how to celebrate God’s faithful presence throughout the moments, days, years

Nursing our little girl through recovery from open heart surgery, it’s kinda clear: Time is a gift that we sometimes forget we’ve been given. Time is an opportunity to experience eternity in the everyday. Michelle Van Loon is our guide through the major events of the Jewish and Christian calendars. She grew up in a Jewish home and came to know Christ in her teens. The colorful but disconnected puzzle pieces of the faith she’d experienced as a child began to be placed into a Jesus-shaped framework. They fit perfectly. Michelle invites us to discover our spiritual roots and the rhythms of our days. It’s a grace to welcome Michelle to the farm’s front porch today..

guest post by Michelle Van Loon

For 85 percent of each week, modern Jerusalem is a noisy place.

One and a half million camera-wielding pilgrims jostle for space with the city’s eight hundred thousand permanent residents each year.

Mix fervent prayer, the chatter of mothers walking their children to the market in strollers, the dialed-to-eleven volume of debate in cafes and at bus stops, car and taxi horns honking, sirens blaring, and feral cats fighting, and you have a mad symphony of sound.

But as Friday afternoon marches toward sundown, these sounds fade, and the city takes on a remarkable stillness. Save for a few cabs and service vehicles, cars disappear from the streets. Businesses close their doors. Voices dial down their volume from eleven to four.

A holy hush descends on the city long before the first star appears in the desert sky over the city.

It is Shabbat, the Sabbath. The hush holds the city in its embrace until about an hour or so after sunset on Saturday. The volume builds once again in the early evening darkness as Jerusalem returns to its regularly scheduled program—until the following Friday afternoon.

The first time I experienced Sabbath in Jerusalem, I heard within the silence a loving reminder: There was a story the infinite God was telling us about Himself within the finite measures of time that He’s given to each one of us.

It is a story about who He is and who we are called to be.

In our plugged-in, 24/7/365 world drumming to an insistent, unvarying beat every single day, we are prone to miss the cadence of eternity.

God has built his own rhythms of restoration and celebration into our days and years. Let us have ears to hear them.

In our always-connected digital world, many of us have become accustomed to the idea that we are the architects of our days. We make our appointments and set our schedules, all the while kvetching that we’re just too busy. Our overscheduled lives proclaim to the world and ourselves that, really, we’re super-indispensable people.

We allow a subtle pride to warp our understanding of our role in God’s story: “Look at my crammed datebook! If others need or want me this much, I must be pretty important.” And if they don’t, then it’s not a far leap for some of us to believe that maybe our lives don’t matter much.

I’d like to suggest that our watches and Day-Timers and Google calendars are not the measure of our worth. We who belong to Jesus understand (at least in our heads) that we are not our own.

Our eternal God has given us this slice of eternity, right here and now, in which to live for and with Him.

Following a calendar that tells us our lives are not all about us is a powerful place to learn to inhabit that sacred gift of time. When Paul acknowledged not all followers of Jesus see specific days as holy, he wasn’t suggesting that everyone in the church needed to hit the ‘delete’ button on the discussion (Romans 14:5-10).

He was, instead, encouraging them to give one another lots of grace as they sought how to honor God together in their community.

He never discounted the value of the weekly/yearly rhythm of holy days. He simply wanted the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus to understand that the finished work of Jesus the Messiah fills full the meaning of these festival days:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)

That reality must shape our ordinary moments and our sacred days. For those of us who find our spiritual identity determined by our own schedules, growth in discipleship may well mean choosing instead to be formed by the rhythms of appointed times with God in our individual lives and in our church communities.

Those holy days are gifts of love from God designed to help us understand the nature of eternal life.

Rabbi Sidney Greenberg offers a wonderful explanation about the difference between the kind of holidays that populate our own calendars, and the everyday eternity of a holy day:

“On holidays we run away from duties. On holy days we face up to them.

On holidays we let ourselves go. On holy days we try to bring ourselves under control.

On holidays we try to empty our minds. On holy days we attempt to replenish our spirits.

On holidays we reach out for the things we want. On holy days we reach up for the things we need.

Holidays bring a change of scene. Holy days bring a change of heart.”

Explore the gift of time and take a look at the stories, structure, history and relationship of the Jewish and Christian calendars.

These holy days are not additional to-do’s for your busy life.

They are instead a way for you to create intentionality in the way you live the gift of eternal life God has given you through His Son.

Have ears to hear the rhythm of eternity in each moment and sacred day of our lives.

 


Michelle Van Loon is the author of several books and a regular contributor to Christianity Today and patheos.com.

In her newest book, Moments & Days, you will see God’s faithful presence in real time, both in the Scriptures and in your daily life. Rediscover the gift of time through the Jewish and Christian holidays, drawing closer to God’s faithful presence.

Moments and Days restores a sacred sense of time throughout our year, enriching our experience of each “holy day” and enlivening our experience of even the most “ordinary time.” This one is really beautiful. 

[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]

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