Time is often viewed from a negative point of view in that we have little time for the things we would like to squeeze into our busy lives. We feel constrained by time limits and time seems to run out before we can complete whatever is on our agenda.
But time is a gift from God to use wisely but also to enjoy in the present, rather than always either trying to catch up or look ahead to the next thing.
Christians are called to live in three time zones at once (not geographical time zones related to Greenwich Meantime). Firstly, there is the normal day to day life. We live this in parallel with the Christian calendar of seasons and feasts. Third is the one we live mindful of how our existence in the present time relates to eternity.
Advent is perhaps the most testing time for trying to balance these three time zones. The pace of day to day life is increased as we try to fit in all the Christmas shopping and decorating, baking, card writing, not to mention seeing family and friends. Alongside all this frenetic activity we are required as Christians to spiritually prepare for the coming season which means not only the birth of Jesus but his coming again at the end of time; heaven and hell, death and judgement when the Kingdom of God will be fulfilled in eternity.
A good guide
The pattern of times and seasons of the Christian year, below, is one which the confirmation group asked me to prepare. It is a simple overview.This does not include saints' days and minor festivals and you will note that harvest does not appear as this is a secular festival that has been 'adopted' by the church as a time of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth.
You will see that the Christian Year is divided into two halves - from Advent to Pentecost we consider different events in the life of Jesus. During the second half, after Trinity until Advent we have the opportunity to learn more about the meaning of the life and teaching of Jesus and about God's purpose for humanity. Ordering our time and making time for God is something we can all improve upon. As we approach this exciting season we come to understand a little more about God's great love for us all. This Advent may I wish you all a very fruitful time of preparation at the beginning of the Christian year.
Every blessing for Christmas and the new calendar year 2012.
The Christian Year - a simple overview
ADVENT- Begins on the nearest Sunday to December 1. A penitential time of preparation for the birth of our Lord at Christmas and looking ahead to his eventual return.
CHRISTMAS - The Incarnation (birth of Jesus). The Christmas season lasts for 50 days until the feast of Candlemas.
EPIPHANY- January 6 The revealing or showing of Jesus (the story of the Magi).
CANDLEMAS - Presentation of Christ in the temple, 50 days after Christmas. The infant Jesus was presented in the temple by his parents. Simeon and Anna recognised Jesus as the promised Saviour sent by God.
ASH WEDNESDAY- marks the beginning of Lent.
LENT- A penitential time of 40 days in preparation for the events of Holy Week and Easter. Passion Sunday (Sunday before Palm Sunday begins Passiontide) Holy Week beginning on Palm Sunday.
MAUNDY THURSDAY- Last Supper, Washing of feet, the Watch GOOD FRIDAY- The Crucifixion
HOLY SATURDAY-A time of waiting following the burial of Jesus.
EASTER EVE/DAWN-Easter Vigil, The new light of the risen Christ. Renewal of baptism promises.
EASTER DAY- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Easter season lasts for 50 days until Pentecost.
ASCENSION DAY- 40 days after Easter. Jesus ascends to Heaven and returns to his Father. He is no longer seen on earth.
PENTICOST- Whit Sunday- the giving of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the promise of Jesus to send us a 'comforter and counsellor'. Celebrated as the Church's birthday.
TRINITY SUNDAY- Sunday following Pentecost Father, Son and Holy Spirit- One God: three persons.
ALL SAINTS - November 1, communion of saints.
ALL SOULS - November 2, commemoration of the faithful departed.
REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY-nearest Sunday to November 11 Remembering the fallen in armed conflicts and acts of terrorism.
CHRIST THE KING - last Sunday of the Christian year. Christ triumphant, ever reigning.