Saturday, November 30, 2013

The ending before the beginning

Today is the last day of November, and also that last day of the liturgical church year.  I never really paid much attention to "church years" when I was growing up, most likely because I grew up Presbyterian, and they tended to stay away from observation of liturgy and church calendar events, other than Palm Sunday, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.  It really wasn't until I started to attend a Presbyterian church where the pastor had received his education in Scotland, and brought some of his fondness for celebratory church days to our congregation.  Today, November 30th, is actually St. Andrew's Day, and he is the Patron Saint of Scotland.  So, on those Sundays around St. Andrew's Day, our pastor would get bagpipers and highland dancers to perform in the church courtyard between services.  And we'd give attentiveness to the lighting of the Advent Candles in church, and the sanctuary would be decorated with wreaths, lit garland, and a huge artificial tree.  

But it really wasn't until I started to attend a Lutheran church that I found out that the church has its own calendar.  And Advent just isn't the few weeks before Christmas.  Advent is the beginning of the church year.  I had mentioned in an earlier post about how the Presbyterian hymnals when I grew up were sorted by season, but not by the liturgical year.  So, you'd have all the Advent and Christmas hymns grouped together somewhere near the back.  It was almost as if they followed the calendar year, not the liturgical year.  Then, when I started to attend a Lutheran church, I became aware of the liturgical year, the emphasis on Advent, not JUST Christmas, the importance of Lent leading up to Easter, the Pentecost and how every Sunday following that the bulletin will say something to the effect "the 10th Sunday after Pentecost".  I felt such a draw to this observance of Holy Days and special seasons, something that I hadn't been a part of before.

I know many of my readers might not be into what we now call "traditional" worship, or they may not even be in a church.  I think that as many contemporary churches move away from traditions, they do keep some, but tend to let others go by the wayside.  Frankly, even as active as I was in traditional Presbyterian churches, there was no emphasis on the church calendar or the minor seasonal observances.  But now, I love them.  I love knowing that today is the last day of the church calendar year, and that tomorrow is the 1st day of the church calendar year.  And it's the first day of Advent, and our family traditions begin tomorrow: the lighting of the Advent candle; the placement of our nativity scene, but yet needing to be filled with the figures, who will join as Advent progresses; and our decorating.  

As we move into this new church year, I ask that we be aware of what Advent is about - a time of preparation, not just of our homes, but of our hearts.

Soli Deo Gloria

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