Last Sunday after the second service, an eager crew of friends ate some pizza and successfully undecorated the church. As soon as we were finished, I looked around the room and felt several things at the same time: relief that the job was done; gratitude for the fast and friendly helpers; and yet sadness that the decorations were gone and the church looks empty and bare.
But that is what happens at the end of a season – one must end so that the next one can begin.
Enter ordinary time. The time that we keep – or the time that keeps us – until Lent begins. The next season in the church year.
Some of you may be familiar with the church calendar – also referred to as the liturgical year – and some of you might find this concept both foreign and ancient-sounding; a relic or tradition of some high church tradition. I like to think of it as a way of tracking time that keeps Christ at the very centre of things. It is a way of marking time that keeps the main thing the main thing. The liturgical year helps us see, participate in, and be formed by time in relation to 2 key events: Jesus’ incarnation and his resurrection. In other words, Christmas and Easter. These two defining and formative celebrations are the markers of Christian identity.
Jesus' birth, and then his death and resurrection are what make us who we are!
Allowing these two events to become the focal point around which the rest of the year – the rest of my life – takes shape is one way that we can live more fully into Christ’s story as his people. Not to mention how it subverts my own ideas about time and how I keep my own schedule! It comes as both a challenge and a breath of fresh air. A challenge to recognize and question by what or by whose time I am being formed. And a breath of fresh air as I recognize that it is in fact God’s time, and the central events in his story that sustain time, me, and all of creation anyway.
And so the church year begins with Advent – the new year begins with a season of anticipation that culminates in Christ’s birth – the incarnation. During the Christmas season (from December 25 to Epiphany) we contemplate what it means that God became human and lived and lives among us. At Epiphany, we remember that God revealed himself to us – he made manifest his presence.
From Epiphany to Lent we have our first season of Ordinary Time.
If we think about Jesus’ birth as the first big celebration and his death and resurrection as the second big celebration, the time between Christmas and Easter is really a time to focus on the Life of Christ – what happened between his birth and his death. And then to contemplate and integrate our concerns in this world in relationship with Jesus.
In her book, The Liturgical Year, Joan Chittister says: “in the liturgical year we live the life of Jesus day after day until finally one day it becomes our own. We become the message of it. We grow into the life of it. We ourselves become players in the great drama of the bringing of the reign of God to the turmoil of the world.”
And so as we enter this first season of ordinary time, let us contemplate Christ’s life.
Let us pray that we, too, would be formed and transformed further into his image. As we come to life as players in this great drama, let us notice the people and the concerns around us and bring them to the Jesus we meet in Scripture. Let us let this time begin to shape, form, and re-mold us so that time itself becomes a gift and an opportunity for worship.
PS – if you’re curious to know more about the rest of the liturgical year, check out this blog post that Kim Boldt mentioned in his Advent blog.
And if you like visuals, check out these images of the church calendar (see below). Thanks again to Kim for these resources.
Lisl Baker can't believe she's been in Vancouver for 10 years now. She loves all things French, turning the little things in life into fun adventures, and soccer. Oh, and she happens to be quite fond of the Redemption Church community!