Smoky Mountain Reflections #188
Sometimes things line up in very unique ways, and you find yourself scratching your head, saying, “Isn’t that interesting?”. We have such an occurrence this year, and it will reveal where people’s priorities lay, when the differing calendars of the world and the church clash.
It begins this month on the day that we celebrate romantic love. February 14th (which many know as Valentine’s day) is a day filled with heart-shaped with red boxes full of fancy chocolate, not to mention the flowers, balloons, cupids, and other pink and red reflections associated with romantic love. The traditions now associated with Valentine's day were first written of in Geoffrey Chaucer's “Parlement of Foules” published in the late 1300s. They were set in the fictional context of an old tradition, and did not really even exist before Chaucer! Prior to that, the church simply celebrated him as a martyr for the faith. We as Lutherans (and for that matter, most Christians) who celebrate saints do not even consider this a feast day, but simply a day of commemoration in which we remember his sacrifice for the gospel as a reminder for us to be strong witnesses for the faith. That being said, Ash Wednesday is a much more important day in the church’s calendar, and this year, it falls on February 14th! Ash Wednesday is almost certainly one of the top five most important days in the year for most Christians, even though many American Christians do not even know what it is. So while most of our society will be swimming in pink hearts and chocolates, the faithful will be attending church to have ashes applied to their foreheads and being reminded that they are created from dust, and to dust they shall return. I am not saying, however, that this is an “either/or” proposition; you can celebrate both on February 14th this year, just not at the same time.
Next, the very highest day on the church’s calendar, Easter, will fall on the day that many Christians joke is the holiday for atheism, April 1st. That is right, April Fool’s Day and Easter come together this year. But don’t worry, I do not think atheists will stop hiding eggs or petting bunnies on Easter (which of course we know is what Easter is all about…wink, wink, nod, nod). No! Easter is about Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, in which he proved his victory over sin, death and the devil, and there’s nothing foolish about that.
Finally, if I told you that many protestant Christians would be canceling their worship services on a Sunday this year you might accuse me of being ridiculous. However, it is true; thousands of churches will close their doors this year on a Sunday in December, canceling their services so their members can stay home and celebrate our national day of materialism. You guessed it, Christmas day falls on a Sunday. We here at Saint Paul will have our regular 8:30 & 11 AM services on that day, but sadly, many churches will be closed entirely. In fact, many churches do not have Christmas day services even in other years, because it is regarded as “a day for family” (as if gathering to celebrate the holy family and the birth of our savior precluded that).
Worry not, however; 2018 will not be good or bad based on calendar conundrums. The Lord is faithful; he will be with you always, and He will continue to care for and nurture God’s people whenever they gather around His gifts of word and sacrament. So have a worry-free, blessed 2018.