The holidays: what a great time of year! Parties! Special food! Different songs! Time off work! Gathering with loved ones you don’t see very often! Playing games! Seeing movies! Staying up late! More food! More gatherings! More loved ones!
Does anyone else still feel exhausted?
Please don’t misunderstand: I love all the above (except playing games, because I am a curmudgeon who doesn’t like to have fun) and look forward to the holiday season every year. We are blessed to have a God who thinks rest is essential and loves it when his people celebrate his work with gladness and thanksgiving. But all the richness that comes with the joyful business of the Thanksgiving-Advent-Christmas season can feel rather like eating nothing but brownies for a week straight—although brownies are the best food in the world, eventually a humble potato starts to sound appealing.
Fortunately, we are also blessed with a God who gets involved in the plain, everyday work of our lives. The Church calendar has two great events (Christmas and Easter) and the two seasons meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate the great events (Advent and Lent). Together, these holidays make up about a fifth of the year. The rest is sometimes called “Ordinary Time”: the day-in and -out cycle of meals, chores, work, weekly commitments, Sunday services, Wednesday Bible studies, morning devotions and evening prayer that make up most of the year. Nothing much happens in Ordinary Time—which is exactly why everything happens then.
We all know that the Christian life is a daily dying-to-self and living-to-God. It’s right there in the name: the Christian life. Anyone can feign Christ-likeness for a day or two in special circumstances; the fruit of true faith takes time to grow as the Holy Spirit renews our minds and teaches us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And, since life is primarily lived in Ordinary Time, this means that the vast majority of our growth will come via the rote and routine: Being grateful for every meal, even when it’s boxed macaroni and cheese. Serving your family by doing the dishes every night, even when it really should be someone else’s turn. Prioritizing gathering with the Body every week, even when you’d rather sleep in and your favorite football team is playing.
The hum-drum offers us ample opportunity to practice the working out of our faith, and the daily training of holiness habituates our head, heart, and hands to respond as the new self even when we would rather not. To use an old-fashioned phrasing, the discipline of a life lived daily for Christ is how we learn to be more like him.
During the holidays, we celebrate what God has done for us. During Ordinary Time, let’s celebrate what God is doing in us.