Next Sunday is New Year’s, you know.
What? You think that’s not quite true? You think I may have lost a marble or two or flipped the calendar one too many months?
For a good portion of my life, I’ve routinely celebrated three New Year’s celebrations:
- January 1: Chronological year
- Back-to-school year
- Advent: Church year
January’s celebration revolves around counting the spins of earth’s orbit around the sun.
Back-to-school celebration involves another year of growth and learning.
Advent’s celebration focuses on my life with Christ.
Sometimes we in the church tend to be a bit out of sync with the world and culture around us. That’s a good idea, according to the Triune God, St. Paul, and saints past and present. So, here in Advent, we are out of sync yet it’s not a bad thing. It’s another opportunity to shine like stars in the darkness. Here’s a chance to start off the holidays different than the culture. In entering Advent, we offer our hearts a fresh approach to what Christmas celebrates and perhaps invites the culture around us to reconsider the life of Christ in Christmas.
While the rest of the world starts the holidays in a frenzy and the new year as the chronological year flips its date, we in the church start a new year with a heart date. We start the church year by waiting, not rushing. We begin contemplatively.
Waiting is Advent: waiting for prophecies from long ago to be fulfilled, waiting for Christ’s birth, and waiting for that day when He who came once to earth will come once again. We wait in hope in Advent for restoration to come. As the liturgical church calendar reminds, we leave the season of Ordinary Days to move into the new season of Advent.
What difference does it make that we who follow Jesus start our year waiting, wondering, wishing?
What difference does it make that we start our year at Advent, not on January 1, or when schools start up after summer’s play?
What difference does our walking with Jesus make as we walk towards Christmas?
Much like we change clothes as the seasons change, let’s ready our hearts for the year’s change. Let’s take this week to get ready for Advent. As we approach Thanksgiving on Thursday, let’s be grateful for the year as it draws to a close.
As part of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius suggested that we examine our day and notice the movements of God in that 24-hour period. Noticing keeps us attentive to God’s transforming invitations and our own response. Do we enter in or ignore those invitations?
In this week where we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s look back across the year.
- What’s God has been up to for you in the past year?
- Where have you entered well into heart conversations with Him?
- Where have you moved from being all about you to being a bit more about Him?
- Where have you simply not been willing to be available to God?
- Where has God run towards you with open arms, even when you’ve been a bit stand-offish?
- What does it feel like to pause and thank God for the good and the hard, the answered questions and the mysteries still swirling?
- What’s surprised you about God’s kindness this year?
Instead of promising we’ll adhere to that New Year’s resolution or buying back-to-school gear, join me as we sharpen our attention to God’s transforming ways in the past year.
Then let’s we go forward, celebrating Advent, a new liturgical year.
Let’s watch and wait with fresh hope for new invitations from God.
Let’s prepare our hearts to delight in more intimacy with God’s best gift ever: Jesus.