December 31, 2019, Un-Common Era


Both the year and the decade of the 2010s are coming to an end on Tuesday night. As with all New Year’s Eves, the countdown will be chanted, the ball will drop, the military-style clock will roll over to 00:01, and, well, in truth, just another day will begin as it does every other 24 hours. Still, that single second between 11:59 and midnight is significant to Bethlehem College & Seminary as unless your charitable gift is made or postmarked before the clock strikes twelve, the good folks at the U.S. Internal Revenue Service won’t consider it as deductible in 2019.

We know that tax consequences aren’t the motivation of benevolences aimed our way, yet the lion’s share of annual support for The Serious Joy Scholarship still flows in during this last week of the calendar year. So, if you are inclined to bless our students with a gift to enable them to graduate without student loan debt, then please don’t tarry.

On Ridley Road at Mount Rothwell in Little River, Victoria, Australia, stands an aboriginal stone arrangement called the Wurdi Yuong. This series of stones marks the positions of the setting sun at the equinoxes and solstices and, as such, is believed to be the world’s oldest existent luni-solar calendar at more than 11,000 years of age. The first historically attested calendars date to the Bronze Age, dependent on the development of writing in the Ancient Near East, and are thusly credited to the Sumerians.

Today, there are as many as 36 different luni-solar calendars in use among governments, tribes, religious orders, people groups, and scientists. One calendar though, the Gregorian Calendar, is used more widely than any other calendar in the world and has been for 437 years. This calendar represented an arithmetical reform to the Julian calendar employed across the Roman Empire during the previous 910 years. The Gregorian Calendar established a standard configuration of time immemorial: B.C. and A.D., based on the traditionally reckoned date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Academicians, journalists, secularists, and modernists prefer the more P.C. presentation of B.C. and A.D.—B.C.E. and C.E.—“Before the Common Era” and “The Common Era.” While the use of this form of notation has a lineage all the way back to the astronomer Johannes Kepler in the year of our Lord 1635, it wasn’t until 2005 that it was reported that “Common Era” citations became prevalent in American textbooks. Which is to say, that until just 14 years ago—i.e., the life span of YouTube—most of the world reckoned time colloquially as “before and after the birth of Jesus Christ” for almost 1,500 years!

The velocity of recent societal change, of increased popular distancing from Christianity and biblical commandments, need not cause us any dismay. The knowledgeable puffed-ups are free to exhaust themselves in the composition of whole lexicons of euphemism. But, we know that this era they call “common” is anything but. The Kingdom of God has invaded the kingdom of the world! That’s why this presentation of time has endured for 15 centuries. And should the remnant of believers becomes so sparse that it exerts zero influence on popular vocabulary or social mores, why then even “the rocks will cry out.” Time is truthfully divided between before Jesus and after his resurrection. The world, contentious though it is, is itself only divided between the saved and the lost.

So, that’s what really turns when the clock strikes twelve—another year of our Lord. And for those who regard Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a reminder that there will be another, and another, and another, until we look upon the beauty of his glory and enjoy his pleasures forevermore.

We are not the least bit worried about running out of time or resources to do Christ’s work. Still, we acknowledge that, for whatever reason, folks still pay attention to the movements in the heavens that declare his majesty, and there are certain tasks we need to complete before the earth begins another orbit around the sun—including tax-deductible gifts to ministries that depend on the overflow of joy that pours forth from the hearts of those who love Jesus. With this in mind, won’t you please keep The Serious Joy Scholarship and the students who benefit from it in mind?

His servant and yours,

Rick Segal

Rick Segal is the Vice President of Advancement and the Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce and Vocation.

Prayer Requests:

  1. We are running behind the same period a year ago in the number of scholarships fully subscribed. Please pray for a strong financial finish to the calendar year and a generous out-pouring before the school year ends in June.
  2. Pray that students will be refreshed and renewed over the winter break and return ready to undertake the demands of rigorous education in the new year.
  3. Ask that Dean Brian Tabb’s sabbatical in the coming semester will be rich and fruitful as he sets aside time to focus intently on research and writing that he hopes will bless the church.
  4. Pray for traveling mercies and impactful time for the pastors and church leaders attending this year’s conference.