“Teach us to number our days, O Lord, so that we may have a wise heart.” -Psalm 90:12
Today marks the change of the church’s calendar from the 12 days of Christmas to the Epiphany, when Christians remember the mysterious immigrants who traveled to see Jesus in Bethlehem a few years after he was born. Christians actually celebrated the new year back in November, when a season called Advent began. And we only began celebrating Christmas when Christmas day itself approached. Christians are weird.
Why all of this out-of-step calendar keeping? It can really be inconvenient, frankly. Some even say that trying to keep up with ancient traditions of Christian calendars is antithetical to evangelism. Maybe we should embrace the holidays as they are in our culture, and quit acting so persnickity in our naming of what days hold significance for us. There’s some merit to that argument, especially if we use our distinct ways of telling time for arrogance and exclusion, as if we somehow follow Jesus better than others because we name the days differently.
We don’t keep the unique days very formally at our church, but we do name them, and honor them, and teach about them, especially to our children. And here is why. Because being a Christian does not mean just being a product of the culture surrounding you, whatever that culture may be. Sometimes, occasionally, it is the same, and the culture lines up with Christian values. But really, not too often. We should not expect it to, nor raise our children to expect it to mirror our particular values. Keeping a unique calendar is a very simple and powerful way to do that. So when the culture says Christmas is over, we say, actually, it’s just beginning and now we can buy everything on sale! And when the culture says it’s just a normal day, January 6, Christians say, actually this is a day where we remember foreigners who followed a star to see what truth in Jesus they could find. We remember them today, and follow the light we have, too. And when the culture says, it’s Sunday, I can sleep in, we can say, it’s resurrection day! Time to wake up to life!
The beauty of learning to live in a slightly quirky rhythm based on faith is that when stuff comes up, like what we think about gun control, or political rhetoric about anything, or helping the homeless, or making every day life decisions, hopefully we have the discipline already to look beyond our culture’s answers. We say, “Wonder what rhythm my faith offers me here? Wonder what day it is today? What does my faith say?” and we don’t expect it to sound like the answers around us.