Today marks the beginning of the Advent season which, in turn, marks the beginning of what is known as the church calendar. That church calendar is not much of a Baptist thing, is something kept and nurtured by more liturgical churches. But, over these last few years, that liturgical calendars has made slow inroads into non-liturgical church life.
I spoke on Advent in chapel this past week. Prior to Thanksgiving, I spoke about the significance of rest in the biblical story. I thought there was a nice segue into Advent, which takes the concept of sacred time and rhythm in a slightly different but still relatable direction. I started, as I’ve mentioned here before, with the clash of calendars that can happen for individuals: we jostle between academic, civic, athletic, entertainment, and family calendars constantly. This, I think, is part of the fatigue of our age.
From there I tried to point out the role that a time like Advent can play in connection with the Christmas season. As I prepared for the talk, which always sounds much better in my head, I felt the need to focus on the part of Advent that really takes a backseat to our Advent-as-Christmas preparations: the idea that we are even now preparing for the second coming of Jesus. It really is a necessary “bookend” for things, a key aspect of the telos of the biblical story. It’s one of those things that feels most cult-like for us (which is one reason why we don’t talk about it much). It also possesses an awkwardness because it forces us to deal with the time and timing of that second coming (and how we explain such a long passage of time).
At the end of my talk, I challenged the audience to do one thing in particular as they went about their prayer lives over the next week: pray with the Apostle John from Revelation: come, Lord Jesus. Something necessary to our formation as Christians is lacking because we don’t handle the second end of Advent well. It’s definitely something I need to reflect on more (particularly as it plays out in formation and a certain understanding of ethical faithfulness).
Over the next few days I hope to articulate some of the ways that I’m marking the season. Not a lot of ways, mind you, but enough ways that I’m trying to change some of the rhythm of life for the next few weeks in the hope that the new rhythm will last long after the Christmas season ends.