That Time Of Year
So, the Christmas decorations are being packed away for another year. They remain buried in the closet for about 46 weeks and get to see the light of day for a mere six. Kind of like the groundhog, when they come out we know we have six more weeks of Christmas. (I know, I know… four weeks of Advent, and two weeks of Christmas but it sounds better the way I said it). The point being that even though its a lot of work to put up and take down the decorations it gives us a visual reminder and the sense that something is different. That this particular time of the year for the church…and maybe for the world…is different than any other time. For it is at this time that we focus on the birth of Christ, we celebrate the coming of God into this world through the baby Jesus.
I have only been trying to follow the Church Calendar for the last 10 years, maybe a little longer. But I have gotten very interested in riding the ebb and flow of the church year, focusing on different aspects of the Christ event. When following the church year we focus on the sacred dispersed throughout the ordinary days of the year. The calendar is not just the marking of days and the passing of seasons but possesses within itself an entry into a holy longing of connecting with the God of all the universe. Thus, all year long we are focused on Jesus. Not on Columbus and his discovery of America, not on the American Revolution and our ensuing freedom, not on Laborers, not on those who have died in war, not on winter, spring, summer or fall. By following the church calendar we are anchored to Christ and see the world through the lens of His life and teachings. That is why we begin the church year with a focus on the brith of Jesus and not on the dropping of a ball in Times Square. The church year, otherwise known as the Liturgical Year (liturgy is simply the form or structure of public worship) divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer, which can be symbolized by different ways of decorating churches, use of colors, specified scriptural readings, particular themes for preaching and even different traditions and practices. In churches that follow the liturgical year, the scripture passages for each Sunday (and even each day of the year in some traditions) are specified in a lectionary. Without fail, each year, the church celebrates the birth of Jesus, His life, death, resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Over the course of three years all the major themes of the Old and New Testament are covered. The story is repeated and celebrated from one year to the next, from one generation to the next. Each season has its particular emphasis, not to be rushed through but to be journeyed through, slowly and intentionally. Until Christ returns these themes will always be front and center.
Following the church year brings a sense of rhythm to life and to worship. I don’t need to wonder where my focus should go…the church calendar provides the way and form I can follow. As we pull ourselves out of the season of Christmas and The Epiphany, we prepare to enter the season of Lent. Doesn’t it seem like we were just in the season of Lent a year ago? I guess its that time of year.
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?