As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in the Lutheran church. One thing I used to criticize and have now come to cherish is the Church calendar. The Lutherans follow it, as well as Catholics, Methodists and many other, more traditional denominations. When I left the Lutherans for Evangelicalism, I left the calendar behind as well. Pre-written prayers, liturgy and scripture chosen by someone in an office far away from my congregation seemed pointless to me. How could God work through the leaders of the church if they aren’t even free to pray from the heart or teach from scripture that God led them to? I had those kinds of thoughts about all of it.
I have a hard time looking back and regretting anything I did or thought over my life. All those things have led me to the place I am, which is a far better place. When I started to rethink my views on the church calendar I was playing on a worship band in a Methodist church and the pastor told me he was using liturgy everyday in his morning routine. I thought he was crazy. I did a little research and opened up to the idea.
If you aren’t familiar with the calendar, it starts with Advent. The four weeks leading up to Christmas. Then comes Epiphany, Lent Easter, and then normal time. It lays out the gospel in seasons throughout the year. Everyday there is are readings assigned from the Bible and different traditions celebrate different saints or people of notoriety throughout the year as well.
My love of the calendar, grew once I started using it to lead worship and teach at the church we started in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At first I treated it like anyone would treat a devotional. Everyday I read the scriptures and read about whatever or whoever the specific day was recognizing.
At some point it dawned on me that this was more than a devotional. This goes back farther than any devotional I’d ever heard of. It’s hundreds of years old. Not only that, it’s not just a years worth of lessons put together by some person. It is the course the Church follows worldwide, throughout the years. This is a tremendous tool of unity. I’m always looking for good metaphors as well. The calendar even serves well in his aspect. While I don’t keep up on a regular basis these days, it is grounding to know what season I’m in and that I’m not alone. The calendar has been my tether to the church in my absence from it.
The church calendar is a beautiful thing to me. The death of Jesus shows us what our false self(religious and political systems, the law, the human part of us) is capable of. It will kill an innocent man, God Himself, to protect itself. The veil is torn and God is nowhere to be found. We contemplate that and call it Lent. Then comes the resurrection. He shows us there is more to life than we knew. In his death and resurrection we have hope for more In this life and the next. We celebrate this and call it Easter. Jesus promised help before He ascended. He sent the Holy Spirit which basically gave us all a glimpse at our true selves. There’s a reason the church exploded after this. People knew who they were and how they were to live from the core of their being. We call this moment Pentecost. Of course preceding all this is Advent, the time when we anticipate the coming of Christ. The church calendar is what keeps me holding onto Christianity even after all I’ve been through in my faith. If ever there was a guide on the path to peace, the calendar has been it for me.
Advent (Hope and anticipation for a savior)
Epiphany (Knowledge of that savior’s arrival), Lent (My savior is dead as a result of my actions. Disappointment. Contemplation of my motives and expectations)
Easter (My salvation has come in the most unexpected way.)
Pentecost (I become aware of who I am in Christ, my true self. Abundant life is the result)
The calendar keeps us looking ahead. We know the hope we have in it, and we have a path to peace. We can also see the seasons and recognize their cyclical nature. That helps us endure suffering. We know there is an end to it.
May you find peace this Advent as we anticipate the coming of Christ. May you embrace the hope He brings as the revelation of what He has come to do is revealed in Epiphany. May it bring you peace and may you spread that peace through the unconditional love that has been shown to us and accepted by us.