“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.”
Having just come through the beautiful seasons of Lent and Holy Week I am mourning our culture’s loss of holy time. Everyone seems so afraid to say “Happy Easter”, or to even acknowledge the holiness of these days. Yes, I know my age is showing, but I remember when schools let out on Good Friday, and Easter was the occasion for at least our very best clothes. These days were different and special; dare I say “holy”. Christmas was always called Christmas and not “Winter Break”, and we didn’t have to worry about offending someone by wishing them a Merry Christmas. And there was still something special about that one day in seven, Sunday, the Sabbath, and keeping it “holy”.
Like Washington Irving’s tale about Rip Van Winkle sleeping through the American Revolution, I have slept through the secularists’ revolution of America. Even we in the Church have been willing collaborators in reducing the holy days to holidays, and making Easter about department store sales, bunnies, and egg hunts.
Mark Twain observed that “history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”. I hear a rhyme between what is happening today and what happened in the bloody French Revolution’s attempt to eliminate any vestiges of the Christian faith from the culture. With secularist zeal they renamed the Notre Dame Cathedral and other churches the “Temples of Reason”. But the culmination of their revolutionary propaganda was the attempt to even redefine how people thought of time by introducing the French Revolutionary Calendar. The new French Calendar was attempt to replace the Christian Sunday and a seven day week with a state holiday celebrated every ten days. The Calendar replaced Christian holy days with days to honor a particular fruit, vegetable, animal, or agricultural implement. They were careful that pumpkins and eggplants were accorded strict devotion in an attempt to erase all holy time.
As a Baby Boomer who first spread my wings in the free-and-easy 60’s, I abandoned any sense of holy time and the Biblical concept of times that are special to God. I wrote it off as legalism. Only in recent years have I re-learned the exhilaration of finding God in the “sanctuary of time” (“sanctuary of time” is used by the Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel in Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man).
Yes, God is with us all the time, but there are those special times that summon us to pause, to honor and reflect, to recognize and worship. I wouldn’t dream of letting my wedding anniversary slide, or forgetting my wife’s birthday! How could I forget the holy days that mark our salvation! Even God, when He completed His work of creation, declared the seventh day as “holy”: He kept and honored it (Genesis 2:3).
Today’s Scripture text about holy time comes from the first page of the Bible. The text is found in the creation story where God is separating the light from the darkness, separating the dry land from the seas, and separating holy time from chronological time. We learn here that from the beginning God set “lights” in the sky (i.e. the sun and moon) in order to serve for “signs” and “seasons” for humankind. It is important to note that the Hebrew word translated here as “seasons” (moadim: “appointed times”) is the word that Moses will later use for Israel’s appointed holy days and festivals.
Thus, God embedded into the order of Creation the distinction between holy time and all the other days on the calendar. Good Friday is different from all other days of the year! And for the followers of Christ, no other day is quite like Easter Sunday, or the Easter season that now follows. But it is this that secularists are insisting that we forget, or at least we keep it to ourselves.
Without slipping into legalism we must re-discover what it means to keep holy time in a secular, and sometimes, anti-Christian culture. We must learn what it means to keep days that are holy to God, and rebuild fallen down sanctuaries in time.
Wise old Ben Franklin admonished in Poor Richard’s Almanac: “Dost thou love life! Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” Yes, time is the stuff that life is made of, and the medium in which we live all our lives. If we do not make ways for honoring God in time, we will miss Him.
FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, is the newly coined mental illness suffered by people who are living their lives through their internet identities. The New York Times, reports on the anxiety of people, who stay on their computers and phones, for fear of missing out on what is happening in their friends’ lives, or happening in the world.
I wouldn’t call it anxiety, but I do not want to miss out on God. I do not want to miss out on what is happening on those days that are unlike any other days, God’s holy days!
Grace and peace, and a blessed Easter season!
photo by wadem