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Advent newbie

November 30, 2012

Recently my wife and I joined an Anglican church. I’d been interested in Episcopal/Anglican liturgy for a long time but couldn’t find a church suitable for our family nearby. For a few reasons which I won’t go into here it seemed like the right thing to do this time, even though the church is 20 to 25 miles from our home, depending upon the route we take.

One of the things that has intrigued me about Anglicanism is the observation of the liturgical calendar. In an article I read some years ago the author said something that made a lot of sense. He said we order our time now by a secular calendar. Significant markers in our year are holidays observed by all: New Year’s, Easter (or Spring Break, now), Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, with a few others thrown in over the years. Each has real significance, but there is little connection–in the secular mind, anyway–with overtly Christian concerns. Christmas is, well, you know what it is. Easter is little more than baby chicks and candy. Thanksgiving is feast day. What if our year were ordered by the observation of historical events of distinctly Christian importance? What if we thought in terms of anticipating the comings of Christ (the first and second) in the weeks leading to Christmas Day rather than mostly worrying over shopping lists and events calendars and parties? What if the winter months weren’t just times of quiet and doing inside-the-house things as we await warm weather but were given to heightened reflection on our true condition and need for salvation? And if Holy Week, the week leading to Easter, were a time of reflection of what Jesus suffered in our place? And if Easter were a time of great rejoicing because redemption had been accomplished?

All of this makes sense to me. But how to put it into practice? In the church tradition of which we’ve been a part for years (several “Free Church” congregations), Advent has started to be observed (for a couple of decades in some), but it’s mostly a matter addressing a particular theme each week at church: peace, joy, love, etc. How do I move from that kind of observation to the kind with a much longer history, especially when one falls into the old-dog-learning-new-tricks category?

Last year I bought a couple of books of daily Advent readings which we’ll put to use again this year. Readings in the lectionary, I’m told, are chosen in keeping with the season, so I’ll incorporate that to some extent in my reading (I also hope to begin a more focused study on Jesus in the Gospels this winter). Being in an Anglican church, we’ll be reminded each week in our worship service of the meaning of the season. Our church is made up largely of people like us: non-cradle Episcopalians/Anglicans (at a recent Saturday seminar at church, the showing of hands revealed that at least three quarters of those in attendance were not cradle Episcopalians). Add to that the fact that our congregation is so spread out in the Dallas area that we only see other members on Sundays (accept for special occasions), and it’s likely that we won’t be engaged in conversation or activities focused on Advent outside our home during the month (I’m merely speculating that some people might do communal Advent things during the week; I’ve never heard of any).

So it’s a matter of going with what we’ve got. On Sunday, the first day of Advent, we’ll engage with others in worship at church, begin our daily readings at home, and make an effort to turn our thoughts to Jesus coming.

From → Discipleship

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