An article by AJ Sherrill shares an important insight about Advent. Think of the Christian year less as a perpetual circle and more like an ascending cone. Tracing a circle, one goes around, eventually returning back, to the point of origin. Tracing a cone, one can go around in a circle yet never return to the point of origin but somewhere above —somewhere beyond. I believe the church calendar is something like that.
Every Advent I find myself stepping into a new place in the cone. This is the slow and winding journey of character formation, which happens to be one of the primary strategies the church has historically employed to grow her people into the image of Jesus and to live as true disciples. This incremental formation is designed to occur over the course of a lifetime as we are shaped by the story of the gospel.
Mako Fujimura asserts that an artist learns very early that creativity demands boundaries and limits to thrive. What if we considered limitations as the beginning of our creative acts? Then paradoxically, we may see beyond them. Limitations can be a catalyst to find freedom. That is what the incarnation of Christ teaches us. Following Christ is also to recognize and honor the limits and boundaries of being human; less is more.
But if God has a movement toward creation that we are called to remember, what is that rhythm? The calendar is one of the ways to best comprehend God’s activity in creation. In short, it is among the best discipling tools to be formed by the shape of the gospel.
We find God’s movement toward creation best articulated though the story that the Church calendar re-enacts. Consider the four movements: Movement 1) Over and against deism, Advent through Epiphany reminds us that God is with us. Movement 2) Over and against an angry God, Lent through Easter instills within that God is for us. Movement 3) Eastertide through Pentecost is the signpost that God is in us. The Spirit of the Risen Christ indwells the Church, making her holy. Movement 4) Finally we enter into ordinary time, which makes up more than half the calendar year. But make no mistake, ordinary time is anything but ordinary by the world’s standards. This time of the year is the promise that God works through us.
Think about it: a theology of the ordinary is no ordinary theology. After all, isn’t this where we learn the sacra-mental nature of all things? More often than not, God has chosen to move through ordinary elements like bread and wine, water, flesh, and nature to bring about the fruit of the Kingdom.
By living within the boundaries of the calendar year, we enter into the freedom of God’s grace. Simply put, we trust that the Spirit of God will move through the arc of the story to bring about transfor-mation. So, as we move through Advent and the year to come I invite you to enter fully the process of being transformed into true Christian disciples. We will do so by and through God’s grace as we celebrate the calendar of the church.
Enjoying the transformation. . .