A Holy New Year

The Church Year begins afresh tomorrow with the First Sunday of Advent! 

Some of you recently began intentionally following the Church Calendar and are looking for ways to be more formally shaped by this ancient practice. Others of you have followed the calendar for years, and have a fairly seasoned set of traditions for each major season. 

Regardless of where you are on your journey with the Church Calendar, Advent offers not just an opportunity to prepare for the season of Christmas, but a fresh start—a new year—of Christian discipleship.

Mark your Intentions

Whether you are preparing to celebrate a Holy Day or a Holy Season, taking a few moments to set specific intentions ahead of time will help you get the most out of the Church Calendar. These intentions are a series of things you intend to do throughout the upcoming season. They can be things you start, things you stop, or things you intend to change

Sometimes they are specifically seasonal in nature: I am not going to eat meat on Fridays throughout Lent. Other times intentions for a specific season can be meant as a way of introducing a more permanent practice to your life: starting in Advent—and hopefully continuing for the rest of my days—I am going to read at least a chapter of Scripture every single day. When possible, it makes sense to align the intentions with the general theme or purpose of the season itself. 

Whatever your intentions and however many you choose to adopt for this season of Advent, keep reading below for a few tips about intentions in general, as well as a broad overview of the season aimed at helping you craft a few meaningful practices for the next four weeks.

Advent: Jesus is coming

The word advent comes from the latin word for “arrival’”, and is a season of marking the three arrivals of Jesus:

  • His First Advent (The Incarnation)

  • His Advent in our lives (our own conversion)

  • His Second Advent (at the end/beginning of all things)

Any intention that helps you reflect upon, recognize, and prepare for any of these Advents is a good one for this season! You can aim to have an intention for each of these three Advents, or just choose one to focus on this year.

Penitence and Anticipation

The fact that Jesus is coming is truly good news, but it should still inspire a sense of awe and holy fear within us. How do we feel moments before hosting someone important into our homes? What emotions run through our hearts when an unexpected visitor catches us unprepared? If Jesus walked up to you right now in this very moment, what would you experience?

The reality is that we are all not entirely prepared to meet our maker. The season of Advent is a microcosm of our entire lives in the sense that it is a period of time that helps make us more prepared to see Jesus face to face. 

The entire Church Calendar is a cycle of Fasts and Feasts: seasons of reflection, preparation, and repentance followed by seasons of celebration and feasting.

Advent is one of the fasting seasons. Its liturgical color (purple) is the same as that of Lent. It is a moment to anticipate the arrival of our Savior in part by reflecting on our own need for a savior. 

The intentions you make during a fasting season will look different from those you make during a feast. In that sense, it might be appropriate for one of your intentions to involve some sort of meaningful fast throughout this season. (I would at least recommend against intentions that include indulging. But don’t worry - feasts always follow fasts, and Christmas is coming!)

Tips for your Intentions

  • Write them down, preferably somewhere you will see regularly. 

  • Share them with your family and friends.

  • Though there is a place for the occasional dramatic intention aimed at shocking your system, I would recommend that most of your intentions most of the time be realistic and achievable.

Rhythms of Habit this Advent

Over the next four weeks, you can expect Sunday reflections on the theme of each week of Advent, plus a few special emails about specific Holy Days found within this season.