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“Over the next six weeks, we’ll explore more about Lent: clearing up misconceptions, adding details, and reflecting together on how ‘church time’ can lead us to Easter ready to celebrate from the depths of our heart.”
Americans are busy. We keep calendars, wishing those calendars had more hours in each day, and think that the days go by too fast. We insert vacations or a day off a few times a year, occasionally bringing our heads above water to wonder if this is really how it’s supposed to be. The we dunk our heads back under for more.
The master of ceremonies for each year is the school calendar. Even if you’re not a student, you find your life pushed forward by its tides. Everything picks up in the fall, when school begins and everyone is back from summer vacations (which aren’t always relaxing). We cram as much as we can into those months until the holidays hit, when we dress up (October), make an elaborate dinner (November), and then decorate/illuminate/shop/fruitcake (December), punctuating the season with a holiday that asks us to lose sleep (New Year’s Eve). Then we collapse for a moment or two, collect ourselves, and get back to all the things that we meant to get done in the fall, until summer hits and the whole thing starts again.
Earlier generations took a different approach to time. Christians used what we call the “church calendar” to take our year and attach it to a higher purpose: reflecting on God, ourselves, and our world through a gospel lens. Each season (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and more) takes our activities and places them into the larger story of God’s work in the world through Jesus. Many Christians today are looking to recapture that way of marking time. Lauren Winner puts it this way:
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...Living inside church time has formed me in the Christian story.
Winner is talking about the church year, or the church calendar, which walks us through each season of the year and ties it to the story of Jesus. When we live this way we find the “big” holidays like Christmas and Easter are no longer individual days we celebrate just a bit more than others. Instead, Christmas is the culmination of a whole season of Advent—we see the hope of the world and the hope of our hearts appear as a baby in a stable, the answer to the promises of God. And Easter is the culmination of a whole season of Lent—we see our greatest needs, forgiveness and eternal life, given to us decisively and finally as Jesus is crucified then resurrected.
During Advent and Christmas, we focused on the coming of Jesus. Now, in Lent, we focus in on what Jesus came to do: pay for our sins on the cross. The journey of Lent takes us from a deep awareness of our need to a deep awareness of the forgiveness and victory of Jesus at Easter. Over the next six weeks, we’ll explore more about Lent: clearing up misconceptions, adding details, and reflecting together on how “church time” can lead us to Easter ready to celebrate from the depths of our heart.
Brian serves the church by overseeing preaching and Sunday morning services at Cornerstone.
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