No, I’m not confused or jumping the gun on January 1st. Today is the first Sunday of the season of Advent, and also the first Sunday of the new Church year. So, in the yearly cycle of the seasons of the Church (and by that I am describing the worshipping body of the followers of Jesus world-wide), today is New Year’s Day!
I love that the Church year is out of sync with the calendars on our walls and on our phones. Those calendars tell us to hurry up, because there are only __ shopping days until Christmas. But Advent, as the first season of the new Church year, tells us we are a people in waiting. We are waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, also called Immanuel – God with us. If you have ever waited for a baby to be born, you know that they usually take their time. Advent not only allows us to slow down, it reminds us that we cannot hurry the Baby.
We are also waiting for the Baby’s return as Risen Savior. Jesus promised that he would come back to us, even as he reminded us that we cannot know the day or hour. The Church has been waiting for 2,000 years, and still we wait. Advent reminds us that time is not a commodity we can save, keep or rush through. “In the fullness of time God sent his Son, born of a woman…” to us. (Galatians 4:4). In the fullness of God’s time, Jesus will return to us. Of that return, Jesus told his followers to “Beware, keep alert! For you do not know when the time will come.
Pastor Kristin wonderfully rephrased this as, “Wake up! Pay attention!” She challenged us with the questions, “Where am I seeing God in my day? What is God doing in my life right now?” I would add, “How is God trying to use me in the lives of people around me?” (If you missed hearing her sermon this morning, check it out online, it will be posted soon.) Advent allows us time to practice Paying Attention to God’s moving in and around us.
In my office I have a little framed photo of a woodland path, with the saying, “We are all just walking each other home.” (Ram Dass) We learn and teach each other in Spiritual Formation. So, this Advent, let’s do that. Let’s share some of the practices and traditions of Advent that have helped us to Wait and Slow Down, as well as to Be Alert and Pay Attention. What do you do, or what does your family do to prepare for the birth of Jesus or his return? What helps you separate from the rush of the culture we live in, so that you can hear God’s voice a bit more clearly? It might be service to others, or special Advent readings as a family. Maybe it’s the way you decorate or set out your nativity set. (In our house, the Wise Men wander all over the house until January 6, Epiphany.)
Let us know, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by posting comments on the St. Peter Facebook page. Let’s walk each other a bit closer to home this Advent season. Happy New Year!
-Janet Blank, Faith formation Coordinator