Ecclesiastes says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (v. 3:1, NRSV). This may be true, but the calendar we have created often has little to do with what season of life we find ourselves in. Although we try to harness our time on earth by dividing it into hours, days, seasons, and years, we cannot predict how time will affect us.
This is true now as ever. Enuma Okoro reminds us, “The waiting of Advent is over, but we still wait for other things in our lives.” By the same token, as we rejoice in Christ’s birth, still we mourn the tragedies that have surrounded it. And later this year during Lent, the season of penance, we will not be consumed by repentance over past wrongdoings, but will also do other things and experience other emotions unrelated to the time of year. We influence time and time influences us, but neither controls the other.
Perhaps we should consider our calendar not as a dictator of experience but as a guide for reflection. Certainly the authors we have read during Advent have done this. How can we follow their lead? As we enter a new year, how can we remember the particular season we are in while remaining open to the full range of human experience?
A prayer for the new year: God, in the fullness of your time, help us to become the people you created us to be.