Written by Eugene Guzon, Superintendent of Asia
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for life to go unnoticed due to the busyness, noise, and clutter of each day? If we are not careful, we miss many opportunities to enjoy God’s presence and the deeper revelations of his glory. A couple of weeks ago I was driving up to the mountain city of Baguio in the Philippines and I pulled over to enjoy a particularly beautiful sunset. More recently, I watched the sunrise beyond the mountains of Yangon during a quiet, early morning flight to Myanmar. These two events reminded me of the faithfulness of God. He set the sun to rise and set every single day. It is because of the rising and setting of the sun that we have days— days that turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years, providing us with calendars.
A higher orientation
We use calendars to mark time. In and of themselves, calendars are just a combination of days, but they become meaningful as they are marked by events, occasions and milestones that are personal to us. As Christians, what is important to us is the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Thus, the church at large follows a Christian (some call this Liturgical) Calendar. This annual worship calendar is based on key events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Thus, you will notice the GCI Worship Calendar begins each year with Advent, which focuses on the three “comings” of Jesus. (Depending on the year, Advent can begin the last week in November or the first week in December.) The GCI Worship Calendar then continues by celebrating Christ’s incarnation at Christmas, and then goes through his life and ministry all the way to Pentecost and the beginning of Ordinary Time. Ordinary time ends with Christ the King Sunday, the week before the beginning of Advent. These recurring seasons allow us to continually focus on Jesus—who he is and what he did for humanity. They help us keep Jesus the center of the center.
While the GCI Christian Calendar is focused on Christ’s physical journey—his birth, baptism, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit—these historical events also point to a deeper divine reality, the ongoing story of salvation. GCI Worship Calendar reminds us that the ongoing story of salvation, the unfolding drama of God’s past, present and future involvement in our lives, all revolves around Jesus. Every day we worship is focused on him—nothing less, nothing more.
Remembrance and Response
In his book Beyond Smells and Bells, author Mark Galli said that our Christian calendar aims to change the way we experience time and perceive (become aware of) reality. By commemorating the different seasons in the Christian Calendar, we are not only given the chance to remember Jesus’ life and ministry, but these events also present opportunities for us to respond in faith and gratitude. For instance, Advent reminds us not just about the One who came, but also inspires within us the hope of his return and the restoration he will bring. Observing Christmas for us means more than parties and presents—we are reminded of the greatest gift to mankind, the One who has come to be God with Us and in whom we have communion with the Father. During Holy Week we commemorate Jesus’ sacrifice and death, and we are reminded of our need for his grace and mercy, as well as the full measure of his love already given. Easter gives us the chance to say we are free to live resurrected lives because the tomb is empty, and he is alive. For us it is a symbol of new beginning. Pentecost reminds us of continuing comfort and power in the Holy Spirit—Christ in us—and his ongoing work of sanctification.
Because our God is relational, and his desire for us is communion, the Christian Calendar also serves to remind us there is a time and a reason to gather, to fellowship, and to reconcile. We are participants with Jesus in gathering people, and there is always a time to enjoy our encounter with God in a special way with other saints. Mark Galli also writes in his book that “In the Son, time coexists with eternity.” That is not only the future we look forward to in and through Christ—it allows for an ongoing taste of kingdom life now. This includes togetherness with God and with each other, as well as co-laborers in kingdom building and the ministry of reconciliation.
And so the Christian Calendar compels us to shift our orientation from the busyness and sometimes self-centeredness of our day-to-day, to a bigger reality in Jesus, which we are a part of. It infuses a deeper spiritual dimension to our schedules. As we become more mindful of the seasons, we become more circumspect in how we invest our time, emotions, and energies, and for whom. Ecclesiastes 3: 1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” As we reflect on the days that make up our calendars, we can ask… What does God want for me in this season of my life? How do I respond to his revelation of himself? Who am I in light of what Jesus has done? How do I walk in his footsteps and participate in his work of bringing mankind unto himself?
The Christian Calendar helps us to see ourselves, our time, and our journey through the lens and life of Christ. As we number our days, may we grow in wisdom, in trust, in obedience, and in learning to offer each passing moment to Jesus, the God of time.