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Tomorrow begins another church year | Religion Notes
If you take a quick look at your planner you will notice that this Saturday is the 330th day of 2011 and 35 days remain this year. Interestingly enough, our calendar is officially known as the Gregorian or Western calendar and is accepted as the worldwide civil calendar. First introduced by Pope Gregory VIII in 1582, our calendar unites reformed versions of the Julian calendar and the lunar cycle, both used for centuries with varying degrees of success.
There is also a liturgical calendar, known as the church year. This calendar is used by my church and other western churches to emphasize the events in the life of Christ by dividing each year into a series of seasons. Each season includes specified colors, theological lessons, scriptures, prayers, traditions and practices.
Tomorrow is the first day of the liturgical year and we enter the year by celebrating the season of Advent. Christmas songs have been playing in stores for weeks, but this year many Christians begin to focus their attention on the birth of Christ starting Nov. 27.
Advent covers the four Sundays before Christmas, ending at sundown Christmas Eve. Its name comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning, “arrival.” During this church season, we focus on the arrival of Christ as a baby, never forgetting that someday Christ has promised to once again return, at a time on no man’s calendar.
The color used in my church to signify this special time of year is blue and it will be prominently displayed around the church. We will even wear blue that first Sunday. We will also gather as a church family to build advent wreaths. We do these things to bond with each other and participate in the season.
It’s my family tradition to place the advent wreath on the kitchen table and each night we will systematically light the candles on the wreath and read a short devotional. It’s fun, interesting and not only deepens our understanding of the events leading to Christ’s birth, but helps us see the relevance these events have to our lives today.
We also make use of an Advent calendar. Ours contains small booklets, each one outlining a portion of the Christmas story. When the kids were young and living at home, they each took turns removing a booklet daily and reading. When I was growing up our Advent calendars were purchased yearly and contained tiny candies or prizes, hidden behind numbered doors. My brother and I took turns opening the doors and it was great fun.
The Internet, as well as our local Christian bookstore, offers a nice selection of activities, calendars and reading resources for the Advent season. Churches are busy and all are welcome. Check local listings for programs and activities.
Join me in anticipating the baby’s arrival. His life changed mine and his story may change yours.