We are rhythmic creatures in an arrhythmic culture.
Life comes to us with a beat, a tempo. Evening and morning. Dark and light. Winter and Spring. Summer and Autumn. Yet thanks to technology (e.g. a light bulb), and philosophy (autonomous individualism), we mostly experience our lives as a disjointed, disconnected, sequence of unrelated events of our choosing. For the first time in history, we experience life as not having a natural rhythm.
So, culturally, we invent our own. It varies slightly from person to person, but generally sounds like: fall semester, winter break, spring semester, summer vacation. Or let’s face it: football season, basketball season, baseball season…with the high holy days (holi-days) of Super Bowl Sunday, Independence Day, the World Series, etc….
The earliest Christians found their yearly rhythm by re-imagining their own Hebrew traditional feasts and seasons. They sought to lay out a pattern of worship throughout a yearly cycle that retold and reenacted the story of God’s saving activity in history. Many of our American holidays have their roots in this ancient calendar and its ‘holy days’.
Vox Dei Community generally orients our pattern of worship throughout the year along the lines of this ‘church calendar’. For us, it goes something like…
Advent means arrival. It is a season of four weeks leading up to Christmas. We use this time to prepare our hearts and lives for the coming (again) of Christ, the way the people of God waited four-hundred years from the time of the last prophet in Israel to the arrival of Jesus. Advent is about expressing solidarity with those who wait in our world even still for things to be set right, for Christ to come.
Although it is currently the most widely celebrated, the feast of Christmas was one of the last additions to the ancient church calender. The famous ‘twelve days of Christmas’ is a nod to this twelve-day season that celebrates the incarnation – God becoming a human in the person of Jesus.
Epiphany means revelation. The feast of Epiphany, one of the earliest celebrations of the church, sets off a celebratory season that marks how Christ is revealed in the world. Christ revealed to Gentiles (Luke 2:1-17); Christ revealed as God’s son (Matthew 3:13-17); Christ revealed as divine (John 2:1-12).
Lent is the second penitential season (Advent is the first) and was likely practiced during the Apostolic age as a preparation for new converts to be baptized on Easter Sunday. Today, Lent is a forty-day season (excluding Sundays which are always celebratory days) that precedes Easter. Christians around the world and throughout history have used this time to symbolically follow Jesus into the wilderness, to fast or take up some discipline in order to draw near to God and be healed from the wearying effects of sin in our lives.
More accurately called Resurrection Sunday, this is the highest feast of the year for the church. This is the day that begins a fifty-day season of celebrating that Jesus exposed, confronted, and defeated the power of sin and death on the cross by being raised from the dead, vindicated by God and victorious over our last enemy, death itself.
Pentecost reenacts the scene from Acts 2, the birth of the church by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost reminds us that the church is something God is doing, not something we do – though we get to participate with God. Jesus builds his church to be a messenger, a foretaste, and a partner in the mission of God to bring heaven and earth together under Christ.
Also called the season of Pentecost or Kingdomtide, Ordinary Time means counted (from ordinal) time, time that is counted, time that counts. The first half of the church year is for the retelling of the Story of God. The second half of the church year is for living into that Story. This is when the church focuses on participating in God’s mission through service and formation toward God getting God’s way in the world God so loves.