Monday, December 02, 2013

First Monday of Advent: Beginnings

For the past eight years, Advent for me was more than just the beginning of the church year. It also happened to be the beginning of my church year: I started my last pastorate on the First Sunday of Advent. So for me the celebration of Thanksgiving and subsequent hanging of the greens for December also signaled a new year with the congregation with whom I was ministering at the time. I always thought that it was a pretty cool thing for the latter to match up so well with the former.

These sorts of anniversaries have always been a big deal to me. They provide a way to look back and do some evaluation; to take time to celebrate steps forward and consider lessons to be learned from missteps. Having begun a new pastorate this year, that time now comes around the beginning of Lent instead, perhaps just as appropriate for such reflection.

Even with these two beginnings now divorced from one another for me personally, Advent still brings with it the end of one year and the start of another. For all the different calendars with which we mark the time--Gregorian, school, seasonal--this particular one provides us with one more beginning to anticipate.

I admit that I'm a liturgy geek. I'm not on the same level as many of my colleagues, but the liturgical year is important to me. Some are down on it for various reasons: it's too confusing, "too Catholic," too rote. The lectionary comes under fire in conjunction, and there are good reasons to critique it. But the church calendar itself can be important and meaningful for the story that it tells. First comes the need for redemption, the crying out of a people for a new revelation of God's love and presence.

That is Advent. We cry out, and we wait. We anticipate a new beginning and the celebration that it will bring, whatever trimmings it brings for each of us. But it also invites a time to reflect on where we've been; to celebrate steps forward and consider lessons from missteps. Part of Advent waiting is the intentional preparation, the questions we may ask of ourselves regarding what to leave behind as Christmas approaches. Sure, lots of people do this citing New Year's as the reason, but for people of faith we may be able to do it in a different way.

I will no longer associate Advent with the beginning of my pastoral year. However, with this being the first time I'll journey through it in a new place, there will still be plenty of cause for reflection and observation, both personally and pastorally. It is still a beginning, a time to slow down and see where new life is needed.