The Liturgical Year or the Christian Calendar is a way of ordering one’s year that has evolved within Christian tradition over the centuries. Different Christian traditions follow slightly different forms of the calendar with different readings from the bible on different days etc, but in general they all follow the same rhythm.
The way the Liturgical Year works is that it is ordered around the story of Jesus, his life and ministry and longed for return. Its beauty is that it takes us places in prayer, contemplation, study, and celebration that often we might more naturally shy away from. Christmas is a wonderful celebration. Resurrection Sunday is a day of new life and possibility. Pentecost reminds us of the life giving empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They are pretty easy to celebrate.
Lent though reminds us of the trials and struggles of life; the difficulties and the heartaches. Easter Friday takes us to place of what seems to be abandonment and hopelessness. Ordinary time confronts us with the mundane reality of life but that Christ is present.
The real power of the liturgical year is not the feasts, celebrations, seasons and rituals, the real power is its capacity to touch and plumb the depths of the human experience, to stir the human heart. By walking the way of the life of Jesus, by moving into the experience of Jesus, we discover the meaning of our own experiences, the undercurrent of our own emotions, the struggle and the joy, the victories and the heartache of the Christian life. By taking us into the depths of what it means to be a human on the way to God – to suffer and to wonder, to know abandonment and false support, to believe and to doubt – the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine.
Advent isn’t Christmas. Advent is the four week period leading into Christmas which begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Advent looks forward to the arrival of Christ, the arrival of Emmanuel, God with Us, the hope of the world.
Advent looks forward to the arrival of the Christ child whose birth brings joy to the world. With Mary we magnify God’s name at the announcement that the long promised one is coming soon. Our waiting is full of pregnant expectancy, waiting in anticipation for the full coming of God’s reign of peace. The liturgical colour is blue, signifying hope and the dawning of a new day.
Advent is also an opportunity to re-tell the Christmas story, away from of consumerism and materialism, and back towards anticipation, expectation and the wonder of the incarnation, of God with us, of the long waited arrival of the Messiah in very unspectacular circumstances. Advent is the celebration that there is going to be a new chapter in the story; hope, life, promise, redemption, grace, forgiveness.
Advent from Latin essentially means ‘coming’ but Advent is not about one coming but rather three.
- Coming of Jesus, 2000 years ago, the Messiah, Emmanuel, the Saviour.
- Coming of Jesus, as present in our everyday lives today, working in all sorts of beautiful and wonderful ways.
- Coming of Jesus again to put all things right, to restore all things and to bring justice and shalom.
Jesus – past, present, future!