So if you've been around for the last few months you've probably heard talk about seasons of Advent and Epiphany and explanations for practices that we're pursuing privately as inidividuals and collectively as a church.
You've also seen icons on the screen or on our weekly emails that look like this:
If you didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition (like me) you probably have no idea what these symbols represent or why they're even important.
At Forefront we have chosen to follow the Christian calendar as a rhythm that binds us to the life and story of Jesus. Glenn Packiam gives us an insight into why we would do this as people of faith:
Rhythms anchor us and center us. A rhythm may move slowly at points, and more frenetically at others, but the cadence gives order to it. Breathing is a rhythm. Life happens in rhythm.
But whose rhythms are we living in step with?
Sacred rhythms keep us in line with the Spirit’s work. They provide us with the space to listen, to look, to learn. The Church Calendar is a rhythm shaped by Christ’s birth, His revealing, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, and His gift of the Spirit.
The Church, of course, is not the first to recognize the value of sacred rhythms. They were following in the footsteps (rhythms!) of their Jewish forefathers, who had feast days and festivals and fasts that were given to them by God while they were still in the wilderness. Think of it: a wandering people with no home yet, no real routines or sense of place…and God gave them a rhythm to live in, a rhythm that would help them worship, and repent, and remember. The early Christians understood how these Jewish feasts were fulfilled in Jesus and so they re-shaped them to mark time around the life of Christ.
But a rhythm doesn’t just help us pay attention to God, it also reminds us that we are not alone. When we participate in a celebration of Christmas or Easter or in the humbling repentance of Lent, we are joining with all who have gone before us. We are walking a well-worn path. We are discarding the arrogance of independence, the pride of “doing it my way”, and humbly joining a chorus of saints.
Glenn says more about the rhythms of worship & specifically Lent, the season we step into this week, on his blog
So here's a little information on each of the icons and seasons of the calendar:
'Advent' means 'arrival' or 'coming' and for a 4 week period leading up to Christmas we prepare our hearts and minds for the birth of Christ.
We've celebrated this season in Brooklyn by lighting candles to slowly mark time and to focus our preparation each week on the themes of 'hope', 'peace', 'joy', and 'love'. We also released an Advent EP in 2014!
'Epiphany' means 'manifestation' or 'striking appearance' and celebrates the light of the world shining in and the darkness not having the last say. We begin the season with the Magi worshiping the baby Jesus as King of the world, continue with the baptism of Jesus revealing the Son of God and close out Epiphany with the Transfiguration where Jesus shines in glory as he speaks with Moses and Elijah in front of his disciples.
'Lent' is a period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the solemn preparation of the believer through prayer, repentance of sins and self-denial. Moses, Elijah and Jesus all spent 40 days in the wilderness as a time of trial and preparation.
Last year I wrote a blog specifically about Lent, fasting and feasting.
'Easter' is not simply a one day event. After a long period of preparation we spend the next 50 days celebrating Jesus conquering the grave by singing "Hallelujahs" continually and proclaiming as a church "Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!"
We're invited as people of faith to practice resurrection, to bring new life, to live hopefully and joyously in this season of the church calendar.
To the right is an image of how these seasons roughly work within the calendar year.
I hope this gives you some insight into why we worship using the christian calendar at Forefront. I'd be happy to talk to you more about it if you want to email me or ask any questions. I've blogged about this over the last few years and you can follow the 'liturgy' or 'Ben Grace' tags through our blog for more information
This is my prayer as we learn these rhythms of the calendar:
Reshape us, good Lord,
until in generosity,
and in expectation
that the best is yet to come,
we are truly Christlike.
Make us passionate followers of Jesus rather than passive supporters. Amen.