While some churches celebrate Epiphany season, many (including the United Methodist Church) are now in something called “Ordinary Time.” On the surface this makes sense, as there are no Christian holidays for a while and life does seem a bit ordinary without them. But in this case, the word “ordinary” actually refers to “ordering,” as in “the first Sunday after Epiphany,” “the second Sunday after Epiphany,” and so on. A second round of Ordinary Time starts after Pentecost and lasts until Advent.
This short season is the bridge between Christmas and Lent, which this year falls on February 17. Some might see this as a month and a half period during which we try to keep our New Year’s resolutions, fail miserably, and resolve to try again. Others might call it “football playoff season.”
If Advent is about hope, love, joy, peace and the arrival of salvation, Lent is about giving something up or taking something on, and Pentecost is about the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, what is Ordinary Time about?
Traditionally a time for meditation, this stretch of January and February lines up nicely with the heart of winter. We’re stuck indoors more than we’d like, trying to choose books over Netflix and often losing, foraging for nuts and berries in our cupboards and finding only cookies and jam. But the combination of winter and Ordinary Time offers a perfect opportunity for introspection, which can lead to renewal of purpose and strengthening of spirit.
Those who have the luxury of time this season might take guidance from this famous hymn:
Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
It’s impressive to see so many winter ideas packed into a single stanza: prayer (line 1), reading (line 2), helping others (line 3) and counting blessings (line 4). This sounds like a great recipe for turning Ordinary Time into Extraordinary Time!
We need not fear the winter; it will bring its own blessings. Welcome to a new season of faith!