A subversive form of tracking time
by Jan Woltmann
It hangs on a prominent wall in the hub of our home. Every so often our kids or our visitors stand in front of it and gaze awhile. No, it is not a gallery of pictures collected from family and friends. It is The Salt of the Earth: The Christian Seasons Calendar 2010/2011, published by the University Hill Congregation in Vancouver, B.C.
It wasn’t always the center of attention. When I first got it, I placed the calendar alongside my devotional material for personal use. But after a while, I decided we could all benefit from this subversive form of tracking time. So much to the chagrin of my husband, I put a nail in our maple wall cabinet to stake its place.
Unlike its popular counterpart, the Christian calendar exclusively tells the story of Jesus Christ—his life death, resurrection and ascension; its origins can be traced back to the festivals held in the early centuries of the church. The calendar begins in late November with Advent, followed by Christmas, the season of Epiphany (Christ made manifest), Lent, Holy Week, Easter and finally the Season After Pentecost. Interestingly, the 12 days of Christmas and the seven days of Holy Week earn their very own page on the calendar, indicating their significance. Each season tells the story of the Christian year through weekly Scripture readings, an explanation of liturgical color and provocative artwork.
So why is this form of marking time important? There are several reasons.
First, the calendar reminds me that I am part of a discipleship community that began long before I arrived on the scene and will continue long after I’m gone. In the short time I’m given, I take my place in the communion of saints that stretches over 2,000 years.
Second, I need to surround myself with visible and tangible reminders of the gospel story that define my life—it is a story I desire to know by heart. But this is no easy task, as there are other storylines that compete for my attention daily. The calendar orients my mind and heart to the Christ-narrative.
In their book, Resident Aliens, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon point to the significance of being trained by the salvation story: “Early Christians, interestingly, began not with creedal speculation about the metaphysics of the Incarnation…. They began with stories about Jesus, about those whose lives got caught up in his life. Therefore, in a more sophisticated and engaging way, by the very form of their presentation, the Gospel writers were able to begin training us to situate our lives like his life” (emphasis mine).
The Christian calendar keeps my life rooted in the life of Christ—training me to situate my life like his life. And isn’t this the prayer of us Mennonite Brethren—that our life together in the 21st century would increasingly reflect the life of Christ and his first followers? We need all the help we can get to embrace the fullness of this reality, and so the calendar will stay in its prominent place at the busy intersection of our home life, reminding us again and again of the storyline by which we live.
Jan Woltmann lives in Winnipeg, Man., and belongs to The Meeting Place MB faith community. She enjoys spending time with her husband and grown children and loves to read and write. She is a writer for the Canadian Conference of MB Churches. Her calendar reflections can be found on the Canadian conference Web site http://www.regenerate2101.ca/blog/?cat=48.
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