How’s your summer been?
Have you been grilling out? Play any lawn games? Did you go to a cabin? What did you do for the Fourth of July? Summer weather is a joy for many (mosquitoes not included)!
Of course, the start of the school year is not far off. Many parents can’t wait for it to get here while kids forbid them to talk about it. But it’s coming, nonetheless. This change of season can be bittersweet for some. The camper gets parked; the tent is put away. Summer clothes are traded out for fall wear and school clothes. Everyone looks for one last hoorah and gets in one more weekend away. Fall will soon be upon us, the temperature will drop, the leaves will change, and the harvest will begin.
The seasons of the year are interesting.
Living in a state that has four seasons, they simply become a part of our lives. The longer we live, the more we begin to learn and expect the changes that will come. Summer means shorts and suntans. Fall brings fabulous scenery. Winter means warm clothes and days that are too short. And spring brings a sigh of relief.
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Our life is ordered by these seasons. In the midst of them, we celebrate birthdays and holidays. We have good days and bad days. What’s interesting is that the church year is not all that different. It also orders our life. But it does so to prepare us for eternal life. The liturgical church year intentionally and regularly connects us to the One who is the resurrection and the life. It’s meant to connect us with Jesus Christ so that here in time we might have life and have it abundantly. After all, Jesus said:
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
Like a great waterwheel, the liturgical year goes on, relentlessly irrigating our souls, softening the ground of our hearts, nourishing the soil of our lives until the seed of the Word of God itself begins to grow in us and comes to bear fruit in us.
Yes, it’s repetitive. Yes, it’s ritual. But it’s necessary. Why? It’s necessary because our sinfulness is often repetitive and very often a ritual. God knows our weakness, and He knows what we need. We need to repent. And we need His forgiveness.
The church year is simply the story of how God gives us this forgiveness and this life through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost—all follow the life of Christ so that we follow the life of Christ. We live it and relive it, season after season, year after year, so that it might become a part of our being, now and eternally.
In August, my family has our annual summer vacation. With six kids, we have to begin packing at least a week before. Life jackets, fishing poles, bug spray, sunscreen, swimsuits, marshmallows, and roasting sticks—they’re all a must. We have to prepare for the beginning and the end of our vacation. If we don’t, our vacation won’t happen. We make such preparations so that we can rejoice in our vacation.
So it goes with the liturgical year. It prepares the way of the Lord. It concentrates us on the life of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we might rejoice in the life Jesus has given to us. From Christmas to Lent, from Easter to Pentecost, we trace the life of Jesus from beginning to end.
Our own life is ordered and our sense of meaning magnified.
In a world broken by chaos and full of disorder, we might often wonder about our purpose and direction. When we do, we are invited to see our life in the life of Christ. Something as simple as the church year gives us that powerful reminder. You are not alone in the life that you live. Christ goes with you even as you go with Christ.
In short, the church year is a simple path to a deepened spiritual life. the liturgical year leads us through all the great questions of faith. Such questions are good to ask. Sometimes, we forget them, but each church season, we are reminded of the answers that come in Christ.
The church year prepares the way of the Lord.
It’s more than a calendar; it’s the narrative of God’s Word ordering our lives. It rehearses the dimensions of life over and over for us all the years of our days. Time again, we are given hope. The tomb is empty! Sins are forgiven. Darkness has been defeated.
Week after week, season after season, year after year, the way is prepared to live with Jesus.
This article also appears in the August 2019 Lutheran Witness insert for the Minnesota South District. View the full insert with this article and additional news and encouragement here.