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Keeping Time

The Advent season and the Christmas season which follows are full of mystery and beauty. Angelic messages and prophetic dreams. Unexpected births and mothers’ love. Dangerous kings and foreign travelers carrying gifts. The prayer which Steve shared yesterday morning aptly describes Advent as a “season suspended between hope and fulfillment.”

I have mentioned a few times that I really like the Church calendar, so I want to take a moment to tell you two reasons I think it’s good for us to follow it. First, it helps us to maintain proper perspective. Advent is a time of waiting and expectation while Christmas is a time of celebration. In Advent we become fully aware of the darkness that exists in the world including within ourselves. We recognize our inability to make things right on our own. In Advent we see with certainty that the story needs divine intervention. Christmas is the season we celebrate that God did intervene in our world and in a most unexpected way—the birth of baby. What the Church calendar reminds us is that there can’t be Christmas without Advent. This Spring we need to remember that Easter is preceded by Good Friday, and the season of Lent prepares makes us aware of our sin and our need for a Savior.

In my sermon yesterday, I mentioned that though most call this the Christmas season, it is the season of Advent. The Advent season lasts through Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day begins the Christmas season which lasts for twelve days until the day of Epiphany which is the traditional time for remembering the arrival of the Magi. In some parts of the world this day is a bigger celebration than Christmas. In the Dominican Republic, for instance, El día de Reyes is a big celebration. This leads me to the second reason that I like to follow the Church calendar. It reminds me of a deeper, older, and more foundational reality than what we are often exposed to on a daily basis. What we call “the Christmas season” in North America has become superficially focused on commercialism and a marginal “good will toward all” that only scratches the very surface of the truth which supports it. When I mark my life by Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time, as well as each Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day it connects me to a reality much older than the civic celebrations we more often observe.

Let’s immerse ourselves in God’s story and God’s work this Advent season. Let’s be reminded of Christ’s first coming to bring light into darkness and the promise of his return when he will “restore everything” (Acts 3:21).

God’s richest blessings,


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