Happy New Year; Or, Merry Seventh Day of Christmas, Since the New Year Started Five Weeks Ago


Significant detail awaits the careful reader of the creation narrative of Genesis 1. I’m not the first to note the parallel in God’s creative activities, by which he prepared a world where His Son would become a redeemer by becoming incarnate of a virgin. There we read that in the beginning the earth was dark, formless and void. This proved a problem as no human could live in such a hostile environment. God sets forth to complete his creation by (in the first three days) separating and (in the next three days) filling. Days 1-3 are meant to provide spaces for the creatures of Days 4-6. Day four is most interesting. On that day, God fills the sky with the sun, moon and stars and sets them as rulers and markers for seasons. In other words, God sets up a liturgy in the very creation itself. He intends us to live by set, liturgical movements; in short, to live by a calendar.

Sadly, we’ve misunderstood this liturgical calendar and consequently time itself. Our calendars have taken over our lives, dominating our schedules. We are driven (and enslaved?) by Chronos, that steady, tyrannous flow of days and weeks and hours and minutes. We are planned down to the last second. We live among fiscal calendars and solar calendars. I’m not sure we’re the better for it. We are run ragged, exhausted, over-extended and generally unhappy with all our doings. Thankfully, there’s another way; another calendar that allows us freedom to rest. The Church Calendar. A calendar not build on revolutions around the sun, but our revolution around the Son.

As we orbit the Son by celebrating his life through the calendar we are drawn more to Him. Just as the sun’s gravitational pull (well, given that there’s a such thing as gravity, or natural law at all—but we’ll save that for another time) aligns the planets and keeps them focused on a center, so the church calendar pulls us toward the Son, giving time each year to contemplate, meditate, ruminate, celebrate the life of Christ. If it’s true that we become what we behold, then it behooves us to live in the Church Calendar. As we orbit the Son, we are centered; as we relive his life year by year, we are called evermore to image that life; and as we are pulled ever more into Him, we become ever more like him. The great goal of creation finds consummation in the making of many sons.

This works in large part by shaping our desires; that is how we become what we behold. My wife asked me, while we shopped for the first day of Christmas presents, a perceptive and provocative question, ‘Should we get them something they may not want?’ (I had mentioned thinking I would get our oldest a book of poetry, even though it wasn’t on the list.)   I think the answer to her question is an unequivocal ‘Yes!’ Our job as parents is not simply to teach our children truth but also to shape their love of the beautiful and the good. We are called to shape their affections and imaginations, to fill these faculties with wonder and beauty. (Frankly, this is the problem with fundamentalism—it has truth without imagination, a combination ill-suited for making followers of Christ (the icon of the Father)). We do this by inviting them into beauty, which is Christ himself. Shaping children to love the right things is as important (if not more) as teaching them to believe the right things. The Church Calendar aids this by bringing the life of Christ to our imaginations. We behold him anew each year and as we behold him, behold, that is, beauty itself, we come to love him more, and loving him more brings us more into conformity with him.

Important upcoming Church Calendar events:
1 January        —        Feast of the Holy Name
2 January        —        Circumcision of Christ
6 January        —        Epiphany
10 January      —        Baptism of Christ
2 February      —        Presentation of Christ at the Temple
10 February    —        Ash Wednesday
20 March        —        Palm Sunday
24 March        —        Maundy Thursday
25 March        —        Good Friday
26 March        —        Holy Saturday
27 March        —        Easter
5 May              —        Ascension
15 May            —        Pentecost
22 May           —        Trinity Sunday

So, Happy New Year, or better yet, Merry Seventh Day of Christmas.

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Josh Spears sometimes writes
words on this blog, sometimes sense
joins them, others not.