As I was growing up I had no idea there was a church calendar. Now, before you get the wrong idea let me state emphatically that I am very thankful for the religious heritage that brought me to faith and has helped to sustain and nourish my faith for so many years. I would not be who I am today without them and in so many ways I stand on their shoulders. Like all faith traditions or denominations we had some areas of church life that we focused on and understood really well, areas that we can share with and be a blessing to the wider world of Christendom. However, we also had some areas of church life that were neglected. One such area was the church calendar. Not only did we neglect the church calendar, I honestly did not know the church calendar existed when I was younger. I had no idea there were such things as advent or the Easter season, Ascension Sunday or the weeks following Pentecost. Now, again to be honest, my faith has grown fine without annually working through the church calendar. Yet, I feel like I have missed a golden opportunity to continue to grow closer to God and to appreciate him more through this tradition.
For instance, consider the season of Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Christ. For most of my life these were simply the weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, weeks that moved from one holiday to another. I would often lament how Christmas was commercially encroaching upon Thanksgiving and how Thanksgiving was becoming the forgotten holiday. It would be a time of finding presents and wrapping them, often trying to get my shopping done as soon as possible to avoid going to the store the week of Christmas. It was a time of anticipation, but selfish anticipation more than anything. I spent my time selfishly wondering what presents I was going to receive and hoping that the gifts I bought for others would be accepted. I would sometimes think about the coming birth of Christ, but sadly, it was never the highlight of the season.
But what would happen if I started viewing the season differently? What would happen if instead of spending the next four weeks anxiously waiting to open presents under the tree I spent the next four weeks anxiously awaiting the Christ child, the Savior who is to be born who will bring glory to God and peace on earth? What kind of changes would happen if I spent the next four weeks preparing to meet the King of Kings? If I spent the next four weeks purifying my heart, calming my spirit, being at peace with all people, and striving to bring joy and love to everyone I meet. How would the season change, and how would my attitude change, and how would my life change if I viewed the next view weeks not as a commercial monstrosity known as the holiday season to be endured but as a religious experience known as advent to be celebrated?
I am committed to viewing the season differently. I am committed to spending the next few weeks anxiously anticipating the Christ child and all that he means for a world desperately in need of a Savior. I am committed to spending the next few weeks more focused on what type of person I am now and am becoming than on what type of gifts are under my Christmas Tree. That when I see Christmas lights on houses I will be reminded that Jesus is the Light of the World. That when I get stuck in holiday traffic I will use it as a time not to grow frustrated but as a time to practice patience and be reminded of how lucky I am. That when I eat Christmas goodies I’ll be thankful that I always have food to eat and I’ll be thinking of ways to feed others. And I am committed to sharing the story, the Good News, that in Bethlehem a child has been born, and he will be the Savior of the world.
This year, may we all enjoy the season of Christmas and use it as a time to grow closer to God.
Glory to God in the highest and Peace upon earth!