By Dan Wilt for the Vineyard Digital Membership
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” ring the words of an old Christmas song.
But why? Why does celebrating Christmas, and the season of Advent that leads up to it, matter?
In the early centuries of the Church, it became clear that the rhythms of time – days, weeks, years, and lifetimes – could be used to help Christians remember and reclaim the saving events of Jesus life.
By repeating the big themes of salvation history each year, those themes would get deep into the heart of those celebrating them – and would give an opportunity for Christians to orient their lives around what Christ has done in the world.
Jesus’ birth (the Incarnation), and Jesus’ triumph over death (the Resurrection), were the two obvious themes that would shape the year.
By repeating certain “cycles” each year based around these two themes, Christians could begin to orient their entire lives around retelling what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.
This was called the “Christian Year,” or for our purposes, the Worship Year.
Holidays have always been important to human beings. We love days off, reasons to look forward to the future, and gatherings that have a festive and fun atmosphere. We have civil holidays that remind us that remembering veterans, historical figures, and even seasons like harvest are important.
But what about seasons that actually focus us on the Story of God at work in the world? Shouldn’t they get our attention, even if others commercialize them for their own gain?
Advent and Christmas are two such seasons that can help us on the road to becoming like Jesus. They are part of the “Cycle Of Light” in the church calendar, and provide two points of contact for us all with different parts of the incarnation story.
Two cycles take us through the year, each with 3 seasons, that enable us to order our worship and our lives around Christ and what He has done.
The Cycle Of Light includes
The Cycle Of Life includes
Advent is the official beginning of the Worship Year, and is a season of hope, of expectation, and of waiting. Christmas is our time for celebrating that God has revealed Himself – and His loving heart – to humankind!
In Advent we remember the longing for deliverance from evil and oppression experienced by the ancient Jews, and the anticipation of God’s Kingdom breaking in on their behalf. At Christmas, we remember God’s inbreaking into our human story, freeing us from sin and crushing the works of the evil one.
Sure, repetition can get old, and dead religion has always been around to remind us that we don’t repeat these big ideas for the sake of tradition only (though some traditions can be good).
Rather, we repeat the stories of God’s inbreaking on behalf of humanity for the sake of transformation – and to remind ourselves and those around us that God is for us, with us, and ready to live in us when we say “Yes” to His love.
Like a child who loves to have a story read over and over again, we reclaim the powerful saving events of Christmas by retelling them – the Story of God’s love breaking into our reality in Jesus.
Check out Advent & Christmas Resources here on the VDM.
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