I expect this to:
... motivate me to convert some lingering blog drafts into actual posts.
... help me focus on more than presents as I get ready for Christmas.
... provide some continuity between the first half of Advent, which we'll spend in Nicaragua, and the second half, when we'll be in California visiting family.
... get me back in the habit of blogging more regularly. I kind of gave myself a free pass on this and some other things while I had an infant. But the baby is 14.5 months old now, so I feel like it's time to figure out how to do the things that are important in our (not that) new life with two kids.
... provide diversion and enlightenment for our faithful readers.
Photo Credit- adamentmeat of Creative Commons
Today begins Year C in the lectionary cycle, the traditional readings that many churches throughout the world follow. So today is the first day of a new church year. Most of us live within a variety of ways of marking years. We have the calendar year (there are, of course, other calendars, many of which use lunar months). Anyone who teaches, goes to school or has a family member who does will also find their life follows the cycle of the school year as well. Many organizations and their workers and/ or members are often attentive to the rhythms of a fiscal year that is not aligned with the calendar year. And, I really feel like there's a new year that starts for each person with their birthday... not sure what the term would be.
As an aside, one of the interesting differences about life here in Nicaragua is that the school year is more aligned with the calendar year. Classes here typically start around the beginning of February, and finish for the year at the end of November. (Quinn's school, like a handful of others, and I think most bilingual schools, is an exception, following the North American, August-through-June calendar.)
So, this church calendar, that starts today, is yet another cycle. I like the fact that there are new beginnings staggered throughout each year, offering us the opportunity to start again... and again... and again. We probably need all those chances to make a new beginning, most of the time, whether because of disappointment, a sense of our own failure, or just frustration and a feeling of being stuck in a rut.
This beginning the new year in Advent is yet one more thing around Christmas that heightens the sense in which the church is out of sync with the dominant culture. Sometimes, the church being out of step with the culture frustrates me (and many others), but in this sense I see it as positive, an invitation towards living differently in the world. A different way of marking time, that maybe helps us, just a little, live out of a different set of values, and live into a different vision.
The way we calculate the dates of Thanksgiving (4th Thursday of November), Christmas (fixed date, December 25th), and Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas), means that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which seems to have become the culturally acceptable "Christmas shopping season," and Advent overlap to a great degree, but either one can start first. This year, Thanksgiving fell on its earliest possible date, because November 1st was a Thursday. The first Sunday of Advent this year falls on the second latest possible date, because December 25th is a Tuesday. So, long shopping season, short Advent.
Happy New (Church) Year!