Good Morning Brothers and Sisters…
First of all, thank you for your help the last couple weeks. When I was injured, many people said, “Whatever you need, just let me know.” Now…we all know that is the thing you say whether you intend to follow through with it or not. We all mean it when we say it, but when the call comes through…it boils down to who’s time is more important. Many of you answered the call, for that I am grateful.
I have been learning more and more about the ‘church calendar’. For years, the only days on the ‘calendar’ that I celebrated were Christmas and Easter. A couple years ago, my church began celebrating Advent. I wasn’t sure what that meant because it was wrapped into a phrase “The Advent Conspiracy”. I understood that we were not supposed to spend a bunch of money on presents, but pledge that money to “The Advent Conspiracy” for good works elsewhere. It wasn’t until the next year that I understood that “Advent” is celebrated by highlighting the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that is only found in Jesus, and more specifically, the coming of Jesus in the Incarnation, or His birth in a manger. Obviously, this is the lead up to Christmas, the time of the year when we celebrate the coming of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, joyful shepherds, wise men and the such. I get it.
December, without the influence of the Church, is a time for decadence, consumption, greed, pandering, and violence. Or, if you prefer, I could mark the time this way. December is the time when the playoff seeding for the NFL becomes more clear, bowl season for college football, the NBA, NHL, and college basketball are in full swing and the ‘hot stove’ in MLB is ramping up as well. December is also deer season, duck season, trapping season, and whatever else I can think of.
After the Advent and Christmas season we continue with “The Feast of the Epiphany” set for early January. This marks a time to celebrate the arrival of Jesus to the gentiles. My guess…is that everyone reading this is a gentile? In other words, this day celebrates our standing with God that we are able to receive the ‘bread of life’. This is celebrated through a remembrance of Jesus’ baptism and the first miracle of turning water into wine. Two occasions in which Jesus was ‘announced’ as divine, and those witnessing would have had the ‘ah hah’ moment…or an “Epiphany”.
Or…we can celebrate the New Year by staying up to late, getting drunk, and making promises about how we are going to change our life for the better.
After Epiphany, we move toward the Easter season, which starts with Lent, on Ash Wednesday. Honestly, for years and years, all I knew about ‘Lent’ is that the drive-thru lanes at Long John Silvers were crazy busy in March. I didn’t know why, and really didn’t care. I figured that was something ‘they’ did, but we didn’t. Then I made the mistake (or followed the Spirit’s leading) of reading about ‘Lent’. I soon realized that it is designed as a time of prayer and fasting. A time to draw closer to the Lord, as Easter approaches. The ‘ash’ on the forehead to start the Lenten season is supposed to provide a visual remembrance of the blackness of sin, and the need to be washed clean from it. The ash is made from burned up palm branches from the year before. If we remember, on Palm Sunday, Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowd was singing His praises and laying palm branches in front of Him. A week later, the crowd was shouting for the authorities to “Crucify Him”. The ‘ash’ is symbolic of our dual nature that can both praise and curse our Lord.
Or…we can celebrate ‘March Madness’ and participate in a country wide illegal betting ring where everybody, including the President, can ‘wink wink’ participate free from prosecution.
Easter arrives and we celebrate the entire week, in fact we call it ‘Passion Week’ and we have special feast days the Sunday before (Palm Sunday), Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Friday (Good Friday), Saturday (Holy Saturday), and Easter Sunday (Sunrise service, Passion plays, etc-etc).
Or…we celebrate the coming of ‘spring’ with bunnies, flowers, and chocolate.
After Easter we head right into ‘Pentecost Sunday’ which is a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the faithful, which becomes the ‘Church’. We celebrate this ‘feast’ in early June. Without ‘Pentecost’…we would not be here. There would be no Church. Jesus would be a historical figure that said some outlandish things and had some mystery surrounding His death, but not alive and well within the hearts of the faithful.
Or…we can celebrate warmth and sun. Spend our weekends at the lake, at the beach, at the pool, at the ballpark watching baseball.
Here is the point…All time is a gift of God and intended to be sacred. God created a rhythm of ‘feast’ days with our spiritual ancestors the Jews. This rhythm was intended to be carried into Christianity to remind us that time is sacred, time is a gift, time is God’s. Our culture has attempted to steal time from God and create its own rhythms of life that revolve around things not of Him. Lets be aware of the theft…and return to Him what is rightfully His…sacred time. Let us be the ‘Church of our own history’ and recapture those practices that caused us to stand strong under immense persecution, to love when love was impossible, to serve when we had nothing left to give.