Longing Again: Telling the Story of Jesus through the Church Year
By Jill Gidlund
One function of the church calendar is to tell the story of Jesus. It is above all the telling of this story year in and year out that is really compelling to me about observing church time. I love that we hit it each year, each part. Always. Cyclically. Here’s one go round of it, and how Advent is so perfectly, agonizingly placed in the story.
During the long season of ordinary time that lasts from summer through fall, there is a weariness that develops. It is a green, growing time. It is a time to appreciate creation, to do the work of the church on earth, but there is always a place that is incomplete. The more we try, the more we fail. Wherever we look there is darkness, there is pain and death. The feeling grows. How can we stand it?
The church calendar is made this way. After all our do-gooding, all our feeble faithfulness and all the beauty that is so painfully fleeting here on earth, we realize that we need a savior. We need a perfect king! We need righteousness beyond what we can manufacture. Then and only then does the church year begin—it begins with our pains of longing. The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the church year. It begins with longing for Jesus to come. We don’t enter into longing, we are overcome with the longing that builds inside us.
Then it is Christmas, he is born; he comes! And he is here and he grows. There is a short season of ordinary time after Epiphany to ponder Jesus’ ministry and then it is Lent. Lent is about Jesus’ ministry too, but it’s also about who we are as humans and who Jesus is as God and man. Then in Holy Week, Jesus does his most important work. At Eastertide, we fully celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and his victory over death. Pentecost comes next, and celebrates the birth of the church. The season of ordinary time that follows is that long green season; the church works away at the work of the kingdom and the world is the world, in all its beauty and brokenness. Oh, world, oh church, how we need Jesus to come back to really finish this work! To bring perfection, glory and justice! So we begin to long … and Advent comes again.