The way we keep time reveals our priorities. If you live and die through the passage of four, 15-minute quarters, you’re likely a football fan or player. If you move through the world clocking compassionate 12-hour shifts, you’re probably a nurse. If you obsess over BPM’s (beats per minute), you’re a musician or a heart surgeon. If you experience your best days through the lens of 18 short walks, you’re a golfer.
As Christians, we have our own unique way of approaching keeping time. Since the days of the Roman Empire, the Christian year has NEVER corresponded to the calendar set by any emperor, country, or culture. Instead, the Christian Calendar allows God’s story to define the pattern of our days as it breaks down into two halves: (1) Ordinary Time and (2) Extraordinary Time.
Ordinary Time stretches from early June through late November. It’s the time of the year when worship focuses on the story of God’s people in the Old and New Testaments. This year at Elmhurst CRC we spent the majority of Ordinary Time following the Book of Acts. Ordinary Time even has its own color — green — to symbolize the ongoing life and transforming growth that God brings through his life-giving Spirit. This Sunday (11/21) marks the end of Ordinary Time 2021.
While I love the Thanksgiving holiday and intend to celebrate fully with mind, heart, and stomach, it is NOT a part of the Christian Calendar. It’s important for us to remember what is particularly American and what is particularly Christian. American Thanksgiving joins us in gratitude to God with our fellow Americans. The Church Calendar unites us to brothers and sisters around the world and across time!
November 28 kicks off the first half of the Church year, which I like to call “Extraordinary Time.” Another way of describing it would be the part of the year when God’s people remember and retell the story of Jesus. Extraordinary stretches from the beginning of Advent (usually late November or early December) through Pentecost (late May, early June). During this time, we relive the story of Jesus from the centuries of waiting for his arrival all the way through his death, resurrection, ascension, and the arrival of his Spirit.
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. There’s a great graphic from Third Church in Richmond, Virginia, which illustrates what I’ve been describing, at the top of this blog.
I believe that keeping in step with the Christian Calendar is a significant act of discipleship. God’s time has the power to form us and shape us. When we keep in step with God’s time, we validate that God’s story is our defining priority. At Elmhurst CRC, we’re going to do all we can this year to lean into the story of Jesus and the story of God’s people. Starting in Advent, our Sunday worship services will be based on the lectionary, that is, portions of Scripture selected to help the global church remember the Story of Jesus. To further support this effort, we’ll publish a weekly podcast and daily devotionals that highlight the same portions of Scripture that will appear in Sunday worship.
With all that in mind, I have an invitation for you: Instead of keeping time according to the consumer instincts of American Culture (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Vacation, etc…), consider letting yourself be defined by God’s Extraordinary Time. What might happen or how might you experience your year differently?
A defining moment is coming up soon. One way to approach Sunday, November 28 is as a recovery day from the overeating and overshopping of the previous holiday weekend. Perhaps a better path might be to greet the New Year of God’s Extraordinary Time by worshiping with the people of God. I’d love for your spirit to be full by joining in the latter. Peace to you,