Christmas: it marks the end of the Jewish faith and plants the roots of the Christian faith. It’s a magical point in the calendar where our saviour came to earth, born as a man with all the failings, weaknesses and temptations any other born into that time would experience.
It’s a time of miracles and majesty: from celestial objects and prophetic dreams they herald Jesus coming for wise men in distant lands, to choirs of angels rejoicing in his birth.
Even for the non believer, it’s a story of hope so well known, it can’t help but buoy up even the hardest heart. It’s a time of family coming together, to share gifts with one another, for children and adult alike to feel that very real Christmas cheer.
Lent: that’s another one. Remembering the start of Jesus ministry, as he is baptised in the Jordan and goes into the wilderness to prepare himself for the Gospel he will share in the years to come.
Miracles? You bet: we have the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and the voice of God announcing to all around the river that day of his family association with the now baptised Jesus. We’ve got Satan and his tricks to tempt Jesus as he suffers privation in the wilderness. Perhaps the greatest of them all: Jesus emerges from the wilderness with the mindset and spirit that is ready to proclaim a new Gospel to the masses.
Lent is a time where we are thinking of all we have and of who we are, sacrificing what we hold dear – or perhaps holds us in addiction. Even the non believer knows why they enjoy pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and faith or no, many give up something for the forty days of Lent. Cigarettes, alcohol, chocolate: Lent is a good time of year where through sacrifice many of us change ourselves for the better.
Oh, but what about Easter? If Christmas is the prologue to the Christian faith, Easter is page one of chapter one of the story of the Christian church. It’s a time where everyone thinks of new life: in the burgeoning growth of spring in the world around us to the rebirth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Easter story is a tale of drama, suspense, betrayal, loss and intrigue. A story widely known with the happiest of endings: being led to the cross in humiliation and pain to die, Jesus took that death, wrapped up our sins and weaknesses in it before rising triumphantly to everlasting life.
Another awesome period in the Christian calendar, Easter perhaps gives us the greatest miracle of them all: the promise that we too can receive everlasting life, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Of course, we can’t forget Pentecost. The Church’s birthday, receiving the greatest gift that gives it strength – the Holy Spirit that resides in and around each and every one of us, to celebrate and share God’s word and will for us.
So, we’re half way through Ordinary time, the half a year that follows the excitement of Easter and Pentecost. To many, it feels more like the dictionary definition of being “with no special or distinctive features; normal” – there aren’t any great feasts to celebrate, no anticipation as with Lent before Easter or Advent before Christmas. No wonder perhaps that churches tend to be fuller at other times of the year – there isn’t anything happening of note after Trinity.
Ordinary time? More like boring yawn time – wake me up when it’s Christmas and something is happening, alright?
Normal and ordinary aren’t perhaps a bad thing however. For those displaced by war, the tyranny of oppression, in fear of their lives because of their faith, the chance to be bored and to live an ordinary life would be the miracle.
We are all living ordinary lives and indeed by taking the definition of “Ordinary” to mean mundane, we are I suppose in that lull now – between the ascension of Christ and his promised return.
However, that’s not to say this nothing is happening. I see miracles all around me, every day. They may be small, understated and not readily seen by others – they aren’t grand feeding of five thousand events – but are just as life changing and powerful.
I have a friend through church who is raising a child born with a genetic difference – the partial deletion of the 22q11 chromosome. As years go by, this will likely impact his development and learning: a pressure I suspect his parents already experience. However, despite this I see a young boy who is growing up with so much love and attention it puts the upbringing of many regular children to shame. This is a boy who may have a harder path than many as he grows up – but I see a family and church community supporting him through whatever comes.
My wife suffers with a congenital heart defect. A weaknesses in the heart wall that means it does not pump as well as it should. With medication to overcome the symptoms of tiredness and palpitations, doctors originally suggested this was a condition that she would suffer from for life. However, in the past few years I have seen in her an improvement in her zeal and health – a heart that more than being stabilised by medication appears to be improving despite it.
We may live in ordinary times, but they certainly aren’t mundane times. God reaches for us in small ways, improving our lives through personal miracles, through gentle nudging of our spirit, through the goodwill of others. The Christian calendar during this “Ordinary time” is teaching us the story of Jesus ministry: his works and deeds, examples of a perfect life.
Forget ordinary: through Christ and the love of God, we live in extraordinary times.