My Christmas tree is still up. I’m ashamed to admit this, considering the liturgical season of Christmas finished a week ago. It is, however, but a symptom of a larger problem: how to live in the present liturgical season while reflecting on the previous season and planning for the coming one. It’s an issue that every worship leader faces, in one way or another.
So Christmas is over, Epiphany flew by, we’re now in Ordinary Time, and preparing for Lent. This cycle, I’m discovering, can be exhausting – even for the most experienced of us. I’m discovering that celebrating the Christian calendar (especially in a church that does not have historical liturgies on which to draw) requires incredible organization and foresight, not to mention ninja multi-tasking skills. And that’s when the rest of life doesn’t impinge itself on your planning and reflection process.
So – not only is my Christmas tree still up, but my church plans for Ordinary Time are unfinished, I haven’t reflected on Epiphany, and I haven’t even begun my personal plan of reading through the gospels starting last week. I’m tired. And lately this constant pressure to follow the Liturgical schedule feels heavy. I feel as if I’m on a treadmill with no emergency cord.
Yet, even as I feel stress gathering in my shoulders, and panic breathing down my neck, I’m aware that something beautiful is happening. The edges of each season are blurring, and the connections between them are becoming clearer.
Christmas, divine celebration of Christ’s birth, is essential to our understanding of the revelation of God (the Epiphany). God reveals himself to us in many ways, but the key way in which we know who God is, and how he behaves, is found in his Son, and the way he lived as one of us. And as I begin my plans for Lent, I discover that the key way in which God is revealed through Christ is in his death and resurrection – that God would become a servant (Christmas); choose to heal the sick, free the captive, and serve the poor (Ordinary Time); and submit to death (Lent) is a profound revelation indeed (Epiphany).
These are connections that were made by theologians long ago – and I have known them for years – but the belated anticipation of each season that I’m experiencing this year (as I reflect, and live, and plan for each season) is making them come to life. If I can live, somehow, with my feet planted in the present season, and my arms stretched between the previous and the coming seasons, if I can facilitate this stretched-out-way-of-life for my congregation, I think we will come to know Christ better. I think we will learn to know ourselves better.
So no, I’m not keeping up. I’m running back and forth like a maniac. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Like you I am appreciative of the liturgical calender but always feel like I am a poor observer. I do well with the advent and lent, but treat Christmas and Easter like one day celebrations and often am not too mindful of other parts of the calender. One thing that has helped the past couple of years was getting the christian wall calender that the University Hill (UCC at UBC) congregation puts out. Here is the link: http://www.thechristiancalendar.com/. I used to get this from the Regent Bookstore.
Beyond that, I suppose allowing the lectionary to discipline my devotional reading has helped me be more mindful of the season I’m in and have experienced the richness of reflecting on that. Of course, this is about inhabiting the time you are in, when you add a leadership dimension of inhabiting the now, and planning for the future, things are a bit more complex.
You may be comforted to know that you can rest in Epiphany for a while. According to some calendars, it lasts until Ash Wednesday (Feb 22 this year) so you have a while yet to sit in the presence of Immanuel. It was interesting to me to note that the beginning of Epiphany spanned nearly 30 years (in just three days!) from the visit of the Magi to Jesus’ baptism and subsequent time in the wilderness.
In case you’re in the mood for a little artwork and poetry to follow the season, check out http://paintedprayerbook.com/. Jan Richardson is a liturgical artist, writer, and poet who I am coming to appreciate more and more as I desire, for myself, to engage with the seasons with my heart as well as my head.
Hang in there Stacey! Even one year of living the calendar won’t be enough to grasp all the depth and connections between the seasons. Good thing this happens every year. :)
Hi Stacey… glad someone else has trouble keeping up to calendars… let alone the liturgical calendar. Actually you are doing better than me… I am hoping to get up a few more Christmas decorations in my corner cabinet this weekend. I am finding that the “beauty” of following the liturgical calendar year after year is that if you miss something this year…Well, there is always next year.