Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
This verse from Ecclesiastes, perhaps more than any other, describes perfectly the ebb and flow of our lives: we are born and we die; we plant and we harvest; we tear down and we build up; we hurt and we heal; we weep and we laugh; we mourn and we celebrate; we discard and we keep; we embrace and we push away; we seek and we give up; we speak and we remain silent; we love and we hate; we fight and we seek peace. This is for all of us, the rhythm of our lives, and it is a rhythm that God built in to Creation.
As God created and appointed days, so He also created a rhythm of time. Today, we measure time in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years, but originally time was measured in cycles and seasons. In the Old Testament, people observed the passing of time with seasons of fasting and feasting as occasions for worshiping God. Jesus observed these same festivals.
For the Church in the New Testament these festivals were transformed in meaning and purpose by Jesus’ life and teaching, His death and resurrection, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return give meaning to the seasons which order the Church’s rhythm of worship throughout the year, with the redemptive work of Jesus being both the centre and the pattern for our worship.
Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year, and it ushers in a season of hope as we remember the coming of Jesus as a child. It also encourages us to look forward in hope of Jesus’ return. Advent is a time of expectation and anticipation as we eagerly prepare to welcome the arrival of Jesus into the world, and without it our celebration of the season of Christmas would lose something of its power to amaze and astound us; that our eagerly awaited Saviour would choose to enter into our reality as a vulnerable and helpless baby.
The season of Epiphany reminds us that the revelation of God in Jesus is for all people, and not just a chosen few, and that Jesus is a Saviour for the whole world. Lent, is a season of spiritual discipline and preparation, beginning with Ash Wednesday, anticipating the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Holy Week, a time of sombre reflection on the events leading up to Jesus’ death on a cross, provides the necessary context for our jubilant celebration at the season of Easter as we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, ushering in a season of rejoicing, which until Jesus’ Ascension, and continues through the season of Pentecost and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
The final season of the Church Year is Ordinary Time (sometimes called Growing Time), which brings into focus the fact that we are called to live as disciples of Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.
The observance of the Church Year is about much more than the measuring of the passing of time. Rather, it connects us to something bigger than ourselves, and helps us to engage with the narrative of the Gospel. The Church Year invites us to journey with Jesus from His birth all the way to His death, and beyond.
By the time you read this article we will already be in the season of Advent, so let me be the first to wish each of you a HAPPY NEW CHURCH YEAR, and to invite you to allow the rhythms of God’s times and seasons shape and direct your life, not just for Christmas, but for the rest of the year to come.
Yours in Christ, Rev Mike.