If you take the simple request, “What time is it,” and switch the order of the words you can get a deeper question, “Time, what is it?” It is one of the most precious possession that we have but squander it as if it is an infinite supply. For some, time is simply a quantifiable measurement using units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. Others mark it by the “moments that take your breath away.” What is time and more importantly to believers, how has the church observed time? Since it really does seem obvious to me that we go straight from Halloween to Christmas anymore, even though the calendar has two major American holidays in-between the two.
Scripture actually gives us a pretty good understanding of time. It uses two Greek words to give us a well-rounded picture of what time is. The first word is chronos. This word is part of your everyday terminology, right? Don’t you look at a chronometer several times a day? You watch or phone most likely. A watch measures time and the word chronos is the word meaning the measurement in those afore mentioned units of time. It looks like this in the Bible…
“Then Her’od, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.” – Matthew 2:7
“and the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.” – Luke 1:10
“And there they abode long time with the disciples” – Acts 14:28
The second word for time in the Scripture is the Greek word kairos. This is not chronological measurement of time but the understanding of a time period that bears a common likeness or contains significant events with deep meaning or likeness. Here are some Biblical examples to make this clearer.
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” – Galatians 4:4
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16
“Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready” – John 7:6
“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” – Jude 1
It is probably easier to see these as the seasons of life. What we may be experiencing now is only a season. It shall pass and a new season will take its place. There are good seasons and bad seasons. Joyful and sad. Solomon (using Hebrew writing) sums up the words chronos and kairos very beautifully in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Now that we have an understanding of time and that it is more than just a measurement of time, let us look at the seasons of the church. Christmas and Easter are more than just days on the calendar. Even more, there are several other seasons that the church celebrates. By using seasons and time the church uses the year to tell the gospel. The church has ordered its worship by the use of the calendar and season. The following seasons follow the order of Gospel,
- Ordinary Time
Very quickly we sum these seasons into three groups, Advent through Epiphany, Lent through Pentecost, and common time.
Originally the incarnation (enfleshment) of Christ was celebrated January 6 and was called Epiphany. Epiphany is a moment of grasping something or becoming enlightened. The church celebrated first the meaning of Christ being fully man and God around 200 A.D. Christmas became more distinct to be on December 25th around 354 A.D. Advent and the rounding out of the Christmas season is first seen around 380 A.D. So here is a run down of the seasons.
- Advent: Starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Anticipates Christ’s first advent (coming).
- Christmas: December 25. Celebrating the birth of Christ.
- Epiphany: December 26-January 6. Reflecting on Christ’s presentation at the Temple, visit of the magi, and His miracle at Cana.
The second grouping is the Easter Season. The resurrection to the early church (and us) is the most important event on the calendar (1 Cor. 15:17-19). It is so important that the resurrection is celebrated not just once a year but every Sunday morning. In fact every morning belongs to the Christian as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and our future one. Every Sunday and morning is a “mini-easter” (Drury, Wonder of Worship, 2005). Easter itself is a week observing the passion of Christ from the entry into Jerusalem to the resurrection. It became a season of observance because of discontent in the early church to focus on this for only a week. Lent (latin for spring) is the 40 days of preparation before Easter some time around 325 A.D. (Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday was added around 1000 A.D.). Not only was preparation made before hand but celebration after Easter was extended to Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church and for a long time was more celebrated than Christmas. In fact the most important season of celebration is from Easter to Pentecost. Here is the way it falls.
- Lent: 40 days before Easter. Preparation is made by identifying with Christ’s agony to the cross.
- Easter: First day of the week (Sunday) and by calendar the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover. Resurrection!!!!!!
- Pentecost: Sunday after the 50 days from Eater. The birth of the church.
The last season the church observes and tells the Gospel story is ordinary time. This is the time between Pentecost and Advent. During this time focus is made on the harvest, that is, evangelism and discipleship. Outreach and spreading of the Gospel was and is the focus of the church during this time.
So this brings my final question. Why do believers celebrate with greater fervency non-Christian holidays in the church more than we do Christian holidays and seasons? Do we celebrate them because they are our focus or just nicely placed gimmicks the calendars provides us with? Example of my thought…
- Valentines days over lent
- Mother’s day over Easter
- Memorial day, Father’s day, and Independence day over Pentecost.
- Halloween (especially) and Thanksgiving over Advent.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with observing those holidays personally or with the church (at least not all). What I am saying is do we focus, plan, and celebrate those more than the seasons which the Church has historically observed and used to share the full Gospel story each year?
Love the Word. Live the Word.