The Christian Calendar, Advent, and Waiting for the King
Baptists don’t normally get very excited about the Christian Calendar. In fact, many Baptists, unless reared in a different denominational tradition, haven’t even heard that there is a Christian Calendar. Some of this is related to our roots in the English Separatist tradition, a movement which shared the general Puritan mistrust of any practice that smacked of popery. Some of it is denominational ingenuity. Southern Baptists in particular developed their own denominational calendar that included keydates from the historic Christian Calendar (Christmas and Easter), but also highlighted cultural holidays (Mother’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving) and significant denominational emphases (Lottie Moon, state missions offerings, the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, etc.). Being Southern Baptist was an all-encompassing experience for much of the 20th century, and that experience was organized around the denominational calendar.
Those Baptist churches that did acknowledge the Christian Calendar, at least among Southern Baptists, tended to be the types of downtown First Baptist Churches where the pastor wears a robe, the choir processes and recesses, the doxology is sung every service, and the pipe organ rivaled some concert halls. Not exactly the stuff of your average smallish rural church or suburban megachurch.
For readers who are interested in learning more about the basics of the Christian Calendar, I’d recommend checking out John Shore’s Huffington Post article “The Sacredness of Time: Understanding the Christian Calendar.” It is a wonderful, brief introduction to a practice observed by many of our brothers and sisters in other Christian traditions. You may decide that that the Christian Calendar is not for you and your church. But at least you’ll have some idea about what your Episcopal Aunt Gertrude means when she mentions Trinity Sunday and why in the world we sing about the “Twelve Days of Christmas” during the Advent Season.
Speaking of Advent, Timothy Paul Jones has written an outstanding blog post titled “Advent: The Lost Art of Celebrating the Waiting.” Jones write,
Even on this side of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there is brokenness in our world that no cart full of Black Friday bargains can fix; there is hunger in our souls that no plateful of pumpkin custard can fill; there is twistedness in our hearts that no terrestrial hand can touch. “The whole creation,” the apostle Paul declared, “has been groaning together for redemption.” In Advent, Christians embrace this groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now. In Advent, believers proclaim that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come.
Poignant stuff here. I’d encourage you to read the entire post.