It's the start of a new year...for Christians who realize and recognize it, that is. The church calendar begins four weeks before Christmas. That's a full month ahead of the rest of the world. The Christian year revolves around Christ, whereas the civic calendar has a humanistic focus.
Society tends to experience December as one big party, culminating in a New Year's eve bash, with January first launching a season (usually very short lived) of self-improvement for the purpose of self-fulfillment.
For Christians, it's a time to renew our faith and worship through reliving the story of salvation, starting with Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, then moving into Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. In repetition, we find newness. As we move through the same liturgical seasons in different seasons of life, the familiar rhythm grounds us while opening our hearts to as yet undiscovered melodies.
This is the part where I want to talk about the reflective retreat I go on for a weekend every year in November and how for me, it's become a prologue to the new year, and how inspired me to create a prayer closet (which I later undid) and then to resurrect said closet just recently...but I need to save that for another post (which will actually be picture based) because if I have learned anything, it's that I need to be here now, in the present. Life moves way too fast for me, which is why my ideas and things have piled up on me, so when I actually seize a moment, like this one, which is so timely, I cannot possibly let it get hijacked by what could happen to this very dangerous and rambling paragraph. (!)
As I was saying, today is the first day of the Christian year, and so, without further ado, here is some of what stood out in my readings this afternoon:
From Mark 13:33-37:
Be aware. Be prepared. (paraphrased)
From God With Us (various authors):
The Greek word for liturgy means "the work of the people."
Liturgy is incarnational, involving our bodily and sensory participation in worship.*
From the Mosaic Bible (quoting Pope John Paul II):
Advent is then a period of intense training that directs us decisively to the One who has already come, who will come, and who continuously comes.
From Preparing for Christmas (Richard Rohr):
We Franciscans have always believed that the Incarnation was already the Redemption, because in Jesus' birth God was already saying that it was good to be human, and God was on our side.
The Word of God, however, confronts, converts, and consoles us - in that order.
Advent is, above all else, a call to full consciousness and a forewarning about the high price of consciousness.
(*remind to come back to this in a future post about intuiting types and liturgy)
I would like to unpack all these quotes, but if I did that, this post would never get published. I would also like to say that I am going to share insights regularly during this season, yet the reality is I have to take it one day at a time, one post at a time. The good news, which Advent proclaims, is that there is no deadline. We want Jesus to return, but God keeps us waiting. In that space between the now and the not yet, He is with us - Emmanuel - and we are doing His work just by living the lives He has given us, breath by breath, moment to moment, and so will it be into eternity.