December 1, 2017
What is the most important document in your life?
The Bible. Good answer! But not exactly. Is it your budget, your bank statement, or heaven forbid your email inbox? I say the most important document in life is our calendar. We look at it multiple times a day every day. The truth of the matter? If I have something I’m supposed to do and its not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.
We think of calendars as primarily being about our future and what’s coming next, but here’s the surprising thing. Calendars are really all about the past. If you gave me your calendar from last year I could tell you last year’s story—where you spent your time, your money, your friends, what you valued. In short, our calendars answer all the big questions: who, what, when, where, and how long. The most defining dates on our calendars are reminders about something that happened somewhere in our past. (i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, Independence Days, etc.) Calendars remind us of our stories by annual reenactments. The future gets framed by what happened in the past.
Calendars were God’s idea. Think about it. We aren’t two chapters into the Bible and we already have a calendar set around God’s vision for time. God creates in six days and rests on the seventh. It’s not coincidental that the first thing God says is holy in all of Creation is time itself, which ups the ante on this whole calendar conversation. “Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done.” Genesis 2:3
We are hardly two books into the Bible and God instructs his people to order their calendar around his incredible intervention known as the Passover and the Exodus. As the story of Israel unfolded, other holy-days would be added to their calendar, creating practical opportunities for annual, immersive re-orientation of everything around God and his provision for the past and his vision for the future.
Are you tracking? Calendars were originally invented to repeatedly reorient people around the reality of God. Sure, our calendars can be filled with sports seasons and hunting seasons and national holidays and observances and a thousand other things. Here’s the big question. Of all the calendars we observe, which calendar governs? How does your calendar unveil the vision, unfurl the plan and unfold the timeline. How does your calendar continually re-orient you around the reality of God and his Kingdom?
Does the word “Advent” mean anything to you?
For some it conjures up childhood memories of purple candles, wreathes and chocolate candy calendars.
For others it feels like a bunch of disjointed religious motions the church keeps repeating year after year.
For still others it is simply the onramp to Christmas and all Christmas has come to mean (or not mean) across our cultural landscape.
What if I told you Advent is the first month of the year?
But wait! Isn’t January the first month of the year? Yes, January is the first month of the Greggorian Calendar, which was the next iteration of the Julian Calendar (as in Julius Caesar). Did it ever occur to you that our months are pretty much named after Roman gods and emperors. (i.e. March from Mars, April from Aphrodite, July from Julias, August from Augustus, etc.)
Advent is the first year of the biblical calendar. It’s like a giant RESET button crying out to give us a fresh start again. All of time is marked around the signal event in the history of the world, the coming of Jesus Christ: BC and AD. Advent is the season of the year and the month on the calendar when we prepare to mark the massive RESET from BC to AD. That day, of course, is Christmas. Now, if Christmas is truly going to be more than just all the stuff of Christmas, it will be up to us to make it so. This is the purpose of Advent—to remind us of the greatest RESET in the history of RESETS. The strange word means, “Coming.”
It gets even better. Advent not only prepares us to mark the cataclysmic watershed moment in the history of time: the first coming of Jesus Christ. Advent calls us to prepare for end of time, which will be marked by the second coming of Jesus Christ. Like no other calendar in the world, the biblical calendar is not an endlessly repeating cycle of winter, summer, spring and fall. The biblical calendar is an actual timeline, a true storyline, a calendar with a beginning and an end. Before time there was eternity. Time began with the Creation of the world. Time will end, giving way to unfettered eternity, with the second advent of Jesus, the final RESET, and the fullness of the New Creation.
It brings us to the Gospel. With the coming of Jesus Christ, his life, death, resurrection and ascension, Eternal Life has invaded time, defeating sin and death, RESETTING the stage for life, life and more life. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (another red letter day on the biblical calendar), eternal life enters the hearts of all who follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. On the night before his death, Jesus offered up a powerful prayer in which he said these words,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:1-3.
Advent not only marks the great movement from “Before Christ” to “The Year of Our Lord,” it signals the beginning of the end of time itself. We live now in the age of grace, the age of the Holy Spirit, the time between the comings of Jesus. Year after year after year, Advent offers a graced season to take stock of our lives, to reorient our priorities, to repent and realign our story with the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, Advent offers us a chance to hit the RESET button and begin again afresh.
Our calendars need a RESET. Our marriages need a RESET. Our parenting needs a RESET. Our friendships need a RESET Our bodies and souls need a RESET. Our churches need a RESET. The whole world needs a RESET. The good news is the RESET is right before us. Will we push the button and get on with it?
What about January?
Yes! We keep January. It’s just when the New Year rolls around we will already be leading the way behind Jesus. January, February, March and so on is the world we currently live in, but it’s not the Kingdom we serve. We will be living into a bigger story and marking time with a better calendar, flowing out of a book that will endure forever. And that brings it full circle. The Bible is the most important document in life, so what could be better than to make it our calendar too! After all. . . .
“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8.
And a Holy Advent to you and yours.
*This is the Introduction to my new book, RESET: Advent Devotions for the Whole Family. We’ll try, but we can’t guarantee a print copy in time for the start of Advent. The digital version can be downloaded immediately.
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. I will be taking December off from the Daily Text, but never fear, our friend, Omar Al-Rikabi, will be taking the wheel and narrating us through the days of Advent. You will remember he led the way for a few weeks back in the summer. The Daily Text Nation L O V E D him. You are in for a treat.