Christian Living

Spiritual Life

What Time Is It?

We moderns have stripped this question to its most mechanistic, petty level. It is only about stopwatches and timetables, never about meaning. If you feel trapped on the treadmill of endless, breathless busy-ness, maybe it’s time for you to stop asking, “What time is it?” and begin asking, “What is it time for?”

God did not create us to be the slaves of a time-clock or of a tyrannical schedule. He has redeemed us from slavery of every kind, and has established examples for us showing how we can live and work as free men.  Creation Week in Genesis 1 and 2 reveals God’s own work rhythms. The account of that busiest of work weeks even contains an invitation to consider that week as the pattern for the times of our lives:

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:2, 3)

As God continued to train His people in living, He set up a cycle of feasts so that His people would not forget their blessings, so that they would enter into the joy of all that God had done for them. The Christian Year or Church Calendar is much the same sort of exercise. It asks us to consider the meaning of time. It asks us how we will "redeem the time....for the days are evil..." (Eph 5:16)

Historically, Christians have appreciated the value of reminding ourselves on a yearly basis of the great things God has done. Modern evangelicals have largely forgotten the old Church Calendar. (Didn’t that go out with Indulgences?) But it gives Christians a joyful and disciplined way to remember, to reflect and to revive in hope and strength.

The Christian Year sets up seasons of contemplation, which focus in sequence on the vast workings of God on our behalf throughout history. This is enormously different from the pagan calendars, which focus on the cycles of nature. There is no sense of progress in the natural cycles. Everything that will happen has already happened for thousands on thousands of years without significant variation.

It is also vastly different from the secular calendar, which is dominated by State holidays.  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating State occasions, but if that’s the only calendar we recognize, it implies that the State has the first claim on our time.

But the Christian Year points us to the progress of Redemption, the cycle of Promise, Longing & Development, Passion & Atonement, Resurrection, and Contemplation/Kingdom-building. These are the patterns not only of a history that has a center and a climax; these are the patterns of our personal walks with God.

There are several ways to calculate the year, but whether you use the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant version, the basic pattern is the same. Here in a nutshell is the Christian Year:

  • Advent (four weeks leading up to Christmas, which focus us on anticipating Christ’s coming in our lives and in our world)
  • Christmas (not just one day, but twelve!)
  • Epiphany (six weeks, beginning on Jan 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas. This is the season of contemplating what kind of kingship Jesus exercised.)
  • Ordinary Time (the weeks between Epiphany and Lent, which vary with the year, since Easter is a moveable feast)
  • Lent (six weeks leading up to Easter or Resurrection Day, focusing on repentance)
  • Easter (six weeks beginning with Easter Day, celebrating the great reversal: Jesus conquered sin and death, light engulfs darkness)
  • Ascension (the Sunday before Pentecost, commemorating Jesus’ return to heaven to rule at the Father’s right hand.)
  • Pentecost (the Sunday closest to 50 days after Easter, marking the day when the Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ disciples, writing His Law on our hearts. This ends the Feast section of the year.)
  • Trinity (all the rest of the year until Advent, encompassing most of June through November. This is the season for general contemplation and Kingdom-building.) Note that in the United States, the last week of Trinity is Thanksgiving - very appropriate.

What time is it? It's not enough just to answer, ‘3 o’clock’ or even, 'I have a report due next week.' We really need to weigh, 'If I finish the report on time, what will I have accomplished, for whom and for what purpose?' It’s about time we re-discovered time. It really is on our side.

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Adapted from the original article on www.mother-lode.blogspot.com on Oct. 2, 2006.  Copyright held by Kim Anderson & released for CBN network.

In the course of her career as a mother, Kim Anderson has home-schooled her three children; trained kitchen table lobbyists for Concerned Women for America; founded a homeschool college prep cooperative and provided international educational consulting with her husband; and produced summer-stock Shakespeare and award-winning independent film with her children. Kim has written about her parenting adventures in Countdown to College: a Homeschoolers’ Guide to Winning Scholarships and Quests & Homecomings.  Active in her local church, Kim’s passion is to develop a Christian arts community. Kim blogs about college prep at www.countdown2college.net/blog and about family life at www.mother-lode.blogspot.com

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