We evangelicals love daily “Quiet Time” and Bible reading plans. We’re all about capital campaigns, and developing organizational systems for everything from scripture memorization to community outreach. But when it comes to organizing our time in a holistic manner so that every season focuses on Jesus more than on the weather or national holidays, many of us become skittish.
We need to get past that, because there is a bigger question than “Should I observe something that my local church hasn’t observed in the past.” The bigger question is, “What if there was a way to preach the whole gospel to ourselves, year after year? To ensure that nothing was lost. Nothing forgotten. Nothing overlooked or downplayed. To rehearse and draw strength from every rhythm of the gospel, within each year of time.
It’s easy to see why such a tool would be useful:
- Some of us anticipate the Second Coming so much that we fall into unhealthy speculation and lose our passion for missions, while others act as if Christ’s return has no bearing on our lives.
- Some of us dwell on the miracles and teaching of Christ’s earthly ministry to such an extent that we begin to only see Jesus as our example, not our savior.
- Some of us are drawn to the wonders of the cross while paradoxically missing the reason for the cross – the destructive presence of sin in our own lives.
- Some of us are so swept away in the glory of the resurrection that we end the story too soon, forgetting what Jesus taught and commanded between Easter and His Ascension, and what His Spirit began on Pentecost.
- Some of us are so caught up in the blessings and empowerment of the Spirit that we fail to carry out the things the Spirit empowers us to do.
We are a forgetful people. And we each have personalities and experiences that shape us and cause us to see the gospel in certain ways, to narrow our focus and camp out in one or two rhythms of the gospel most of the time.
Picture a man who loves to lift weights, but he only works his biceps, day after day, month after month, year after year. See him on the beach: bulging biceps, yes … with slight shoulders, shrunken chest, soft abs and skinny legs. He’s not going to win Bodybuilder of the Year.
What are your “gospel biceps?” The Second Coming? Jesus’ teaching and miracles? The cross? Resurrection? The presence and power of the Holy Spirit? What are you focusing on, and what are you inadvertently ignoring? Where has atrophy set in, in your understanding of the gospel?
And what can you do about it? What if there was a way …
There Is A Way …
In our narcissistic culture, we ignore the wisdom of the Ancients and the traditions of those who came before us. We act like we’ve invented the wheel and we’ve got this whole thing figured out.
You see this in contemporary church services. You see it in the “latest and greatest” songs we sing, in the haphazard way we order our services, in the easy-come, easy-go mentality of our people and the consumer-culture mentality of our service planners. And you see it in the way we’ve laid aside and then forgotten the wisdom of our church fathers, who devised the Christian Calendar.
Rightly understood, there is nothing mystical about the Christian year. There is nothing about it that requires us to treat the Christian year as if it were commanded in scripture, like baptism and communion are commanded. Yet there is nothing about it that requires us to steer away from it or regard it as an unbiblical intrusion on our services and our daily lives.
It is simply a practice of historic Christianity that continuously stirs reflection, anticipation and action in the hearts of God’s people for the whole, big story of the gospel. More and more Christians are rediscovering this historic practice, and growing in the truth and knowledge of Christ. As author Laura Winner has said:
“I want the Christian story to shape everything I do, even how I reckon time. I want it to be truer and more essential to me than school’s calendar, or Hallmark’s calendar, or the calendar set by the IRS. I want the rhythms of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost to be more basic to my life than the days on which my quarterly estimated taxes are due.”
This is why we observe the Christian Year at Sojourn. This is why we hold an Ash Wednesday service, why I’ve talked about Lent here, why we’re holding a Good Friday service for all campuses at Memorial Auditorium, and why we move through each season of the Christian year, every year.
We aren’t unobservant of national holidays or “Hallmark’s calendar,” but we want to redeem and use every tool at our disposal for saturating the days of our lives with God’s Story, the good news of the gospel.
- How do you feel about observing the Christian Calendar?
- Do you see any danger in this?
- How has moving through rhythms like Advent and Lent given you a fuller appreciation for the gospel?