What does it mean to have a church calendar?
Our lives are ordered by calendars and seasons. It could be the tax year or school year or autumnal year or the civil year. Some framework guides our lives. Every year we have a cycle that affects our lives, our decisions, our travels, our shopping, our eating. This is true even for our giving, ever since #givingTuesday was created in 2012. This calendar is meant to shape us into good Americans citizens.
The church calendar celebrates the entirety of Jesus' life. Lent remembers how he battled temptation. Easter celebrates his triumph over death. Pentecost notes how the Holy Spirit descends upon and empowers his people. Ordinary time, well, is the ordinary moments of Jesus life. Christmas is the joyful celebration of God's generosity to us, embodied in the birth of his son. But it all kicks off with Advent. Advent, which starts on December 1st, is New Years Day for the Christian Calendar.
The Christian Calendar shapes our hearts and minds, forming us to be "little Christs" (i.e. Christians).
So what is Advent, and what does it mean for me this Holiday season?
Advent means a “coming” or “visitation.” Advent remembers the coming of Jesus. So it is of vital important to consider the purpose and mission in Jesus' coming. Jesus came to rescue his people from sin. This specific Advent season we're looking at how Jesus came to rescue his family from the scandals that they caused, by making their scandals his own. (You can listen to our sermon series here.) He comes to us, yes as a rescuer, but also as a king. So we wait for Jesus to come again where we can both be fully rescued from our sins and fully realize his kingdom reign.
Waiting is hard. Culturally we don't wait. My family has a rule that we are not allowed to buy anything for ourselves after Thanksgiving. But when you see all the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, it's a hard rule to follow. In that moment it is not just waiting, you're potentially denying yourself from getting something you want.
The Advent waiting is similar. You have longings for hope, joy, rescue, and more. In Advent you're waiting to fully realize how Jesus rescues you and fulfills all your true, good longings. An Advent waiting is a waiting and working for the things that really matter.
My friend Joel put it this way:
"This waiting frames our experience as Christians in this holy season. We learn how to groan with creation, to lament, and to long for the restoration of all things. This practice of waiting for things of ultimate concern helps us prioritize life in an age obsessed with the temporality of the now and the new. This is truer in the month of December than in any other month, for our culture’s conception of these Holidays (Holy-days) is largely focused around what one will buy or be given. The Christian conception of this season begins with the realization that what, or who, we really want and need cannot be bought and is not “just a click away,” but must be waited for with patience, submitting to God’s timing, embracing our limits and finitude."
So what do we do in our waiting?
The Christian Calendar's emphasis is on prayer and worship so that our hearts align with Jesus' life and work. There are two NEW resources that I'm using this Advent season, and I encourage you to join me in using them.
The first is music. One of the best gifts the church has given the world is songs for the Advent and Christmas seasons. My friend Melanie Penn released her third album, and it is a collection of 11 songs. She looks at the Christmas story and seeks to tell it afresh by considering the unique perspectives of witnesses. She's coming to Iron Works on Friday, December 8th for our first annual Christmas Party. You're invited to come and celebrate with us. (See our facebook event for more details.)
The second is a devotional resource. My friend Joel Littlepage has produced some amazing prayer books for the past few years. Each year they continue to get better and better. But what excites me about this Advent prayerbook is that you can receive the readings and prayers via email, text, or you could just download the e-book to read.