I love celebrations. Mainly holidays. There’s so much that goes into our holidays, really. For me, Christmas is a big one. The food, the music, the presents under the tree. Easter is another big holiday in the West. We have certain traditions that we hold to both culturally and in our families. There’s a lot of preparation work that goes into it. Shopping, preparing for guests, taking time off of work, etc. But that’s all part of it when we get to just spend time with our families. It’s all part of celebrating.
It seems that in the Church in the West, we tend to pour a large amount of financial resources into outreaches for these two holidays. It makes sense, right? It’s an open door to talk about why Jesus came to this earth. It gives us an opportunity, that perhaps the secular world is almost inviting us to use, to share about why Jesus died and why He miraculously rose from the dead. Therefore, it make sense why we as the Church would pour so much money into these two times of the year. We want to create a place, a mountain top experience where others can encounter and experience God. But what’s interesting is that we pour so much money into these two holidays and those two holidays are a small percentage of our actual life every year.
There was an important holiday, a historical marker, that passed today, May 15th, that we heard little, if anything, about. It was really the foundation of the explosive early church movement. Today, May 15th is 50 days after Easter…today is the day of Pentecost. This day written about in Acts 2 was not only when the small group of followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit for the first time, it’s when the Church became the Church and started to grow.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.”-Acts 2:1-6
I never used to consider the church calendar, but over the years have come to appreciate it’s purpose in bringing focus and order to our sometimes crazy lives. When looking at it, there are some important things to take note of. First is that the calendar year starts on the first day of Advent, not January 1st. Then, there is Advent time (the time starting a few weeks before Christmas) and Christmas time (starting Christmas day and leading up to the first day of Lent). This time combined makes up 15% of our calendar year, or 55 days. Next, there is Lent (usually starting in February and leading up to Easter day) and Easter time (starting Easter day and ending on Pentecost). This time makes up about 25% of our calendar year or about 146 days. Finally, comes a massive portion of our calendar year, 60% of it actually. It’s called Ordinary Time and it lasts 219 days.
Most of our lives are lived in the ordinary time. The normal everyday, go to work, come home, sleep, wake up kind of place. We do our shopping, eating, sleeping, playing, schooling and our normal routine during this time. We have a rhythm during this time. We all do. Besides birthdays and anniversaries (and a few national holidays) most of our lives are lived in ordinary time-reality. Holidays and celebratory times are not reality per say. They are celebratory, not the ordinary. Our ordinary, routine, habitual lives.
I have met a lot of believers, followers of Jesus who live for those holidays. They are only a part of a faith community on Christmas or Easter, but that’s it. I’ve been in churches who pour a lot of time and money into those two holidays for outreaches. But other than that, they really don’t reach out the rest of the year. The problem with living this way is that we are basically saying God only cares about us during those mountain top experiences. Or perhaps, what we’re saying is we only care about God during these few times a year. By living this way, we are showing that God doesn’t really care about us at all apart from these times. That He doesn’t care about us when we are in the ordinary time of our lives, or worse yet, when we’re in the valley and the pit. Man, what a horrible relationship that sounds like, right? Could you imagine a relationship where your spouse only cares about you on their birthday and anniversary and ignores you the rest of the year? Or let’s think about heaven. If there are no celebrations, no holidays in heaven, how boring it’s going to be for all eternity. No mountain top highs there. Do we really believe that?
No. No, we know that’s not true, don’t we? We know that God loves us no matter where we are, mountain top or deepest valley. But it seems we only live for the mountain high.
So, what if we changed our ordinary? What if we created a new ordinary? What if we began to live a celebratory life in our ordinary time? What would that look like? We’d have to change our routines, our habits, but could we? We can, and it’s not something earth shattering or even something new. It’s already been shown to us, modeled for us.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
Before Pentecost no one knew what to do. Jesus was gone, ascended into heaven. His followers had no idea what to do next. Their leader gone. But, then the Spirit fills them, Peter gives an incredible speech, and then we read this. The apostles, the early church, their ordinary changed. And God moved dramatically. They ate together daily, they prayed together daily, they listened to teaching together, again, daily. Starting in Acts 3 we read that healings began on a regular basis. And, it says that God added to their number daily. Daily!
So what happened?
At some point, we as broken humans, looked at what was going on daily and decided to condense it to a Sunday service and Wednesday night bible study. We did that. And then those times of communion happened less and less. Healings happened less and less. These ordinary things back then, became extraordinary. Or sadly, perhaps even non existent.
We created a new ordinary that took those days and condensed them and in doing so we put the responsibility of our own spiritual growth and development onto the pastor. We put the weight of that onto someone else so we didn’t have to have the responsibility of being more disciplined, having compassion, of growing in Christ. And by doing so, we could excuse our lack of discipline and put the blame on the pastor. I don’t think we set out to do it, but we did. And it continues on.
We need to create a new habit so that what happened in Acts 2 becomes our ordinary. Perhaps our new habit will include daily reading in the Word, or daily prayer. Perhaps it will include regular confession to another or regular sabbath and rest. And maybe even consistent, regular service towards others around us.
By doing this, we won’t just experience God in the mountain top or on Easter, but we’ll be continually engaged with Him all year long. We will become more aware of His presence both on the mountain peak in the hellish pit we’re in. Perhaps we’ll be more able to see and be grateful for the blessings of abundance and the blessing of learning in the struggle. I can say that others will see that our God is a God who cares about us no matter where we are, no matter what we’re going through, no matter what holiday it might be. And through that, perhaps that “added to their number daily” will no longer be an action of the past. What if we all lived a celebratory life in our ordinary time? What could happen?
be blessed today