I love all the special events, services and music that surround Christmas but I must confess, by the time Epiphany comes around, I am ready for things to be more normal. I think many people agree with me due to the number of Christmas trees I see being hauled off to recycling centers and people taking down Christmas decorations as early as Christmas afternoon. Yet, every year it seems that the decorations and parties start earlier and earlier. I think people love the special times but are not sure what to do with the common time and so they try desperately to stay in the special and try to avoid the common or the time of preparation.
There are two periods of common time in the Christian year, one following each of the special seasons of Christmas and Easter. Together they make up just over half of all our worship services. Both Christmas and Easter have periods of time set aside for preparation for these very special times. We have the 40 days of Lent to prepare for the 50 days of Easter and the four Sundays of Advent to prepare for the 12 days of Christmas. But the real question is, how does all this affect the common days?
There is some debate among denominations if God needs and requires our worship in some way. I personally believe God provided temple worship to help the people of Israel and Jesus saw worship as a way to learn about God and for his disciples to be shaped into the people God wanted them to be. The common days of the liturgical year are where the people of God live out the significance of those special seasons in their day to day lives. If those special seasons are reduced down to one or two days a year or even to one or two hours in those days, then they simply become festivals, rituals or traditions.
I like the common days and getting back into a regular routine but I hope that as a result of worship among all the celebrations, parties and family reunions, my normal is different than it was at the beginning of Advent. This Christmas was different for me than any other Christmas. Both Kercida and my lives have changed significantly. My relationship with God and my faith in God’s providence has been challenged and strengthened. I pray I was able to allow God to use this time of preparation and the Christmas season to shape my common life. I pray my values are different now than they were November 27, the first Sunday of Advent and more in line with God’s values. I know that rituals and traditions that once defined those special times for me are now no longer as important. I am looking forward to a new normal. Each year I hope I understand more fully the significance of what it means to worship a God who came to live among us and how important it is that I share this understanding with others. Some years have a more recognizable impact on me than others.
We celebrate the special events of the liturgical calendar to impact the common days of our lives rather than live in the common days in order to relive the special days. If our lives are not transformed through our worship then we may simply be going from celebration to celebration. Celebration is one of the spiritual disciplines but only in as much as it changes the life of the celebrant.
See you Sunday,