Holy Everything: New church year starts Sunday
Happy New Year! It’s obviously not 2019 yet, but this weekend we celebrate another kind of beginning. It’s time for a new church year cycle, and it starts tomorrow with the first Sunday of Advent!
The church year commences with the season of Advent and concludes with the last Sunday of the season of Pentecost, which is called Christ the King. The church year is an annually occurring way of ordering time around the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Some Christian denominations utilize this calendar in their worship planning and liturgies; others do not. Regardless of whether you’re home congregation incorporates the church year, you can still make use of it. The church year calendar is a resource for everyone!
Advent is a season ripe for new possibilities. It lasts four weeks, and it’s a stretch of time during which we anticipate the new thing God is doing in our midst. We watch for signs of the kingdom of God being ushered into the world around us. We eagerly wait to hear and proclaim the story of Jesus’ birth.
The English word advent comes to us from the Latin adventus, which comes from the Greek word parousia. Parousia is used in the Gospel of Matthew (which was originally written in Greek) to refer to the time when Jesus will come again.
The naming of this time of the liturgical year as Advent connects us to one of the season’s core purposes: to give us space to ponder Jesus’ promise to come again to live among us. He returns by coming into our hearts daily, and he promises to eventually return and usher in the kingdom of God described in Revelation 21:3-5:
’See, the home of God is among mortals.
God will dwell with them;
they will be God’s peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
God will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’
As we prepare for Jesus’ birth and watch for signs of God’s kingdom coming into our communities and world, here are a few ways to incorporate Advent themes into the next four weeks of your life:
• Make space to advocate. Discern which issues of peace and justice are most compelling to you. Write letters to elected officials, join mailing lists and have conversations about where you feel the Spirit inviting you to build a more equitable world.
• Read a poem every day. Poetry is a way to expand our hearts and minds. Advent is a great time to slow down and digest beautiful, provocative and creative words.
• Purchase with intention. What would it look like to make no haphazard holiday season acquisitions? Could you buy local? Create gifts instead of buy them? Use your money in a way that matches with your values and moves you into the kingdom in our midst? How might the way we use money relate to the new thing God is doing around us?
• Experiment with a new mealtime routine. Every day we eat food. What might it be like to incorporate a one-minute meditation or prayer before one specific meal each day of Advent?
• Slow down and listen. Carve intentional space into your life to pay attention to beauty … to savor your food, read a book, or play in the show. Give yourself permission to do nothing but listen deeply for God’s voice.
During a time of year that tends to move swiftly and get filled to the brim with concerts, parties and baked goods, Advent is an early gift to us. It arrives in our spiritual mailboxes this weekend. Take time to open this treasure and honor all the possibilities it contains.