The first words of Genesis 1 highlight how the eternal God first expressed himself as Creator. “In the beginning” establishes a line of demarcation between the eternal One and his finite creation. He anchored time to a fixed point “in the beginning” in order to unfold the rest of his creation. Indeed, the notion of time itself speaks of limits. Time can be measured, a distinct contrast with the limitlessness of God.
Each of his actions within each movement of creation ends with a time stamp: “There was evening and morning, the first day . . . the second day . . .” through to the description of the creation of Adam on the sixth day. Even on the final day, the holy rest had a beginning, middle, and end.
The way in which time was lived and measured by the ancient Jews was extremely countercultural. Every other ancient civilization (such as the Sumerians and Egyptians) saw time cycling continually in place, without a larger purpose. The human race began to talk about time differently when God called Abram to leave Ur by faith and head to an unknown land God would show him. Time became a journey, not a wheel.
If you traced this journey on a map, it would form a ragged loop. But this loop didn’t represent the meaningless, repetitious, impersonal cycle of the pagan. It had a distinct beginning and a specific, holy destination.
The calendar used by a people shapes their culture. Calendars in all cultures mark big events and measure ordinary days as well. Over time, the Gregorian calendar became the de facto civil calendar of the West, and today it is the primary tool by which much of the world plans its business, date-stamps documents, and schedules work.
Our calendar tells us a new civil year ...1