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David Ingold: The Rhythms of Advent: Which Calendar Rules Your Life?

David Ingold on the liturgical calendars of Christmas

[Editor’s note: Today’s guest post comes from David Ingold, one of last year’s Colin MacLaurin Fellows and one of the members of our pilot residential program. David graduated from the U with a degree in mechanical engineering and now works as an engineer.]

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving. After a weekend of gratitude, rest, and maybe homework catch-up, it’s time for the final end-of-semester push.

Seventeen days. 17. Just seventeen days of until the last day of class! So much work to do in less than 3 weeks!! But twenty-four days until the last day of finals. I just need to make it twenty-four more days, and then… pass or fail…the semester will be over!

Even though I’m no longer taking classes, it’s not difficult to remember these end-of-semester thoughts common to students, especially since I live with a bunch of students at the U. In fact, just thinking about how soon the semester is ending makes me feel anxious on their behalf.

But this week marks the onset of something else, something more significant then the arrival of winter break. Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a season of eager longing and joyful hope for the arrival of Christ.

For those unfamiliar the practice of Advent, I want to ask a question: Which calendar rules your life?

For students, it is often the Academic Calendar; for much of America, the answer is the Consumer Calendar (which culminates with the Black Friday—Small Business Saturday—Cyber Monday trifecta). But for the church, Christ’s people, we have an alternative available to us: The Liturgical Calendar, a calendar of worship that begins with Advent and peaks at Easter, bringing us through the life of Jesus each year.

"The Nativity" by Antoniazzo Romano (1452-2512)

“The Nativity” by Antoniazzo Romano (1452-2512) (courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It is an easy temptation to put your heart and soul in the results of finals and the hope of vacation. Rather than completely orienting our lives around the pressures of our world, the wisdom from Christian tradition calls us to remember Jesus and orient every part of our life (and year) around him.

In Advent, we join the church around the world in remembering the longing of Israel, God’s people, for the long-expected Savior while in Exile. Though Immanuel, God with Us, has indeed come (which is why we so jollily celebrate 12 liturgical days of Christmas!!) we wait still as ones in exile (1 Peter 1:17). We wait for Christ’s deeper presence in our lives and community, and even more so for Christ’s second coming. But we wait with joyful expectation, for he IS coming!

While Thanksgiving is not part of the liturgical calendar, how fitting that the prelude to Advent is a time for gratitude to God for who God is and all he has done for us. And yesterday evening I enjoyed starting this liturgical year with an Advent Feast, to rejoice and feast together because of our shared hope, and to express our longing for Christ as we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

To aid us as we long for the advent of Jesus more than we long for the advent of vacation or relief after a strenuous Black Friday, I’ll end with an Advent prayer from Henri Nouwen:

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas. We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence. We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus.” Amen.

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