Happy New Year!
I love new beginnings, fresh starts, and trying again.
For Episcopalians and Christians of many other traditions all over the world, time moves to a different rhythm from the established days, weeks, months and years set on the calendar that governs modern society.
The Church’s year ebbs and flows with the energy of the cosmos. Our Liturgical Calendar (which guides our annual patterns of worship and activities) is set each year according to the solar and lunar calendars. Some Festivals, like Christmas on December 25, are fixed in place according to the sun. Others, Easter most of all, arrive at slightly different points each year, according to the moon.
(You may be interested to know that Easter’s fluctuating situation is a result of a conscious decision of the Church, about 1700 years ago. The Council of Nicaea established in 325 AD that Easter will come each year on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. This is why Easter can arrive much earlier or much later each year – as early as mid-March and as late as almost-May.)
It is actually Easter’s movement on the calendar each year—in relation to the fixed point of Christmas on December 25—that determines how each liturgical year will relate to the January-December calendar of the rest of society.
The church begins each new year with the season of Advent, comprised of the four Sundays leading up to the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas!).
To begin with Advent is the most counter-cultural and counter-intuitive wonder. We begin each new church year not with a big bang, nor a party, nor a pinnacle Feast. No, we start anew with deferred gratification.
Advent comes from a latin word that means “coming.” The season of Advent is a time of waiting for what comes next. But it certainly isn’t a time for passivity. NO! Advent is a time for anticipation, and hope, and preparation, and prayer.
My favorite Advent passage from Scripture is in the Gospel of Luke (3:4-5). The writer is telling about John the Baptist, who is proclaiming that a Savior is on the way. His words ring in my heart throughout the season of Advent: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”
There is a holiness to the waiting of Advent – it is rooted in the promise that God has not left this world to its own devices and has not left us to fend for ourselves. The promise inspires us to hope; it rouses us to prepare the way for God’s salvation to be brought into every place of despair that the world knows.
How do we prepare in Advent?
As a community in worship, we prepare by telling the stories of promise, praying our hope, and singing our longings for God’s salvation. In service, we prepare by making straight paths for God’s goodness into the world: by loving and serving!
I encourage you to join in the work of Grace2Go, serving our neighbors on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7-8:00 AM in the W. Bellfort parking lot. Just show up once, find a way to help out, and meet some of our neighbors. You can also get a name from Mitzi Coleman off of the Angel Tree. The name belongs to a child, who may experience scarcity and lack at Christmas. You can purchase a toy for that child, according to her list, and bring it as an offering of love to be shared. We also continue to accept donations for Braes Interfaith Ministries throughout December. BIM experiences a great demand on their services to the needy during holidays. Your generous gift will support that ministry. (FYI, BIM is always welcoming new volunteers!)
As individuals, let’s take time to voice our concerns and longings in our prayers. And let’s be intentional in our kindness to others, in our generosity to those in need.
Advent is the perfect way to begin our new year together in faith – with a season of holy waiting. I look forward to walking with you through anticipation and preparation for God’s gift.
The Rev. Scott Painter
I serve as the Vicar of Grace. A word from our English heritage in the Episcopal Church, "Vicar" means that I serve as the priest and pastor of this congregation.