December 2015 Pastoral Letter (Church calendar)

Beloved in Christ,

Though at times we may instinctively divide our lives into categories titled on the one hand, “spiritual,” and on the other, “everything else,” the reality is that the spiritual life is not something that we can relegate to only a part of our experience as human beings. Rather, to grow spiritually means that whatever it is we do—eat, drink, pray, sing, speak, rest, work, play, etc., should be done under the guidance of, and by the power of, the Holy Spirit.

Not least of these human activities that we seek to bring under the Spirit’s direction is the way that we mark time itself. Since they are made in God’s image (he who made the passing of the seasons and marked one day out of seven as holy), human beings in every culture have always practiced different ways of keeping time. The question is not whether we will distinguish one day from another, and mark the passage of time with special (or holy) days, but how we will do it. Our culture keeps time in its own way, of course—a calendar that is centered on official “national holidays” (or holy days) when we are encouraged to rest from our labors and celebrate, as well as more informal but still deeply significant holidays like Valentine’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday. As Christians in this culture, we can participate in many of these time-keeping patterns in thoughtful and intentional ways, but we must remember these practices are not so much intended to help us become mature Christians as meant to make us good Americans (which are—at the very least—different projects).

God, of course, has always been deeply interested in helping his people mark time in a unique way — consider, for example, the intention given in the pattern of days in the creation week in Genesis 1 & 2, as well as the annual feasts of the Lord given to the people of Israel in Leviticus 23. These patterns are given to help God’s people celebrate and give thanks for God’s past faithfulness — and look forward to his help in the future. In the same way, following the church year, an ancient practice which has developed over the centuries as God’s people have reflected on the patterns of Jesus’ life in the Scriptures, is a helpful aid for us to “keep time” in a way that is not according to the pattern of the world around us, but according to the pattern of God. Beginning with Advent in late November and continuing to the season of Pentecost in May or June, the Christian calendar is a way for us to mediate anew on the life and work of Jesus—and to aid us in our worship of the one who is, as we sung this past Sunday, the “Potentate of Time.” This year, as we have in the past, our church will be marking the Christian calendar in our worship on Sunday mornings, as well as providing daily readings and prayers for your use personally or with your family. I invite you to join us as we enter again as a community into the story of the one whose birth, life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension is itself the intended pattern of our own lives as we are conformed, by the power of the Spirit, more and more to his glorious image—Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Our Lord has conquered! Let’s follow him together.

In Christ, Pastor Josh