I grew up in a Lutheran church, which was, as is the case with most Lutheran churches, very liturgical. We followed the church calendar. The pastor wore a white robe with a shawl that was color-coordinated with the traditional color of the season. For example, a purple shawl would be for Advent. Our readings from the Word were from the Lectionary – one Old Testament passage and one New Testament passage. We acknowledged Advent, Pentecost, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Easter, and the like.
When I became a true follower of Christ at age 19, liturgy seemed rote and meaningless. I was encouraged and energized by the new kind of churches I was attending that spoke spontaneous prayers, had no hymnals, sometimes had no bulletin outlining the service (gasp!) The break from “routine” meant for me a more genuine worship experience.
Coming full circle, this year I am returning to my liturgical roots. Using the book Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God as my guide, I want to view this upcoming year through the lens of spiritual rhythms. “I’m interested in the experience of sacred time, in our ability to feel the intersection of time and eternity at special places in the year . . . Sacred time is what makes the Church Year a genuinely transformative practice,” so writes Christopher Hill.
I’ve found that no longer being in school and not having school-aged kids results in few “markers” of time. Especially in the desert, with its scarce visual cues of time. Here, it appears to be an endless summer. Mirroring seasons of nature, the church calendar also has seasons, though: of lament, of anticipation, of celebration, of light, and of life. The passages, the focus, and the study of each spiritual season will be a focal point for my prayers, my heart posture, and my actions. I hope to really practice the traditional times of fasting and feasting. My hope is to use this study of ancient church calendar traditions as a rich layer added to the spiritual tapestry, and discover what value and meaning they held for the early Christian church. In essence, the goal is to join in acknowledging Church seasons and traditions with brothers and sisters in Christ across time and across the world, where some of these traditions are more readily kept today. Echoing Lauren F. Winner, my prayer is that “I want the Christian story to shape everything I do, even how I reckon time. I want it to be truer and more essential to me than school’s calendar, or Hallmark’s calendar, or the calendar set by the IRS.”
This Advent season, reflect on the tension of the “already but not yet.” Recognize humanity’s groans (and our own) in its brokenness for the deliverance of the Savior Christ. Rejoice in the waiting for the birth of the Messiah. And come on over to the Mielke household on January 6th, where we’ll be gathered for the feast of the Epiphany, experientially exploring the Christian year.
Nicole Mielke, LMSW, ACM
(The editor picked the photo because she liked it so much.)