“Traffic crawls, cell phone calls/Top video screams at me through my tinted windows I see/A little girl, rust-red minivan/She’s got chocolate on her face, got little hands/And she waves at me, yeah, she smiles at me”. 1 So begin the lyrics to the country song “Hello World” by Lady Antebellum. As the song progresses, it describes how this ordinary moment – a little girl waving at him – becomes the means for breaking through the singer’s coldness of heart and warms him to the world and God’s presence. After listening to this song many times, I am convinced that this song also expresses, however inadvertently, the reason for celebrating Ordinary Time.
For those of you unfamiliar, Ordinary Time is the phrase used to describe a period of the church year that starts after Pentecost and ends on the Saturday evening before the first Sunday in Advent. Basically, it is a period that corresponds to much of June through most of November. 2 It is referred to as “ordinary” in the sense that “the Sundays are simply numbered and there are no major feasts comparable to Christmas or Pascha”. 3 While Ordinary Time is not widely observed in Protestant denominations, I think its spiritual and symbolic significance should not be overlooked. As Bobby Gross describes it:
In this season we settle into the spiritual rhythms of living as disciples of Jesus. We gather in our churches and disperse into our neighborhoods. We worship and we witness. We seek to grow as individuals and we serve the needs of others. We rest our bodies and refresh our souls and we set out to do our God-given work. We engage in these rhythms day in and day out, week in and week out. 4
For me, Ordinary Time is an exciting time in that I believe the celebration of it completes the believer’s celebration of Advent and Lent. For the One who took on flesh and became ordinary, so ordinary that Isaiah 53:2 describes his physical appearance as unremarkable, also died so that we might live fully in the ordinary days that make up our life. Life isn’t always fireworks and light shows. And the spiritual walk with Christ isn’t always about experiencing extraordinary moments. But it is about embracing and surrendering your ordinary days to Christ. That is what the church calendar and the Story of God is all about: discovering the extraordinary work of Christ in the midst of one’s ordinary days.
But if you’re like me and like Charles Kelley, the lead singer for “Hellow World”, your ordinary moments are often filled with anything but the extraordinary work of Christ. You speed by the activity of God in your life as you make made dashes down the road to reach your next destination. You fail to acknowledge His Lordship over you life as you tackle one appointment after another on your own strength. You crowd Him out as you fill your mind with Facebook posts or read yet another blog, like this one, that relate one person’s experiences of God while failing to relate to Him yourself.
One simple way to increase one’s awareness of Christ’s presence in the midst of ordinary days is to pray the Kyrie eleison. In Greek, it means “Lord, have mercy” and is based on such biblical passages as Luke 18:13 and 18:38-39 . It is a good prayer to pray throughout one’s day as Christ’s mercy and grace warms our hearts and wakes us up to our ordinary days. Perhaps you can identify with one of the following people:
The soccer mom in her SUV who’s running behind in taking the kids to soccer practice.
The young professional in his cubicle who has grown weary of ordinary days.
The full-time student in her classes, struggling to maintain her grades.
The manager at her desk who is facing an EEO complaint for disciplining an employee.
The successful country singer in his car, cold and indifferent to the world around him.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
1. MetroLyrics.com, “Hello World Lyrics” http://www.metrolyrics.com/hello-world-lyrics-lady-antebellum.html, accessed 2 June 2013.
2.Technically, in the Catholic Church and in Protestant denominations that observe the church calendar, there are two separate periods of ordinary time. There is also shorter period between Christmas and Lent. However, in this post I will limit my references to the longer period. For those interested in learning more about the church calendar see, Wikipedia.org, “Ordinary Time”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordinary_time, accessed 2 June 2013.
3. There are feasts/holidays that are celebrated during Ordinary Time. However, they are not as significant and as widely celebrated as Christmas and Easter. Bobby Gross, Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2009), p. 224.
4. Ibid., p. 234.