Sunday, December 12, 2010

Church Calendar

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Last week we insisted that as we enter into the Advent season, the beginning of the Christian calendar, it is imperative for us to remember the distinction between the Word of God and the traditions of men. But given that the observance of the Christian calendar is not a matter of necessity, why have our elders decided to emphasize it? Why have we decided, among the myriad of things that we could emphasize, to emphasize this? Aren’t there bigger fish to fry? Isn’t this perhaps putting an unnecessary stumbling block in front of God’s people? Aren’t we straining at gnats and swallowing camels?

As we consider these questions, I would like us to meditate on the meaning of calendars. What do calendars do? They measure time, they organize our lives, they shape us and mold us as creatures made in the image of God.

“Solomon reminds us that there is a season for all things. That is, that timing
is an important feature of wisdom. God tells us that the whole sky that we walk
under was created so that man could understand the season and timing of things.
Then God descended upon Sinai and gave Israel a calendar of holidays as part of
its heritage… which the gospel writer John shows pointed to Jesus. Even Jesus
himself tells us that he comes during an acceptable season. Seasons, timing,
memory. memorial, history, heritage, and holy days are all a central concern to
our God and concern for God’s people. For he divides times, and we are made in
that image.” (Troy Martin)

This centrality of time, the centrality of calendars, was made evident in the French Revolution. For one of the first things that the revolutionaries endeavored to accomplish was to change the calendar, to reorient it – not around the birth of Christ but around the beginning of the French Revolution since that was the most important thing in history.

So what does this all have to do with the Christian calendar? Consider for a moment what the Christian calendar does. First, it dates all things in history from the birth of Christ declaring in no uncertain terms that Jesus is the center of history. Second, it not only dates all things from Christ’s birth, it also orients the entire year around the life of Christ. Advent – awaiting his birth; Christmas – celebrating His birth; Epiphany – celebrating his revelation as Messiah to the Magi and in his baptism; Lent – remembering his suffering; Passion week – remembering his final week of challenge, betrayal, death, burial, and glorious resurrection; Ascension – celebrating his enthronement at God’s right hand as King of kings and Lord of lords; Pentecost – celebrating the outpouring of the Spirit by our Risen and Exalted Lord. Between Pentecost and Advent? Celebrating the work of Christ by the power of His Spirit throughout the course of history.

In other words, the Christian calendar is a reminder that “Christ marks our time, Christ marks our calendar. It is wisdom to know the season of things, and Christ is our wisdom, …” (TM)

Why is this important? Precisely this: our calendars always reflect the god we worship. In the ancient world, it was the lives and doings of the gods that structured time. In the Muslim world, it is the actions of Muhammed and the operations of the heavens that govern the world. In the Western world, a world that still clings to the vestiges of a Christian heritage but is now apostatizing, rejecting that heritage, what gods do we worship? We worship the god of self.
Our schedules are dominated by us. Our thoughts about time are filled with
thoughts about our own time, our own work, our own busy schedule. And should we ever have a holiday, we understand it only as a personal vacation. So today’s
exhortation is an invitation, to remember who marks your steps and determines
your times. You were bought with a price, you do not belong to yourself. Neither
does your time.
(Troy Martin)

So whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Reminded that we have failed to do so, let us kneel and confess our sins to God.