If you have come to the Anglican church from another tradition you may be surprised to hear that not only do we have a slightly different way of praying and worshipping, we also have a slightly different calendar. New Year’s Day for the Anglican Church falls on the first day of the Advent Season, which begins this year on Sunday, November 29. Our calendar is centered around the life of Jesus and his ministry and his ongoing invitation to his people to share in his work.
The Church Year emerged early in the history of the Church as a way of teaching largely illiterate congregations the story of Jesus through the sounds, tastes, and sights of each season, which means it is especially well-suited to including children in worship. But it is also a powerful tool that reorients adults away from other calendars that compete for our attention (fiscal calendars, sports seasons, school calendars, project deadlines) and back to Jesus.
Last year I was searching for resources to help my family establish meaningful traditions in our home and found Let Us Keep the Feast: Living the Church Year at Home which has been a wonderful starting place. This collection of guides for each season is edited by Jessica Snell and written by a group of Anglican mothers with families with children in mind but is also so throughly researched and thoughtful in its approach that it would be ideal for anyone looking for practical advice for bringing the cycle of the Church Year into your home. Each chapter guides readers through the spiritual meaning and history of a particular season and then concludes with practical ways to mark the season in your home. They include crafts, recipes, music, prayers, along with art, literature, devotional suggestions for everyone from the very young to adults interested in serious study.
Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross is an excellent devotional resource for anyone who desires to take a first step into a life shaped by the Church Year. Gross offers his own personal reflections as someone who discovered the joy of following the calendar of the Church as an adult. Along with insightful historical and theological explanations, he has written a brief devotional guide for each week of the year that correlates with the Lectionary reading from Sunday worship and includes a devotional focus that is unique to each week as we retell the story of Jesus in our lives and worship.
Gross’s desire is that his readers learn to inhabit God’s time and live in response to what he has accomplished and continues to do in the world. He is focused on moving from thinking of the big events of the Church Year, like Christmas and Easter, as historical events that we memorialize to inhabiting them as spiritual realities by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. His book is easy for anyone to include as a part of their daily devotions and leads well into the practice of praying the Daily Office.
Start this new year well with one of these books. And may you live the life of Jesus in church and at home this year!