A few years ago my husband and I were driving across Indiana late in the evening headed from one daughter’s home to the other’s in celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. At one point during the drive we landed on a radio interview with Bobby Gross author of Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God.
We sat riveted, listening intently as Mr. Gross explained the importance of observing the Christian calendar. For us, this was all new. Our background had not included these observances and at that point all we knew from the subject were the words Lent and Advent. And when I say we only knew the “words,” that is what I mean. We had absolutely no meaning or context to go with them. They had merely been words to us on the signs of other churches in the neighborhood.
We pulled into the driveway of our daughter’s home that evening before the interview ended. I remember sitting in the car anxious to run in to see her family but compelled to stay put continuing to listen. This was important. We were going to learn more, and we did.
So why celebrate the Christian calendar as a spiritual practice?
We live inside a big story. A story that started long before our birth and that will go on long after our death. A story that is as wide as the universe and as old as eternity. The Story of God as centered in Jesus the Christ.
We want to inhabit the still-unfolding Story of God and have it inhabit and change us. This is exactly what the spiritual practice of living the Christian year helps us to do.
Typically we celebrate Christmas and Easter, high points in our year during our normal calendar observances. But we can go much further! We, as believers, can regard the entire calendar as sacred. The Christian year consists of more than a sequence of holy days. It contains whole seasons of spiritual meaning. Perhaps, unlike us, you are somewhat familiar with the seasons of Advent and Lent. However, do you think of Christmas and Easter as seasons or know much about the periods called Epiphany and Pentecost?
The Christian year entails a sequence of seven seasons built around the holy days that correspond to the major events in the life of Jesus. Observing the Christian calendar, at least occasionally, will help us inhabit the Story of God and help move us toward a singularity of heart for Jesus.
As a family, we chose to make a point of observing the Christian calendar that year. We have also continued to observe it each year since, but always in different ways and to varying degrees. As with anything else, we hope to guard against the possibility of it becoming rote – something we just DO without meaning or impact.
The Christian Calendar runs from November to November. As it approaches, I will share a bit about its seasons of spiritual meaning and a few ideas for ways you might choose to observe it within your own family.