At our church, like many churches, we observe the traditional church calendar, otherwise known as the “liturgical year” taken from the Greek word leitourgia, meaning “public worship.” This essentially means we follow an ordering of the year consisting of a cycle of seasons, holidays, festivals, and celebrations that are rooted in religious and spiritual meaning. These seasons are often marked by various symbols, stories, and colors, which serve as guides to deepen our lives of faith. While many of the holidays are familiar (Christmas and Easter, for example) there is a whole lot of time in between, which is filled with various holidays and important dates. Pentecost, Epiphany, and Lent might be a few familiar ones (or at least you’ve heard of them). But all of these serve a particular purpose in our spiritual lives, helping us draw closer to the Divine.
One of these is Advent, and we are right in the middle of it. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas (yep, that’s what those candles on the wreath represent!). For us, Advent provides a space to prepare for the arrival of Christ. So each Sunday in Advent we light a candle on the wreath, symbolizing that we are drawing closer to the “big day” when we celebrate the arrival of our savior in our lives. We also read passages from the Bible and sing hymns that speak to the importance of preparation and waiting. It can be a wonderful time to reflect on the meaning of the season and remind us of its importance.
Like the liturgical calendar, some of the ancient church traditions can be easily dismissed as “stuffy” and “old-fashioned.” And I guess it’s true that they don’t always resonate in our culture of loud, bright, and fast. But when understood correctly, many of these traditional customs can be rich and meaningful practices, opening up for us beautiful and creative pathways to draw closer to something (or someone) who isn’t always easy to understand or comprehend. Carving out time each week to quiet the noise of the world and to participate in these practices can be life-changing.
So if you’re a Christian, or if you’re someone who is interested in faith stuff, I invite you to explore some of these traditions. You might find them fascinating. And my hope, and my prayer, is that they draw you closer to the wonderful, exciting mystery of God.
See you in church.