gap was enormous. The distance seemed insurmountable, and the separation had ramifications that no mortal man could fully grasp. In the span of just a single breath, humanity had divided itself from their Creator and created a chasm too wide for any bridge to span. For years, centuries, even millennia, they had wandered in what felt like the wilderness trying to find their way back to Him. If they could just follow all the rules, if they did what He asked, if they could be perfectly obedient in a way their fathers could not, perhaps they could lessen the affects of the schism between them. For generations they tried, and for generations they failed – maybe even made it worse. One man’s obedience undone by the sins of his children. One king’s submission to the Lord of all things, followed by king after king who could not bring himself to bend his own knee. One group’s attempt at devotion, destroyed by those who could not bring themselves to pledge allegiance to anyone other than themselves.
Failure after failure, breakdown after breakdown, collapse and breakdown, decline and defeat. Even despite the words of God being spoken to them through the mouths of their fellow man, God’s creation could not bring itself to find its way back to Him. Struggle as they might, the fissure was deepening, the gulf was widening, the breach seemed irreparable. God and His people, separated and severed, distant and detached; and perhaps not even on speaking terms.
For some four hundred years, it seemed God’s children could not hear His voice. Perhaps they were not listening, distracted by their critics and the culture of the day. The noise around them was loud and it’s possible it drown out the cries of their Father. Maybe He was trying a different approach, using nature and their circumstances to draw them back to Himself. Or could it be, that His silence was a message in and of itself? What if, He intended to get the attention of those so dearly loved, through patience and quiet, instead of pomp and circumstance? Silence, after all can be deafening, when what you expect is the voice of the One you love. Four hundred years, and still no voice, God it seemed, was as silent as the night.
But from the beginning, there had been His plan. God and His people could spend eternity together. Side by side, in the perfection of His creation. The gap was not too wide, they had not wandered so far as to not be brought back. In one single moment, God’s plan took shape.
Luke 1:26–38 (ESV) – In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
And in that instance, with one single breath, the defiance of all the generations began to be undone by the obedience of one single peasant girl. God’s plan of perfection became possible again; and all of history moved closer towards the realization of His promise. They were not forsaken, He had not been absent, His love remained true. For nine long months creation groaned, with birth pangs crying out, for the One who was coming, for the solution to what ailed them, the fix for all our failures. What was coming was not what we expected, but WHO we needed, and One who could change everything.
And so, on what might have been a silent starry night, one star shone brighter than the rest, angels appeared from the clouds, and there was a chorus in the sky. Shepherds left their fields and wise men came from afar. The trees of the fields clapped their hands, and the mountains and the hills broke into song. The promise of God, for the people of God, in that moment came to pass. The words of the prophet rung out through the hills and all of Heaven proclaimed;
Isaiah 9:2–7 (ESV) – The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken.. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The LORD of hosts has done this.
In one moment, with one single breath, a child broke into our world, and new life began. One instance, one second, one choice, undid every mistake that had ever been made and righted every wrong that had ever been done. In one sacred second, God’s King became more than a promise, He was and is, a person. Sent for you and me. To give us what we needed. To change all of us in an instant. To make real to us; hope, joy, peace and love.
Tonight we gather to remember the night God ended His silence. The night His promise came true. Tonight, we remember the importance of instances; of each breath that we take. We treasure the majesty of moments, and attempt to take advantage of each and every one. Tonight is about just how much “God so loved the world” – and how He gave, what He did, and how He changed everything; with just, one, breath.