Early last week, our family took down all of our Christmas decorations. We took the lights off the tree, carefully wrapped up our ever-expanding ornament collection and packed away the nativity set for another year. Each year I love putting up our decorations.  I love the vibe they give to our house and the expectancy they bring to the Christmas season. Each year when it comes time to put them away I find myself not wanting to say goodbye.  After just having been through a month filled with anticipation and excitement, putting away the decorations is like stepping back into reality. Everything goes back to the way that it was.

liturgical_calendarAs a church, over the last few years, we have tried to embrace the different seasons of the liturgical calendar. The two most notable season are, Advent, which prepare us for Christmas, and Lent, which prepares us for Easter. After a few years of observing these rhythms, I thought to myself, “There has got to be more to the church calendar than just Christmas and Easter.” So I decided to do a little research.  And while I found some other important dates and days, I also came across this image.

Notice how each season is marked and has a color associated with it.  Also notice which season is the longest and what it is called, “Ordinary Time.” I was fully expecting the liturgical calendar to be a whole lot more complicated and exciting than this. We say that the story of Jesus is the greatest story ever told and I thought, for sure, there would be a lot of excitement and pizzaz in the yearly calendar rhythm. When I stumbled upon this I was shocked. “Ordinary Time? Really? There has got to be a better name to call it than that?”

But the truth of the matter is, most of our lives are lived in ordinary moments. Aren’t they? We get up. Brush our teeth. Go about our day. Most likely we see the same handful of people every day. Get to the gym. Come home and do it all over again.

I think the reason why I hate to say goodbye to Christmas and put the decorations away, is because it moves us back into “ordinary time.” And deep in my heart I believe that God doesn’t meet me in the ordinary space of life, in the mundane, the day-in and day-out routines. I’m always looking for God in the extraordinary, the burning bush, the lightning from heaven. And at the heart of it, I am afraid of being ordinary. I want my life to be glamorous and fabulous. And what this exposes about my deepest beliefs, is that I believe abundant living is found in the extraordinary, not the ordinary.

But perhaps, the simplicity of the liturgical calendar is what makes it so radical. It stands as a tangible reminder that God is equally present in the ordinary as He is in the extraordinary. Therefore, we don’t need to fear the ordinary because that’s exactly where God lives. And while there may not be a whole lot to “celebrate” during Ordinary Time, God is still at work and on the move. Therefore, we should move into ordinary time with the same expectancy we have when we enter into Advent, Christmas and Easter.

Where are you finding God in the ordinary moments of life?


9 Responses to “Putting the Decorations Back in the Box”

  1. Melissa

    Some quotes from people much smarter than me re: ordinary…

    This one, to me, speaks to the wonder of God’s creation which is so easy to take for granted:
    “If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” – George Elliot

    This one = They will know we are Christians by our love:
    “Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.” – Desmond Tutu

    This speaks to Discipleship, missionary work, ministry of any kind – and how to love anyone:
    “Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations.” –
    Jean Paul

    “Happiness is a matter of one’s most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self.” – Iris Murdoch

    From a famous actress, but could just as easily be said of pastors:
    “I’m just an ordinary person who has an extraordinary job.” -Julia Roberts

    Thankful you are part of our ordinary lives, and that we get to be part of yours. Keep on keepin’ on Bryan!

  2. Melissa

    I was somewhat familiar with Desomd Tutu’s – I admire him. I knew Julia Roberts by heart. I looked for the rest. Feeling ordinary is a struggle I deal with from time to time, so your post inspired me to look up some of the other quotes.

  3. Ellen Detert

    Both Dick and I were intrigued with this concept of “Ordinary Time”. It bears contemplation on our part. Thanks for sharing.

    • bryanmarvel

      Hey Ellen – Thanks for taking the time to read the post. “Ordinary Time” is something that we all experience, whether talking about it in the context of a religious calendar or not. I have the tendency not to embrace it, but to run from it. I’m finding that I believe that significance in life is found in the extraordinary moments. However, I am finding that way of thinking to be false. I am realizing that it is the little things… the moments around the house with our girls, the time out walking the dog, etc… where God is teaching me what “true life” is all about. Again, thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. beauspeakswell

    Bryan, hope all is well. Tebbe mentioned your blog at some point so I thought I’d wander over. I’m intrigued by the notion of your church trying to embrace the liturgical calendar. I am assuming that was not something that you all has a church had done before. What sparked the transition? How was it received? How are you integrating it?

    • bryanmarvel

      Hey Beau – thanks for checking out my blog. Hope you and the fam are well. Things here in ATL are going well. We are trying to slowly and subtly introduce liturgical elements in our worship service. Not because we have a desire to become “liturgical church” but rather to find simply ways to expose our congregation to different church traditions. Many people in the non-denominational world can perceive church traditions to be old, stale, and dead. But our hope is that through introducing them in new ways people might see the importance of looking back on church history and tradition in order to help guide us as we move forward.

      The transition was sparked by the question, “Is there a way for a non-denominational church to embrace liturgical elements, but have them expressed in new and fresh ways?”

      So far it has been received well. People seem to be intrigued by the different elements when we use them. We aren’t trying to over do it, but keep it simple and subtle.

      Hope this if helpful.

      • beauspeakswell

        Thanks, Bryan. That makes sense. I find myself drawn to liturgical elements (not necessarily liturgical “churches”) because I see the liturgy as spiritually formative. Right now church very much feels like a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation and not something that is able to form me spiritually. It’s something that just contributes tot he noise.

        I’m glad your church has been able to start making the transition.

        Be well, mate.

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