Friday, December 31, 2010

Marvel: To Become Filled with Surprise, Wonder or Amazed Curiosity

“The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him."
 Luke 2:33 NIV

“Life is like an exciting book, and every year starts a new chapter.” Unknown

As I was rereading the account of Jesus’ birth, I was caught up in the marvel of it all. The cast of characters surrounding the unfolding narrative are as varied as our neighbors. The account, as given by Luke, opens with the elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah, as a priest, was appointed to offer prayers. When the angel, Gabriel, tells him that he and his wife, barren and past child bearing age, were to have a child, Zechariah is stunned into silence by his own wavering of faith. We leave this amazing curiosity to find Mary, a young virgin girl, receiving a similar message about a miraculous conception—she was to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bear the Son of God. Joseph must have been surprised, and it was necessary for him to have a dream encounter with a messenger from God to grasp this marvelous news.

Things seem to settle back into a routine, when it is decreed that the Roman government wants to take a census, and Joseph must take his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem. Once they get to town, her labor pains increase, and Mary delivers the baby Jesus in a stable, wrapping him in cloths and laying him in the manger.

In the meantime, some shepherds are keeping their flocks when wonder of wonders, another angelic messenger declares the good news of great joy that the Savior of mankind has been born. After this surprise visit from the shepherds and their ponderous message, Mary and Joseph, seem to get some rest.

According to their religious law a few months later, they go to the temple in Jerusalem to consecrate their first born to God. Here they receive the marvelous prophecy from Simeon, who had waited upon God many years to see the day the Savior would be born.

Here are the words they marveled at:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

Luke 2:29-32 NIV

Jesus, not even a year old, and so much had already happened surrounding his young life. The emotions must have been running all over for Mary and Joseph.

As I look back over this past year, I marvel at all the various moments I encountered, which were made possible by our Creator, and the Savior of the world—Jesus. I wonder what surprises He has in store for each of us this year. I want to become more and more filled with amazed curiosity, as He creates new life in me, and adds to this next chapter of my life. How about you?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Weary: Exhausted in Strength, Endurance, Vigor or Freshness

All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.      
Ecclesiastes 1:8 ESV

“This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we could better do without sun and moon than without him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of his presence! Our souls know the virtue which dwells in Jesus, and can never be content without him.” Charles H. Spurgeon

Sometimes life exhausts me. I love adventures and quests, but some days I just want to rest. To do absolutely nothing appeals to me. I thought maybe some others could relate, so I thought I’d put that out there today.

I was wondering if Mary and Joseph ever felt weary as parents. I was wondering how exhausted shepherds get when tending to their blaring, bleating and belligerent sheep. I was wondering how much endurance and vigor it took the Magi to travel across the barren terrain to find the Messiah. I was wondering if Jesus ever wearies of our complaining and our chasing after other things to satisfy us.

I don’t know if any of the above scenarios ever happened or happen. But one thing I do know, people get weary. We want a fresh perspective, new ideas and hope for the future. And I also know that Jesus offers rest for the weary. Since he walked amongst us, I am pretty sure he understands our weariness.

I had hoped to share some new insight into my quest to celebrate the Christmas feast, but instead I offer you this invitation from Jesus:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”
Matthew 11:28-29, The Message

And maybe this is the best way to celebrate today: Rest.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast: Something That Gives Unusual or Abundant Enjoyment

They feast on the abundance of your house;
You give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
In your light we see light. Psalm 36:8-9 NIV

“We do not come to Christmas to pretend that the baby Jesus is born again this day. . . We come to Christmas looking for the signs of Jesus’ presence manifest in our own life and age, in us and in the world around us.”
- Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Although the wrapping paper went out with the recycling this morning, and gifts have been presented to loved ones, our Christmas tree still holds vigil in the corner of our family room. The lights on the tree stay lit through the night, and I’ve hardly unplugged it this year. It reminds me that we are in the midst of a celebration that invades our lives, and asks us to keep remembering the Light of the World.

To keep my heart tender toward the mystery of the Incarnation, each year I think I will celebrate the twelve days after Christmas, which lead to Epiphany. I have a vague idea of this observance, but no real frame of reference, since I was not raised liturgically. I could probably sing all the verses of the familiar song, and have heard that each one of the verses symbolizes significant events in the life of Christ and the church. But I want to know how to celebrate these twelve days. I want to prepare for Epiphany.

As I was reading some more in The Liturgical Year, I found the chapter on Christmas fascinating. Apparently there has been some dispute over the centuries as to when to date the birth of Christ. And through some interesting reasoning the church of the West and the church of the East came up with these two dates. Then the more liturgical churches began celebrating the feast of Christmas, which starts on Christmas day and ends on January 6th or Epiphany, as a compromise of sorts.

You really have to read the whole chapter to get the sense of this, but the main conclusion about the dates comes down to this-- Christ’s birth was significant. Thus we celebrate this time of year. What I like about the feast is that those who observe it mark, not only the birth of Jesus, but also significant events in his life before Easter, such as his baptism.

I need to do some more investigating, but in the meantime my response will be to make this observance personal, not just a history lesson. To do so I will ask myself the following questions: What will I do with this knowledge of Emmanuel--God with us? Will I invite Jesus to teach me more about his life, and how it impacts mine? Will I read the gospels more? Will I be found ministering to those in need and comforting those who suffer this year? Will I become more like Jesus in my thoughts, words and actions?

How about you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cross: An Unavoidable Affliction

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12 :2 NIV

"Early Christians knew without doubt all facets of the life of Christ stemmed from one reality…one central reality: the cross. Jesus was born to confront the cross; Jesus died on the cross to bring us to fullness of life; Jesus rose to defeat the cross; Jesus embodied what the role of the cross was to be in the life of us all." –Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Visions of families gathered around the table eating delicacies both savory and sweet. Piles of presents wrapped and placed under our Christmas trees so neat. And just for good measure we remember the babe in the manger, where farm animals are said to eat. Why would one want to leave this scene and to mention the cross? Because if we keep saying that Jesus is the greatest gift without the mention of this greatest affliction, we should count it great loss.

Every adventure has its dark moments, and it seems every year that I contemplate the advent of our Savior, the “little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay,” that it is not long before the images of passion week come into my readings or my mind. And as I was reading about the liturgical year, the author reminded me that while today we will sing and worship the newborn King, that every other day after this is marching us straight to the cross, the pinnacle of our experience of Jesus as our Savior.

To think on these things may be sobering, but they also bring about a mysterious hope. The cross was the unavoidable affliction that Jesus faced for us, yet he triumphed over it. Our hope is found in his resurrection. The hope of this season—a new birth—leads us to the wonderful news that we have access to new life ourselves.

The quest to follow the liturgical year for me is not just a religious checklist, but a desire to know the life of Jesus more fully, and to be willing to take up the cross of following him wherever this life leads me.

I want to leave you with a link to a very old poem that you may like to read and use in your contemplations of the Cross. The narrator of the poem has a vision of the cross, in which the cross is adorned with jewels. Further into his dream, the cross takes on a voice and tells from its perspective what the crucifixion was like. I like the creativity of this poem, and how the cross knew that Jesus willingly took his place on the cross. I would love to hear your thoughts on this poem, if you have a moment. The link takes you to a translation of the poem, it was originally written in Old English. Here it is: The Dream of the Rood (rood means cross).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joy: A Source or Cause of Delight

“But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV

“Very often our joy is dulled by unnecessary anxiety. We let our peace of soul depend too much on persons and events and circumstances, and too little on God’s infallible and tender care.” – from the MaryKnoll Missal

“The essential of happiness is having something to do, something to love and something to hope for.” –Allan K. Chalmers

My adventure in liturgy has come in spurts this December. I had grand plans of daily contemplating the rich history of the church and its celebration of Advent, but alas this fast paced century keeps me from my monastic tendencies. So how does one contemplate Jesus and his arrival in this chaotic, performance driven culture? We plan events like Christmas eve services, we gather with family and give one another gifts as an attempt of emulating the gift of the Savior, and we crash on December 26th. Yet the liturgical year is just beginning, and we have more adventures ahead as we remember the life of Jesus.

In between Christmas and January 6th, which takes us through Epiphany Sunday, we still have time to contemplate the birth of Christ. In our secular world, many will just take a break waiting to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and then start another cycle of chasing after the offerings of this world. And most likely I will, too. I am not out to attack secular pursuits, but I am on a quest to keep Christ as the main focus of how I pursue this life.

This is just the beginning of the journey. So let’s enjoy the newness of life that surges through our heart as we travel back in time to the Birth of our Savior. What new things does He have in store for us?

As I enter the next couple of very special days on the church calendar, the Christmas vigil and Christmas Day, I want to ponder some questions that Joan Chittister poses in her book, The Liturgical Year. Will you join me in my ponderings?

“What does the life of Jesus now mean to us? How is [his] life affecting our own? Are we ourselves living both the promise and the potential [that is offered to us by his life]?”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tent: A Portable Shelter

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.”
                                                                                       Psalm 90:1 NIV

“While you journey through life in My Presence, My Glory brightens the world around you.”     from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

This morning I was sitting in my usual spot trying to enjoy some quiet moments with God. Before I got to that place of quiet, I had been working on my Christmas to-do list. I had visions of ice covered parking lots, but I was planning to brave the weather, and get the task of shopping for gifts, aka gift cards, knocked off my list. I also am in the middle of a project to make some special gifts for family members. So my spirit was having a hard time getting settled. As I was trying to concentrate, my eye caught the title of a book on my little shelf next to my chair, and I took it as an invitation from God: “Come Away with Me.” At first, I resisted and thought, “ I don’t have anywhere to come away with you, the guest/craft room is filled with junk to go through and it’s too cold to sit out on the front porch.” Both of these places have served as sort of refuge and retreat on different occasions, but not today.

The next thought that popped into my head was the image of putting a cover over my head so I could block out the world around me to just be still and enjoy God’s presence. This thought led to a very incredible thought, “Why don’t you build a tent out of blankets, like you did as a little girl and like your boys did when they were young?” As you can imagine tears welled up, because those days were very dear to me. I cried for a bit, and then tried to talk myself out of this absurd idea. But it persisted, and I just happened to have a big blanket on the couch, so I set to making myself a little shelter to sit in and read my Bible today.

My husband didn’t say a word, the cat explored and the dog was very suspicious of the whole ordeal. I climbed in and laid on my back like a child, looking up at my creation. More tears, and then the release into carefree living.

So I gathered my journal and Bible, and settled into my little tent. I felt a little like the prophets, who God asked strange requests of over the years. Then pounce, the cat jumped onto the top of the tent and everything came crashing down. I just sat there laughing out loud with a startled cat on my back.

I don’t know if there is a lesson in all of this, but I invite you to find your own special place to retreat with God today, and just enjoy the carefree moment of being with Him.

“Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” 1 Peter 5:7 The Message

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kiss: A Mark of Affection or Respect

Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Psalm 85:10 NIV


Walter de le Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Kissing…ewww! That’s what a first grade boy thinks. Kissing…ahhhh. That’s what a romantic young girl dreams while she stands under the mistletoe. But what does kissing have to do with Christmas?

“In eighteenth century England, a young woman could not refuse to be kissed if she was standing under the ornately decorated “kissing ball.” But the origins of mistletoe's significance go further back to a Greek festival and early marriage rites. It was believed to bestow fertility and “life-giving” power. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up.”

In Eastern cultures, to kiss someone was to greet them. We could equate this with our handshake. Again I ask what all this has to do with Christmas. The answer came to me through the psalmist's use of personifying love and faithfulness, and righteousness and peace. We find these four rich concepts greeting and kissing one another. This metaphor points us to God’s desire to connect with us. I especially like the image of how “righteousness and peace kiss each other;”giving us the image of these two abstract ideas sharing something. Righteousness shows respect to peace, peace affectionately embraces righteousness. This coming together of love and faithfulness, and righteousness and peace embodies the whole of Christmas. Christmas becomes the greatest gesture of all. God kisses the earth with His presence. All-righteous God takes on human flesh. The babe born in the manger grows into the faithful expression of God’s love. Loving us all through his obedience to the Father, he graciously takes our place on the cross.

Jesus accepts the kiss of death for us. He brings peace to our warring hearts, and offers the way to make-up with our Creator God. Leaving us with the holy kiss of His Spirit, he asks us to show the same respect and affection for one another, which he had for his Father and for us.

As we enter the third week of Advent will you join me in the Prayer Appointed for the Week:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory now and for ever. Amen

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Invisible: Inaccessible to View, Hidden

“…for he [Moses] endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27 NKJV

“The liturgical year…does not immediately plunge us in to the chaos of the Crucifixion or the giddy confusion of the Resurrection. Instead, the year opens with Advent, the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious. It trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.”   Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

As we enter the second week of Advent, I haven’t even had a chance to share one tradition that we adopted when my husband and I first married. We discussed which traditions we wanted to keep from our childhood experiences, but we also wanted to start our own traditions as a newly married couple. We decided to celebrate Advent. I created an advent wreath out of greenery and four votives and a candlestick in the middle. We found a book called Christ in Christmas: A Family Advent Celebration. Each Sunday of Advent we would read the readings after lighting the candle for the week. Over the years we marveled at the changes in our family, from the first Christmas where we just read the text out loud to our infant son to the toddler years where with two little boys it was hard to keep them still during the readings. Then as they grew older we tried the activities the book suggested, and at the end of the reading the boys would fight over whose turn it was to blow out the candles. We still have the book on our bookshelf, but Advent devotions as a family are far and few between. Although last year or the one before, it was very touching when our sons joined in, each preparing a devotion to share with the family. Those years are mostly behind us now, as they both are working or in college. I still try to have my own times of reflection, and this habit of blogging my journey each Advent has lately become my new tradition.

I share our story, not just to conjure up nostalgia, but to show how one can see the invisible. How important these traditions have been in reminding us of the realness of Jesus in our midst. How he really did arrive in history, and how he will return one day. It is a mystery, but with spiritual eyes and stirrings of the soul, we can perceive that which is unseen. Moses’ story is worth revisiting as an example of how the immortal, invisible God manifests himself to mere humans. Let’s recount the ways he revealed himself to Moses and then the Israelites: a burning bush, the ten plagues, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, the parting of the Red Sea, the experience of receiving the ten commandments with all its natural and supernatural drama.

Later on Paul would assert his conclusion about God’s hiddeness:

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Romans 1:19, 20 NIV

And may I suggest that following the liturgical year, and the reflecting on the meaning of each candle in the advent wreath, can be visible reminders of our invisible God.

Now unto the King eternal,
the only wise God,
be honour and glory for ever and ever.


1 Timothy 1:17 KJV

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decorate: To Add Honor To

“This is the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23

“Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play”  Faith Hill

This past Saturday was my designated time to clean the family room, and then decorate the tree, and put up other decorations. I really did try not to complain this year as I went about this task. I started out well, but cleaning always takes longer than I expect. I had a bit of headache. And I just wasn’t feeling the Christmas mood, even with the carols playing softly in the background. And then it happened I heard myself ask, “Whose idea was it to decorate Christmas trees anyway…grrr…?”

My oldest son, who was sitting in the other room tried to encourage me by reminding me that four years ago, we all decided that I only had to decorate as much as I wanted. His comment helped me relax, and enjoy myself. And I put a few things back in their boxes, and decided once again I didn’t have to put all the ornaments on the tree.

It’s kind of strange that I had already forgotten the inspiring answer I gave to my mother earlier in the week, when she asked a similar question, “Why do we rearrange our whole house for this holiday?” I immediately answered, “We’re making room for Jesus.” We both were stunned for a moment at the simply profound answer that came out of my mouth.

Today I had an even more amazing thought. Jesus rearranged his whole life to enter our world. He took on flesh. He humbled himself to be born in a manager. He humbled himself to die on the cross. He humbly followed and devoted himself to the Father’s plan.

Maybe the music of Christmas, and the mood I long for, were not resonating with me because I have neglected to acknowledge that this is God’s doing. Christmas is his way of reaching out to me, to all mankind. And it is indeed marvelous when I really take the time to contemplate all that it means to honor Christ in all aspects of my life.

How will you decorate your life this season? What ways can we celebrate Christ in our homes and our hearts this Christmas?

And even when all our decorations are back in the attic or basement, will we still add honor to his name?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Light: A Way of Regarding Something

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV

“Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” The Prayer Appointed for the Week, from The Divine Hours

As we approach the end of this first week of Advent, the lights of Christmas are popping up around our neighborhood. I went to my first Christmas social gathering. The first annual Mother/Daughter Gingerbread House Decorating Party with a group of dear friends. We each are facing our own battles with darkness. It was good to just be together in the lightness of the evening, instead of bogged down with the heaviness of life situations. We got to create fun little houses that reflected each personality.

We had a moment to reflect on the light of the world. Mom’s little house wouldn’t stay put together, so we designed a stable and she even had a miniature of the holy family to place in the stable. It was sweet to remember that the true light of Christmas was the One who commanded the light to shine in the first place. The lights and the sweets of the season were put into perspective as we thought of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We read from Hababbuk 3:17-19, remembering to rejoice even when life does turn out like we expect.

Our little gathering was an example of how traditions get started. Everyone had so much fun that they wanted to know if we could do it again next year. The memories and the joy of creating will keep our hearts light when we face the harder days. We have something to look forward to.

In the prayer book I am following in my devotions this year, one of the refrains of the the liturgy reminds us of the promised return of Jesus, a greater event to look forward to. The refrain is titled, The Cry of the Church.

It says, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Legacy: A Gift by Will

“If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?” Romans 8:32 The Message

“The seasons and cycles and solemnities put before us in the liturgical year are more than representations of time past; they are an unending sign—a veritable sacrament of life. It is through them that the Christ-life becomes present in our own lives in the here and now.” Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

For me this adventure of discovering the liturgy has been a journey over the past several years. As a child I was introduced to Jesus through Sunday school at a country church that was not affiliated with a denomination. The teacher asked the class if we wanted to have Jesus live in our hearts. After I asked him to live in my heart, so that I could live with him forever in heaven, my spiritual formation was very informal. I continued to attend Sunday school sporadically, and in the summer we attended various Vacation Bible School programs with our neighbors, mostly at Baptist churches in the community. In about fifth grade I attended a Baptist church with one of my schoolmates whose father was the pastor. I became familiar with hymns like Amazing Grace, I Surrender All, as well as altar calls and my favorite-- Sword Drills. My competitive spirit loved standing at attention with Bible in hand waiting to see who could find the called out Scripture the fastest. Also we sang this great song during Sunday school called the Countdown Song. It was great since the world was all a buzz with landing on the moon and space travel and the Jetsons on Saturday morning. The opening verse went something like this: “Somewhere in outer space God has prepared a place for those who trust him and obey.” Good times.

Yet I missed out on after school catechism classes, first communion and confirmation that my Catholic friends experienced. It wasn’t until I was an adult inoculated in one mainstream tradition that I began to wonder about other church traditions. I confess that because their approach was different than mine, I mostly made fun of them or even worse was fearful of their traditions.

The legacy of the liturgy dates back to the early church. In the Catholic Encylopedia online, the general consensus was that although the liturgy was not as formal as it has become, the early believers followed a loose format when they met together. (See Acts 2:42) To give a brief overview of the history of liturgy would take a whole semester at least, so suffice it to say, we have been handed down a rich legacy of traditions from various groups. I will recommend another of my favorite mentors on this topic of spiritual heritage and formation, Richard J. Foster. In his book Streams of Living Water, he celebrates the various contributions each tradition has offered. It’s a place to start if you are interested.

It was interesting to note that the word liturgy was possibly first used in 1560. This was the year that the Anglican Church published their Book of Common Prayer into Latin for use at universities. Again so much history revolves around the Church of England and its break with the Catholic Church that I will refer you to an internet search if you want to know more.

What does this all have to do with us today, and celebrating Advent? The greatest legacy we have is Emmanuel. No matter how we approach the different traditions, Jesus is our central figure. He is the one that all of these celebrations are focused on. He is not just a child born in Bethlehem or the man who died on the cross—He is God with us! This is the greatest gift given to us our by the Father’s will that we have ever been offered. In the gospel of John, he states this about Jesus and about those who become his co-heirs through belief:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:12-14 NIV

10 and 9, 8 and 7, 6 and 5 and 4,
Call upon the Savior while you may,
3 and 2, coming through the clouds in bright array
The countdown's getting lower every day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Adventure: An Exciting Experience or Undertaking

“This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23 KJV

“The liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the question of how to make a living. It concerns itself with the questions of how to make a life.” Joan Chittister, The Liturgical Year

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy New Year. Yes, I know that it is only the first of December. Actually I am a couple days late in my well wishing. The liturgical year marks the first Sunday of Advent as its beginning. While I was not brought up in a church that observes the seasons of the church year, I have been fascinated by the practice. I wondered how these seasons of advent and lent came into existence. Many of those who have been rediscovering the ancient spiritual practices have been reinvigorated in their spiritual lives. Over the years I have been seeking out new mentors to help me understand what it involves to follow Christ throughout the year, and remember the significant seasons of his life as well as the life of the church. As this season of Advent unfolds, I would like you to join me on my adventure and introduce to you my mentors (whom I have met in their books).

Our marking of days, weeks and years with our familiar calendar makes sense, since we live in this world. But as a follower of Christ, I want to live more and more in communion with the things of God, and so I am drawn to the liturgical year, which marks the remembrances of significant events in Christ’s life and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. As we begin this particular liturgical year, I would like to explore together some of the history, as well as just experience the following of the liturgy.

Liturgy may be an unfamiliar word to most. And it may conjure up images of monks silently living out a daily regimen of reading Scripture, chanting prayers and meditating on an icon. Or for others it may mean following a prescribed form of worship Sunday after Sunday that is published by their church. For me, the sound of it is mysterious and foreign.

A quick search of its meaning at Merriam-Webster online ( gives this definition:

a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship; a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases or observances. Its origin is from Latin liturgia and Greek leitourgia, both meaning public service. In a note at the end of the entry it says the word was first used in 1560.

The public aspect of liturgy is significant. One observation I have made in my quest has been that my experience of the liturgy would be enhanced by the corporate practice of it. This explains my desire to draw others into my adventure. Some would recommend I find a congregation that practices the liturgy, yet at this point in my life I do not find myself in a position to seek out that setting. One, I am married, so the monastery is not an option. And two, I find myself in a contemporary setting that is familiar to me, and the place that my family has its roots and affections.

I hope that just as others have invited me into this journey through their writings, you will be intrigued and excited about learning new ways to engage the heart of Christ this year.