Today is the first Sunday in the new Church Year. It is the time of year again where we recount the life of Jesus. This makes good sense since He is our life. The cycles of the year should revolve around the events of the life of Jesus and subsequently, the important events in our lives.
For the last several years, we have made note of the days of the Church Year on our church bulletins. We want you to be aware of these important cycles as you structure your lives. This is especially important as the culture around us either ignores the Church Year altogether or trivializes it in a dramatic fashion. We live in an age in which the commercialization of everything makes everything seem like just another excuse to have a party.
Well, we like to party. We are looking for a good excuse, too! But where is our heart? Our desire is to glorify God in all that we do. The Church Year gives us many reasons for celebration and rejoicing in the goodness of God through Christ. It is not just a reason to party but it is the best reason to party in the right way and for the right reason.
Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas and marks our preparation for the coming of the Christ. In the Roman Catholic Church this is a penitential season of confession and repentance. We have not practiced Advent in this way and we have our reasons why we are opposed to penitential seasons in the church year. Regular repentance? Yes. We do this every week in our Covenant Renewal Worship service. Repenting for weeks or doing penance, as such? No. But I do think it is appropriate to examine ourselves regularly asking the Lord to reveal sins, so that we are eager to see and receive Jesus when He comes in power.
The arrival of John Baptist in a miraculous way was the precursor to the arrival of Jesus. His arrival as well as the arrival of the Christ were prophesied in the last Old Testament book, Malachi. In that book, we get a sense of the sorts of sins we should be aware of that brought both judgment and silence from God. These are the sins that brought reproach on Israel.
The four weeks of Advent are said to represent the four thousand years from Adam to Christ. But there is another way to look at the four weeks. Thinking of Malachi, we see that the Lord had been silent among the prophets for four hundred years. John Baptist arises as an Old Testament prophet, the one spoken of in Malachi that will be the forerunner of the Christ. We can take each week as a reminder of one hundred years of silence from God due to Israel’s sin. This gives us an intense craving for the coming of the forerunner of Christ and the Messiah, Himself, as God once again speaks to and redeems His people.