Have a Happy New Year!!
Hey, Chapel Hill Family,
Before you think that I’ve totally lost my mind and decided to just skip December all together, hear me out. Over the course of the history of the Christian Church, a little something called the Church Year developed. Aside from logistically helping people figure out what day of the week Christmas falls on—pre-Google—this calendar helps form Christians spiritually. The season of Lent calls us to repentance; Easter and Easter-tide remind us to rejoice. Even Ordinary Time reminds us God is present with His people in the “ordinary,” “average” times of our life. Pentecost makes sure we Presbyterians don’t forget about the Holy Spirit (wink, wink).
And then there’s Advent and Christmas. Christmas is a bit of a no-brainer: it’s when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and rejoice because God sent Emmanuel—God-with-Us—to save His people from their sins. But Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Advent. Advent is when we’re formed, against our will might I add, to be a people who wait. Historically, Advent has been the season where God’s people remember what it was like to wait for the Messiah to come thousands of years ago, and simultaneously practice waiting for the Messiah to return. It’s a season of hope and light and joy and peace and love—but only because it’s also a season of acknowledging the deep, deep brokenness of our world. The candles that fill our sanctuary on Christmas Eve are only breathtaking because the room is dark. So Advent is the season for those who wait. And it’s the season that Church leaders centuries and centuries ago chose to begin the Church Year.
What?!?!?! In our culture of immediacy, this seems like absolute lunacy. Why would we begin our year waiting? Surely God meant for the year to start off with a bang, like Pentecost or something. How can you get anything done if you start by waiting? But God didn’t start the Church Year off with a bang. He starts it with the longing of people for a Messiah, a Savior. With watching and waiting and hoping and praying and crying out. And so the question to ask is this: If God intended the Church Year to form us spiritually, how are we formed with a year that starts with waiting? I have lots of thoughts about why that is, but I’ll let you ponder that one for yourself.
And so, as we jump straight from Thanksgiving into this first week of Advent, I wish you a Happy New Year! There are no fireworks or champagne for this new year—just a quiet expectation of the coming Messiah. My prayer for our church family this Advent is that you would be able to feel both the depth of the world’s brokenness and the magnitude of the hope we have in Jesus. I believe that God has something for us in that paradox, something wonderful and mysterious and formative.
Come, Thou long-expected Jesus!
P.S. Fun Fact: On November 28, 1965, the Memorial Chapel hosted its first-ever worship service. Fifty years later, we’re still worshiping there and are experiencing God doing something new in that space through Saturday Night at Chapel Hill. Bring Thanksgiving leftovers and a grateful heart to a celebration potluck this Saturday night, November 28, at 5pm in the Fellowship Hall.