Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent and the Church Calendar

We have only recently discovered the Church Calendar. And when I say recently, I mean within the last few years. There is so much to be celebrated and understood in the way the Apostolic Church set-up the annual church calendar. It really is quite fascinating and chock full of history.

Which leads us to Advent. Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is an extremely important time in our household. We have various traditions, most of which I've pulled from Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions, and I'll write more about those in the coming days. To us, Advent and Christmas is a time to seriously pour on the celebration. Why not? We're Christians. Christmas is all about CHRIST- the center point of our faith. Our children should be seeing this time as a big deal. But more about that later.

To kick-off the Advent season, I thought it would be appropriate to post a friend's words regarding the Church Calendar, why it is central to our lives as Christians and how, as we walk through the Church Year, we are walking through the life of Christ. I know you'll enjoy these words given this last Sunday at our church, Trinity Covenant, by Troy Martin, as the Exhortation right before the time of Confession. This truly is beautifully written.

Exhortation 1st Sunday of Advent 2010

By Troy Martin


We are beginning the season of Advent today, and that seems to encourage some notice. For a calendar is, after all, the way a people apprehend and comprehend time. Solomon encourages us to remember that there is a season for all things. That is, that timing is an important feature of wisdom. God tells us that the whole sky that we walk under was created so that man would understand the season and timing of things. Then God descended upon Sinai and gave Israel a calendar of holidays as part of its heritage… which the gospel writer John shows pointed to Jesus. Even Jesus himself tells us that he comes during an acceptable season. Seasons, timing, memory. memorial, history, heritage, and holy days are all a central concern to our God and concern for God’s people. For he divides times, and we are made in that image.

Pagan Calendars

Which is, in a way, the central meaning of the Christian Calendar. For all calendars of antiquity have placed people under the principles and principalities of nature. The ancient Egyptians measured time and their gods by the flooding of the Nile and the parching of the land; and by thus ordering their times they showed they were subservient to them. The Early Arabs and Later Swahili placed themselves under the timing of monsoons and trade, two of their chief deities. The Ancient Aztec conquered, enslaved, and sacrificed as people under the rising and falling of an oppressive and burning sun. All pagan peoples were placed under the elements of nature. And Paul tells us twice that we are no longer in bondage to these things, but we are under Christ.

Christian Calendar

Which is why the Christian calendar is not marked by the elements of nature, the waxing of moons, or the solstices and equinox…but by the life of Christ. Not mother earth, but our Lord marks time. It is not the high sun that makes our summer, but the high throne of our Lord Jesus makes Pentecost. It is not the copulation of pagan Easter bunnies that marks our reborn spring but it is the resurrection of our Lord, born from the tomb. Nor is it the mud and wet weather of late winter that makes our time change, but the Passion Week, and the forty days of Lent. High winter is not, like for so many pagans, a time to morn the death of Tammuz, the descent of Persephone, or the murder of Baldr for our seasons are not marked by these elements of nature, but in those dark days we see the world that lay in darkness before our savior was born in Advent and his glorious incarnation in Christmas.

The Summary of Things

His birth, our Christmas; His childhood, our Epiphany; His ministry, our Lent; His death, our Passion Week; His resurrection, our Spring; and His conquest of the world, our Pentecost: His life, our calendar. We mark our time by him whose hands are marked for us. For all things in heaven above and on earth beneath are written with that name which stretches farther than zenith to nadir, in letters larger than the light-years between the Big Dipper to Ursa Minor, Christ marks our time, Christ marks our calendar. It is wisdom to know the season of things, and Christ is our wisdom, so let him mark our calendar, our timing, let his life be our memorials and holidays, and that is why today we begin Advent.

Apostasy and Remembering

So why the sociology lesson? We live in a time that is neither pagan nor Christian, but something worse. We neither feel bound by the elements, nor do we make ourselves bound to Christ. We live in a time that is apostate. Our schedules are dominated by us. Our thoughts about time are filled with thoughts about our own time, our own work, our own busy schedule. And should we ever have a holiday, we understand it only as a personal vacation. So today’s exhortation is an invitation, to remember who marks your steps and determines your times. You were bought with a price, you do not belong to yourself. Neither does your time. So live your life in the light of the life that made yours worth living…

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