Blog - Doing Earthwork

Our Calendar and the Worth of Work

Friday, December 31, 2010

Imagine a world with no calendars. Let’s say you want to invite several friends to a New Year’s Eve party. Naturally, you hope they’ll all show up on the same evening, namely the one just before the New Year begins. But you have no calendar. How will you word the invitation? Perhaps like this: "Please join us at sundown 10 (or maybe 11) days after shortest day in the year. Oh, and if you’re not sure which is shortest, it’s the day when the earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun.”

How much simpler to be able to write: "Please join us at 6:00 p.m. on December 31.” What gave us that simplicity and efficiency? The work of human beings.

The ancient Hebrews (perhaps borrowing from the work of Caananites and Babylonians) made a calendar. But it turned out to be somewhat dysfunctional. They based it on the moon circling the earth (instead of the earth circling the sun). So their 12 months fell short of a real year by 11 days. To adjust, they slipped in a bonus month every so many years.

Julius Caesar, guided by the work of astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, established another calendar, humbly naming July after himself. His calendar came closer, but still sprouted an extra day every 134 years. Finally, in 1552, the work of an Italian astronomer-physician named Alosyius Lilius fine-tuned the calendar even further. Because it would guarantee celebrating Easter at the right time, Pope Gregory adopted the new calendar. That’s why ours is called the "Gregorian” calendar—the one now recognized around the world.

As you turn the page to January 2011, let the calendar remind you of the value and dignity of human work. God, the Worker, created the sun, moon, and stars to "serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” (Gen. 1:14). Man, the worker made in God’s likeness, took those raw materials he provided and labored for centuries to base on them the calendar we know today.

Your work (assuming it is worthwhile) is an extension of God’s work. He made our world, continues to hold it all together, and still cares intensely about life on his planet. But even though God is the original Worker, he chose not to do all the world-maintenance work himself. He honored us by leaving much of it to be done by those workers made in his image. People like you and me.

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