Advent Lesson One: The Language of Time

This painting, by Hans Memling in A.D. 1480,  depicts the Life of Christ and depicts the journey through the Church Year, from Advent to Christmas, from Lent to Easter and Pentecost.

The Good News tells how, for the world’s Redemption,

God entered into history:

The Eternal came into time,

The Kingdom of Heaven invaded the realm of earth,

in the great events of the

Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection

of Jesus, the Christ.

~~~F. F. Bruce

The Language of Time:

“The calendar is the foundation of most of Christian worship . . . There is no better place to begin our investigation of the basic structures of Christian worship than with an introduction to the way Christians use time as a language through which to express their worship . . . 


History is where God is made known.  Without time, there is no knowledge of the Christian God.  For it is through actual events in historical time that this God is revealed.  God chooses to make his divine nature and will known through events that take place within the same calendar that measures the daily lives of ordinary women and men. 


Christianity talks not of salvation in general but of salvation accomplished by specific actions of God at definite times and places.  It speaks of climactic events and a finale to time.


In Christianity, the ultimate meanings of life are not revealed by universal and timeless statements but by concrete acts of God.  In the fullness of time, God invades human history, assumes our flesh, and heals, teaches, and eats with sinners.  There are specific temporal and spatial settings to it all . . .


And when his work is done, Jesus is put to death on a specific day, related to the Passover festival of that particular year, and rises on the third day.  It is all part of the same time we inhabit — time that is measured by spatial device, the calendar . . .


The centrality of time in Christianity is reflected in Christian worship.  This worship, like the rest of life, is structured on recurring rhythms of the week, the day, and the year.  In addition, there is a lifelong cycle.  Far from trying to escape time, Christian worship uses time as one of its essential structures.  Our present time is used to place us in contact with God’s acts in time past and future.  Salvation, as we experience it in worship, is a reality based on temporal events through which God is given to us.


The use of time enables Christians to commemorate and experience again those very acts on which salvation is grounded . . . Christianity builds on the natural human sense of time as a conveyor of meaning by fluently speaking the language of time in its worship.”

~~~Excerpts are from the book, Introduction to Christian Worship, Third Edition, James F. White, Abingdon Press, 2000.

Margot’s Commentary:

Therefore, we, as the Body of Christ, might envision ourselves as “historical re-enactors,” as we observe the Church Calendar Year [see Color Wheel below.]  Each year is an opportunity for us to corporately rehearse the mighty acts of the Triune God and to collectively re-enact the events of our salvation history.  These historical events are linked together seamlessly into the Grand Drama of Redemption, in the same way that Shakespeare composes a play with a specific number of “Acts.”  The Church Calendar Year is a visual encapsulation of the Drama of Redemption:  it is the Language of Time.

The Church Year begins with the observation of Advent, the First Coming of Christ.

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