Advent is the four-week season of preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. A good celebration requires proper preparation for us to fully enjoy it. But how do you prepare for a surprise? More than just remembering Christ’s first arrival, Advent hopes for Christ’s second coming. Advent is a season of expectant waiting, tapping into the sense we have that all is not well, the longing for the world to be made right again.
At the heart of the Christmas season is the mystery of the incarnation, of God becoming human. Christmas calls us to live incarnationally, to embody our faith in our local neighborhoods, following the lead of Jesus, the Word who left heaven and "moved into the neighborhood."
Epiphany begins on January 6 and is marked by several events and themes in the life of Jesus: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding feast at Cana (the beginning of Jesus’ ministry through signs and wonders). Each event unveils the fuller dimensions of the man we call Jesus. He is the worshiped King of kings, the dearly loved Son of God, and the miracle working Lord of the feast. Through these 'epiphanies' we are called to focus on the ministry of Jesus: the calling of the disciples, the teachings of Christ, his miracles, and finally his transfiguration.
Lent, popularly understood as a season of joyless custom and duty, carries almost too much religious baggage for some people. How then do we keep the gospel front and center in this season of shadows? The cross keeps our gospel focus clear. Lent is a season to journey with Jesus in his passion, to survey the cross, taking the measure of Christ’s love in his suffering and death.
After marking Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the church begins a time of concerted prayer, waiting for the gift of God’s Spirit. Ascension and Pentecost turn our attention to the church as the sign of Christ’s continuing presence, the resurrection community as a living witness to the risen, now ascended, Lord. The Easter season concludes on Pentecost Sunday, opening a new chapter in the life and ministry of Jesus, still loving and serving the world, teaching and healing, but now through his people, the church.
With all the big holidays and celebrations over, Ordinary Time offers us the space to find our place in God’s story. We’ve celebrated and taken in the momentous life of Jesus; now we need a long stretch of days to absorb and assimilate it. In Ordinary Time, we fully take in the gospel, allowing it to take shape in our daily living, making connections between Jesus’ story and our lives.