I did not grow up in a church tradition that paid attention to the church year calendar. Of course we gave great attention to the major events in salvation history of Christmas and Easter, but there was essentially nothing said or taught about the centuries-old flow of the church year that connects those major events and focuses on other important facets of God’s work in the world and among people of faith.
In recent years, I have been using the devotional guides compiled by Norman Shawchuck and Rueben Job and grown to love and understand more about the value of following the church year calendar. In A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Shawchuck and Job remind us that the church year begins with the first Sunday in Advent. My personal clock over the decades has been set to the calendar year. It has always appeared to me that January 1 is the date when things restart but in the church year, Advent is truly the time for New Beginnings. Here’s the way Shawchuck and Job introduce it:
“We do get another chance! The Season of Advent gives the church the opportunity to begin again. Once more the full story of God’s grace is awaiting our discovery. Once more we shake off the failures and victories of the past, and we get a clean page on which to write the story of our companionship with God in Christ. Once more we get to listen and respond in faithfulness to the God who comes to us humbly, intimately, and personally in the birth of Jesus. Advent marks the beginning of the church year and lays before us the pathway of faith for the year ahead. Advent initiates once again remembering, retelling, and celebrating the whole drama of God’s revelation.”
This realization is incredibly refreshing to me! This is the story of God-initiated New Beginnings found in the amazing arrival of God’s Son in human form. No wonder New Year’s resolutions are so powerless! They are initiated by me and generally have a fairly short shelf life because they are simply built on good intentions. When God initiates New Beginnings, they have the power to change things for eternity.
During this Advent Season, I hope you and your church are able to experience a deep sense of the New Beginning you’ve been granted through God’s grace expressed through the gift of His Son.
Happy Advent…Merry Christmas!