Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The New Church Year

The Christian year has two cycles. The first looks like this: Advent-Christmas-Epiphany. The second is: Lent-Easter-Pentecost. Each of the cycles is similar in that each has a season of preparation, a season of celebration, and a season of growth. We started the Season of Advent last Sunday as we prepare for the coming of Christ.

As always the first Sunday of Advent assigns the Gospel about what we call the Second Coming of Christ. Here we are thinking about Christmas and…It was November 1 when I got in my car and turned the radio to one of the stations in Greenville to which I listen. The singer sang: “Have a holly, jolly Christmas…” Mercy. I turned the channel as quickly as I could so as not to be corrupted by the secular season which gets longer every year.

When I was a boy, we at least had to wait until after Thanksgiving to see Christmas decorations to up in the stores. Now, we’re barely past Halloween when it starts up.

I certainly understand the practicality of it. Most of the money made by merchants in our economy comes in at Christmas, during the Christmas season. Every year we are encouraged to spend knowing that at the end of it all we will not have spent enough to keep things going. I understand that stores sell things that people have made, and that they employ people who in turn spend money on things. I understand how it works. And the notion is, of course, that maybe we need to expand the Christmas season so as to make it more profitable for all.

In the midst of this, here’s the church trying to hold everybody back. The church has always known that a part of being all-in at Christmas is about the preparation, spiritually. So, Advent (coming) invites us not just to prepare for Christmas, though we do. Advent invites us to prepare for the coming of Christ.

So, the church throws everything up against the background of Matthew 24: 36-44. The end is coming; the kingdom of God has come near. It will all come down, a block at a time. Jesus will return in a cosmic event. All will be stirred by it. It will bring, as it brought with Jesus’ first coming, tension and redemptive judgment. It will cause a clash of powers and values and commitments. But, then, in God’s good time, the kingdom will come in all its fullness and God will finally make all things right.

Advent calls us to prepare for this coming of Christ, to get ready with prayer and worship and giving.

Don’t worry about when. Jesus doesn’t even know when. No, pay attention to the signs, the changes, the movements. God is coming in Christ again. You’d better get ready.

Get ready so that when he does come at night or at noonday you will not miss him this time.

We yearn for that time when it will all come together. In God’s good time, everything will finally be made right. In the meantime, we watch and wait and pray and serve that kingdom and that Christ.

See you in Church!
Dave Nichols

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Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.

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A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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