I always feel a little sad on January 7. The 12 days of Christmas have come and gone, and the decorations are put away for another year. The house looks naked without the garland on the mantle and the staircase, the bowls of deep jewel-toned ornaments, the ever-growing collection of Santas on the bookcase. And the corner of the living room where the tree has been standing since the day after Thanksgiving — Just what usually goes there?
I feel as empty as that corner looks. The next great milestones of the Christian calendar — Lent and Easter — are months away. It’s back to every day life, with no familiar rituals, no shared traditions, in a season without a name.
Well, that last part isn’t actually true. The time before and after Christmas and Easter — the great lodestars of the Christian life — does have a name. It’s called Ordinary Time. We live two thirds of the calendar year — 33 weeks — in Ordinary Time.
It’s hard not to feel that somehow these are the humdrum times, so dull they don’t even have a cool name. Where’s the hoopla of Advent and Christmas? Where’s the spiritual rigor of Lent and the joy of Easter? It’s easy to feel like I’m just marking time until the next spiritual high.
Somehow, this all makes me think about Peter and his experience on the mountaintop with Jesus. He has an awesome (in the true meaning of that now-overused word) experience when he sees Jesus transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah. His first reaction? “Let’s stay here forever”. Would you ever want to leave? But Jesus says, no, we must go back down, down to “real” life, back to the demanding crowds, conflict with authorities, back to the messy world He came to save. He says, in essence, “We have to take this magnificent encounter with God and live it out in Ordinary Time.”
And so it is with us. The Christian life isn’t lived on the mountain. It’s lived in the everyday. And every day isn’t Christmas or Easter, and really, that’s a good thing. As wonderful as it would seem, we would get bored, we would take it for granted. You can’t live forever on the mountaintop without diminishing its power. And you can’t live forever in the valley without the nourishment, encouragement and wonder of the mountaintop experience. Both are essential to a life of discipleship.
I guess that’s why the church calendar is often depicted as a circle. The Incarnation and the Resurrection are the touchstones, for sure. But it’s in the weeks of Ordinary Time we figure out what difference these touchstones make in our lives. What difference does it make to me, sitting here in my office in 2015 that the Word became flesh? How is my life any different knowing that? Yes, Jesus was resurrected. But what does my resurrection life look like? What just happened and what am I going to do about it?
And then, these weeks of Ordinary Time lead us, inexorably, back to the next celebration of the Incarnation, the next celebration of the Resurrection, and hopefully, we aren’t the same as we were the year before. We can hope that the Holy Spirit has had another year to soften our hearts, to reveal our sin, to give us courage and hope and joy. And the next time we enter Ordinary Time, we will not be the same as the year before. And so it goes.
Two-thirds of our lives are lived in Ordinary Time. Two-thirds of the New Testament is a collection of narratives and letters telling believers what the events of the Gospel look like when they are lived out in the valley of everyday life. I don’t think this is a coincidence.
[tweetthis] The Gospel’s true power to change the world and to change us lies in Ordinary Time.[/tweetthis]As wonderful as the Gospel’s accounts of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection are, its true power to change the world and to change us — then and now — is in the other two-thirds of the New Testament. The two-thirds that challenges us to think differently, live differently, love differently. The Gospel’s true power to change the world and to change us lies in Ordinary Time.
Share this post
Follow In Ordinary Time