A challenge for us all is time management. It is about life itself. God gives us one thing above all else: the gift of life. An important fact of life is on which many other things rely on is how we spend our time.
Psalm 90 tells us the ‘span of our life is seventy years, or if we are strong, eighty years.’ Despite the massive reduction of premature deaths in the past century, the average life expectancy around the world according to United Nations figures is 71.5 years. Psalm 90 concludes ‘Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart for wisdom.’
The Bible is about living life in relationship with God and people. How we manage our time and our own well-being are important factors in these relationships. The Bible reminds us that to have dedicated times to focus on things that give life a meaning. And because we are social creatures, important times are times we share. That is what the Christian calendar is about: a structure of shared time.
The new church year starts on Advent Sunday. Traditionally a time of watching and waiting as our collective focus turns to watching and waiting for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom and Christ’s return. A time to reflect on our spiritual and physical life that sustains us for our journey with Jesus and how we are working for His Kingdom. A time to focus and reflect on that ancient prayer of Advent: ‘Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.’ How does our life, individually and collectively, fit in with this prayer?
Christmas, when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, is the season to focus on ‘God with us.’ A time to remember that nothing can separate us from God. As one writer put it, ‘Christmas reminds us that God in Jesus, moved into our neighbourhood.’ The church’s Christmas season extends far beyond the ‘secular’ Christmas. It is a season when we can reflect on how we as church are incarnated in our communities.
In this world where fear of the ‘other’ is often peddled for political gain. We need a time to reflect on how God’s image is found in those different to us. Epiphany can do this work as we reflect on the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. A time to reflect how we manifest or show Jesus to others, especially the stranger, those different to us, and how the stranger shows Jesus to us.
We need a time to confront our faults, apologies for the wrong we have, make amends, resolve to change and ask for forgiveness. That is the work of Lent.
We need an identity. We need a time when we remind ourselves that our lives are made whole in and with God. That through Him alone comes salvation – wholeness, peace, healing - in this life. This is what we experience through Holy Week and Easter.
We are called to share this experience. Ascension time reminds us that we are to be witnesses to God’s reconciling power and message of Jesus.
With a global political culture that is increasingly telling people to build real or imaginary walls to separate, Pentecost reminds us of inclusion, welcome and hospitality as the Holy Spirit gathers people who are different. Pentecost is to embrace a story that counters racism, hatred and exclusion.
People need hope not just optimism. The Kingdom season reminds us of the hope we find in Christ the King. That God is after all, in charge.
And we need a time to step back from the ceaseless pressure of work and find rest and celebrate our blessings, renew relationships, recover in mind, body and spirit. That is the work of the Sabbath, Sunday.
Many people today find themselves working harder and harder with less time to pursue the things that make life meaningful. This Advent at the start of the church new year, resolve to put in your diaries and calendars time to be with God over the coming year and live by the Christian calendar to experience the things that give life meaning.
Have a blessed Advent, Christmas and New Year.