In the Christian calendar, this time of year is considered “ordinary time”—the time before Advent and Christmas, before Halloween and Harvest, before Thanksgiving.
However, in our everyday, commercialized society, there appears to not be any “ordinary” season, as stores seem to want us to buy Christmas décor in July, for example.
Over 100 years ago, a French monk wrote that the liturgical calendar year was “the joy of the people, the source of light to the learned, and the book of the humblest of the faithful.” (Bass, 87, Receiving the Day 2000).
The liturgical calendar was a way to help create a timeline for church leaders based on scripture and based on what was happening in the time in the culture. It was one way in which religious leaders separated themselves from secular society – following God’s time rather than other timelines set by the government. Different forms of Christianity have different important days of celebration that are included in their respective calendars.
As the lines between sacred holy days and secular days become more blurred, is it important to try to revive this sense of time beyond the walls and confines of our Christian congregations?
Most often, I find the liturgical calendar a great teaching tool – especially for children – since it is a concrete way to demonstrate changing seasons in the church. In the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, using the changing of church colors, candles or banners also helps the congregation – young and old – where we are on the Christian calendar.
So, if we do not follow the Christian calendar, what would be the point of remembering the “off seasons,” or waiting for the actual start of Advent and Christmas, or Lent and Easter or any other special holidays or seasons? After all, our local stores help us remember holidays by putting out the merchandise with the corresponding seasons.
But is that enough?
As a pastor, parent and teacher, I struggle with patience. Patience for children starting to make their Christmas lists as soon as they can, patience to prepare for Holy Week during the Easter season, patience to get supplies and food for family gatherings—even church members struggle with why we may not sing Christmas carols until Christmas and not before.
As a whole, it seems to be a struggle to fight against the seasons and holidays that the malls and stores follow, rather than the actual time frame that was created by the universal church hundreds of years before. I don’t think that hitting the Christmas sales in January are going to get me in trouble with God – however, I do think in our world that insists on jumping ahead at the speed of light, the Christian, or liturgical calendar, gives us a reason to pause.
While the stores want us to be well-stocked for every season and holiday, I believe Christ wants us to be well-prepared in a different way. Prepare our hearts for whatever comes next, even if the time seems “ordinary” in our busy lives.
Celebrating the gift of time that God has given us is a Christian practice. Allowing ourselves to let God guide us through this life and not follow the external expectations of the “stuff” will help us to find more room for prayer, reflection and observing God’s creation in a new and rejuvenating way.
Enjoy the time whether it is ordinary or not – it is still time well spent with the help of God.