The author of the article entitled “Marking Time is Making Time” in the September 2011 issue of the Lutheran Witness reminds his readers that “we live by the seasons of nature. We live by the seasons of our favorite sports teams and whether or not they get to celebrate festival days like the World Series or the Super Bowl. We live by the seasons of our favorite TV shows or the next must-see summer movie. We even live by the ever-changing Google logo marking the virtual days of the internet” (pg. 6). The truth that we intertwine our lives in the rhythm of seasons is probably more relatable for our grandparents and great grandparents of a more agrarian culture who worked closely with the land and depended deeply upon the changing seasons. Nonetheless, it is evident that there is a rhythm to the day—sunrise and sunset, work and rest. There is a rhythm to the year—springtime and harvest. There is a rhythm to our lives—birth and death. In the church, this rhythm is interwoven in God’s time.
The church keeps time differently than our culture. For the church, the last Sunday of the year is the fifth Sunday before Christmas (November 20th this year) and the first Sunday of the year is the fourth Sunday before Christmas (November 27th this year). Like in many parts of the world the changing of colors and the falling of leaves on a tree gives way to Winter and the first snowfall, so also the Last Sunday of the church year gives way to the first Sunday of Advent and the church begins a new year of keeping time.
As we roll into a new church year and shift from the parament and vestment colors of green to blue, from the season of Pentecost to the season of Advent, let us remember that the purpose of doing so is to tell the most important story of our lives. The purpose for keeping time according to a church year is to “tell the story of how a God beyond time acts within time to save and restore life” (“Marking Time is Making Time,” Lutheran Witness, pg. 5). The church year is interwoven in the midst of your busy life and mine to tell the story of how God acts today in the person of Jesus Christ to save and restore your broken, sinful life and mine. Indeed, God acts in history to save and restore a broken creation in its entirety. For, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to sin and decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:19-21). The church waits with patience and in hope (Rom 8:25) while she “fixes her eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of the faith” (Heb 12:2) of all her members.
The church waits with patience and hope in the season of Advent for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas morning. The church celebrates the birth of Christ and looks forward to the ministry of Christ for the world, inaugurated in the baptism of Jesus and the season of Epiphany. The church looks in faith to the one who was transfigured before men and was revealed in glory to be the beloved Son of God in whom the Heavenly Father is well pleased. The church travels together through a somber Lenten season in its pilgrimage to the cross of Calvary. The church praises the God who brings life from death on Easter morning and lives in Easter joy for the weeks to follow as she proclaims triumphantly, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” The church adorns itself in red on Pentecost Sunday, fifty days after Easter Sunday, to remember that even though Jesus has ascended to be with the Heavenly Father, God has not left his church without his presence—the gift of the Holy Spirit, the comforter and helper for all Christians. And for the long weeks of the summer, while plants and flowers grow and flourish and many people prepare for the Fall harvest, the church and her members continue to live by God’s grace, through faith alone in the Spirit of God until the Last Sunday of the church year—and to be sure—until the very end of time. We revolve through the seasons of the church year and remember that all time revolves around the good news of God acting in history through Jesus Christ to save and restore all things.
As God’s creatures we live in time and we cannot help but keep time. As a baseball season ends, another football season approaches its conclusion, our favorite TV show airs the final episode of its season or series, or even as certain events remind us that we are in a different season of our lives, let us continue to fix our eyes on Jesus who envelops all time in the seasons and events of his life, death, and resurrection.