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"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.'"
(Genesis 1:14, ESV)

These past couple of weeks, I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to get up in the morning. It’s not that I don’t like getting up early, but when I open my eyes to a dark eastern sky, my body simply refuses to move from its prone position.

As much as I would like to enjoy the earlier sunrises, I cannot ignore the decreasing daylight hours. And we have reached that time of the year when we set our clocks back one hour—from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time—which is another reminder that the darker days of winter are fast approaching.

This practice of adjusting our time-keeping devices was put in question during the recent municipal elections. There was a nearly even split among Albertans. Those who were against the idea of adopting Daylight Saving Time year-round won by a very slim margin of less than one percent.

The approaching “fall back” to Standard Time this coming weekend, the recent referendum, and the shorter days made me reflect on the concept of Daylight Saving Time. 

I recently learned that although Germany was the first country to implement Daylight Saving Time in 1916, the first place to officially adopt this idea was Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) in 1908. Another point for Canada!

The practice of daylight saving was introduced as a way to conserve energy. By adjusting the clocks forward in the spring, we take advantage of the longer daylight hours, reducing the need for artificial lighting, and reducing energy consumption.

It makes sense to align our markers of time with the natural rhythm of sunrise and sunset, day and night, light and dark. But this idea is not simply about increasing efficiency and reducing the electricity bill.

Long before energy conservation was of primary concern, people in ancient times already understood how the rhythm of heavenly bodies signified seasons, days, and years. The writer(s) of Genesis poetically portrays this understanding of time on the fourth day of creation:

"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.'"
(Genesis 1:14, ESV)

Psalm 104 adds more detail to this rhythm, describing how the moon and the sun dictate daily patterns of life:

[God] made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, and it becomes night,
when all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey,
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.

(Psalm 104:19–23, ESV)

These passages are simple. They do not explain the connections between the earth’s axial tilt, the changing seasons, and our circadian rhythms. And yet they beautifully depict our Creator’s work of establishing the natural cycles and seasons of the world we live in.

This way of understanding time, as marked by the sun, moon, and stars, is very different from our neatly-segmented, 24-hour, 60-seconds-per-minute measurements.

Even though the practice of adjusting our clocks twice a year takes into account the changing length of daylight, we are still confined within a rigid chronological framework.

In the dark winter months, we continue with our quick cadence even as some animals retreat into a deep slumber, trees enter a dormant state, and the land slows her breath.

Of course, we do not hibernate and most of us do not have the option of migrating to warmer climes in the winter. But I wonder what it would be like if our lives followed the rhythms which the Creator put in place, such as the ones marked by the sun, moon, and stars.

I wonder what it would be like if we slowed down, took a prolonged pause, and allowed ourselves and the rest of creation to collectively catch our breath.

I wonder if this would rejuvenate our exhausted bodies.

... refresh our overworked minds.
... renew our ravaged lands.
... restore our polluted waters.

Perhaps what we need to question is not the practice of adjusting our clocks twice a year.

Perhaps what we need to question are the very rhythms that dictate our daily lives.

As we revert back to standard time this weekend, let us ask ourselves these questions:

  • What rhythms do I follow?
  • How do these rhythms cultivate my relationship with God and with others?

May we find daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms which are life-giving, bring healing, and lead to wholeness and flourishing.