The chronological year is defined by four seasons – spring, summer ,fall and winter. Each season can be recognized by its dramatic changes in weather, sunlight and plant life around us. At a larger level, the seasons come into being as the earth moves around the sun, our planet’s tilt from the vertical creating the summer and winter solstices (@ June and December 21) and the spring and autumnal equinoxes (@ March 21 and September 22).
The Christian faith can be described in a similar chronological way. There are seasons representing major holy days (the precursor to “holiday”) beginning with the four weeks of Advent preceding Christmas (the moment when the eternal God became human), the six weeks of Lent preceding Easter (which Jesus was resurrected from the dead), and special celebrations around the holy day of Pentecost (when Scripture tells us the Holy Spirit ignited the faith of the disciples) which follows Easter by roughly 40 days. The different seasons are denoted by different colors: Advent – purple or blue for Jesus’ royal kingship, Lent – also purple suggesting penitential reflection and even grief, and Pentecost – red for the fiery coming of the Holy Spirit. The color white is used to describe Christmas, Jesus’ baptism, and Easter, among other holy days, white suggesting purity and holiness.
The majority of the year, the weeks between the recalling of Jesus’ baptism in January each year and the beginning of Lent in February or March (depending upon the phases of the moon, how the ancient Hebrew calendar was calculated) and also the weeks between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday in May or June, have no major holy days to give them purpose. And the church calls this unremarkable time not surprisingly “Ordinary Time.” There are different understandings of the origin of the term. Some believe it comes from the word “ordinal” (like ordinal numbers, first, second, third, etc.) Others feel it points simply to the “order” of weeks. And yet many subscribe to the belief that the term ordinary captures the sense that indeed these days in-between the big celebrations are nothing special, life simply lived out day by day, week by week.
The color for this longest period of the church year, however, is not gray or some drab beige but rather a vivid green suggesting growth and vitality. For while during these “ordinary” weeks there may be no big occasions to celebrate in Sunday worship, the community of faith ever moves forward building upon the truths of understanding Jesus as Emmanuel (“God with us”), of confessing our dependence upon Jesus to both vanquish the sin that holds us back and to give us an opportunity to experience new life (Good Friday and Easter)… and doing so with the confidence that our God wills our success and is forever with us (Pentecost).
Actually, it’s been my experience that some extraordinary activity occurs during this “ordinary” period as young and old participate in ministries like Vacation Bible School and summer mission trips. Such events are seldom accompanied by angelic choruses or hovering holy flames, but they always bring change to the lives of those involved and to the lives they touch, and often give rise to the question, “Who would have thought (put your name here) could be able to do that?”
The Christian Church around the world is currently celebrating the season of “Ordinary Time.” May it be a time for you to partner with Spirit of the living God in discovering the extraordinary with you!