By Pastor Doug Kelly
I have had the hardest time getting oriented to this autumn. For the first time in adulthood, I waited until September to take vacation. I came back refreshed from time at Lake Tahoe and Mt. Rainier (four glorious days camping with my oldest brother) and was ready for the fall church year to start. Except, surprise, surprise, October was right there staring me in the face! (I’m still trying to figure out where September went.)
My rhythm is off.
Do you ever feel like your life is in disorder, that any sense of tempo is missing? Are you looking for a way to find that center, to live into your days rather than having your overpacked schedule control you?
I have a suggestion. It’s a calendar. Not any calendar, but the Christian liturgical calendar starting this Advent. The Christian calendar year was developed over centuries of practice as a way for Christians to be formed in the pattern of Christ in community. The calendar has key seasons that empower us to walk together through the key moments of Jesus’ life and thus be formed in his likeness. Lent and Easter walk us to the cross and celebrate the empty tomb. Pentecost takes us to the sending of the Holy Spirit and the continuation of Jesus’ ministry. And to start the Christian year, we have Advent: the four Sundays before Christmas, a time of watchfulness, repentance and anticipated joy at promises fulfilled.
What if, starting December 2nd, we together as Jesus’ body, didn’t attack this season? (I know there are gifts to wrap, cards to write, parties to plan, and many, many things to cook.) But what if we let go of the countdown rat race and instead bathed ourselves in Advent, in watchfulness? I am wondering if we, rather than being caught up in a season of doing, could allow God to do something in us, the body at Bethany.
So let me put on the table three practices for the Bethany family that would give us a rhythm and a tempo. Here are three practices that could be our metronome as we are formed in the pattern of Jesus.
1. Come to worship all four Sundays of Advent. Block each Sunday off on your calendars now. If you have to be out of town, plan on worshiping with a local church wherever you are. Let the Advent carols, the Advent candle lighting and scripture passages form you in Christ in community.
2. Engage in a home devotional practice with candles. Use our Advent weekly devotion while you light Advent wreath candles on your kitchen table (come to Welcoming Advent on December 1st to make a wreath!). Whether you live with others or alone, allow the season to connect communal worship and devotion at home.
3. Acknowledge homeless persons on your flight path. Make eye contact with the woman sitting on the curb. Nod your head. A “Hello” is allowed. Maybe even ask for a name, write it down, say their name aloud the next time you see this person who has no room in the inn.
As of this writing, there are 46 days until the first Sunday of Advent. Pray about it. Then take a step into God’s rhythm.