This article comes to us from guest contributor, Jane Grizzle.
Some of the time markers in the Bible are easily ignored. For instance, in Genesis 17, right after we are told “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” we are told Abram was 75. How often have we read this story and missed that Abram had already lived a lifetime?
Sometime between then and when Abraham was 99, God made further promises to Abraham. Genesis 17:4-5 tells us, “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” But it was not until Abraham was 100 that Sarah bore his son, Isaac. 25 years passed between the first call and the second call. I can imagine the waiting involved great sorrow and confusion. The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac is another reminder that God’s timing and our timing are never the same.
If this is confusing, that is because time itself is confusing. We speak of time as an independent actor – it flies when we’re having fun, it drags when we are bored. My daughter has a test today. If she is prepared, the time may seem to be enough. If she is not prepared, it may seem like too little. When I am waiting for my car to be repaired, an hour seems longer than 60 minutes. If I am reading a good book or spending time with a friend, the hour may seem more like 60 seconds. The feeling of time can be subjective. But, time itself is carefully measured in seconds, minutes, days, weeks, and years.
Time orients us. We know that time directs what we do each day. Even without a clock, the sun rises and our bodies naturally wake up. When the moon and stars appear we know it is time to sleep. Time has a rhythm as the earth moves around the sun and the moon makes
its evening appearance. The natural world is integrated with this diurnal cycle. The pattern of the sun and the moon create a framework for our day.
We thrive in predictable environments. Regular routines and patterns allow us to rest in knowing what has happened and what will come next. For children, this is perhaps even more true. According to Reuters, when researchers studied the family routines of 8,500 children, things like family dinner, singing songs, and telling stories, “they found each ritual was linked to a 47 percent increase in the odds that children would have high so-called social-emotional health, which indicates good emotional and social skills.”
During the coronavirus quarantine lockdowns, my husband and I implemented Friday night movie nights for our three kids. It was a way to mark the never-ending weeks of family togetherness. The kids would get their plates of dinner and head into the playroom for movie night. My husband and I would enjoy a quiet dinner together, or watch our own movie in the living room. Even now, three years later, Fridays are often family movie nights, still a way to mark our time together as a family, though now they are a point of connection, rather than a break from one another.
The liturgical calendar is the same for the church. Every year, we remember what God has done. We begin our church year in Advent, as we prepare for Christmas: the joyful celebration of Christ’s incarnation, or Emmanuel, God with us. Then we celebrate Lent, preparing for Easter: the magnificent celebration of Christ’s death for our sin and resurrection as a victory over evil and death. We celebrate Pentecost, remembering that the Holy Spirit was sent to us in flames of fire and Holy Breath. We even call the time between fasting and feasting “Ordinary Time,” not because it is plain or simple but from the word ordinal, meaning numbered. We number our days not according to our timeframe but according to God’s work and his rhythms.
As we move through the rhythm of preparation then celebration, we look to what God has always done for his people, bringing them through the wilderness to the Promised Land, and what God will continue to do, walking with us through the highs and lows of life. The liturgical calendar reminds us that the season we inhabit changes and ends and begins again. None of us can escape time but we rest in the fact that God is always present with us. Time ultimately reminds us that we can rest in the One who is not restricted by the clock by which we are often held captive.
The year-over-year rhythm of the calendar may feel repetitive and boring, but it is exactly this cycle of God’s time that forms us. In her book, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” Kathleen Norris cites a newsletter about the habits of happily married couples:
The researchers found that only one activity seemed to make a consistent difference, in terms of the ability to maintain a stable, happy, long-lasting relationship, and that was simple affection, the embracing or kissing of one’s spouse at the beginning and end of each workday… the author of the article reports, ‘it didn’t seem to matter whether or not in that moment the partners were fully engaged or even sincere… Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person— even if you’re not totally engaged in every minute.Norris goes on to point out that the liturgy of the Church and the calendar change us, “It is a paradox of human life that in worship, as in human love, it is in routine and the every day that we find the possibilities for the greatest transformation. Both worship and housework often seem perfunctory. And both, by the grace of God, may be anything but.”
If you are looking for ways to incorporate the rhythms and routines of the Liturgical Calendar with your family and children, StoryMakers has a beautiful calendar for you to use. Using age-appropriate language and excellent design, your younger family members will see that they are not alone in their ups and downs, their waiting and their celebrations, in their numbered days and ordinary times, that the church itself is always moving through a pattern of God’s time.
Jane Grizzle is the mother of three and is a board member of StoryMakers NYC, which is dedicated to creating new ways to share God’s redemptive narrative found in the Bible. StoryMakers (www.storymakersnyc.com) hopes to equip families and churches to share the Gospel with kids in a way that is meaningful, healthy and ultimately draws children into God’s story.