One of the Worst -Isms

One of my favorite Christmas movies is the original Miracle on 34th Street. Alfred, our favorite janitor/Santa Claus impersonator, while lamenting the consumeristic bent of Christmas in a department store, quips, “There’s a lot of bad -isms floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck.” And that was in 1947. Just look at how far we’ve come since then in the pursuit of wealth.

It’d be easy to decry all of our societal structures and institutions for giving in to commercialism, for so very many have. The American healthcare system (inasmuch as it can be called a “system” which “cares” for health) readily springs to mind. Costs are too high for most people to afford any real care they need, and it’d be unthinkable to have something as simple as a routine appendectomy or a tooth pulled without insurance — which is itself prohibitively expensive. Many families must choose between food and medication. Other countries have shown us that healthcare costs needn’t be so exorbitant, yet they still are. Why? In part because of the greed of commercialism. People aren’t embodied soul requiring loving care; they are broken fleshy machines people will pay anything to repair. And so they do; simple supply and demand.

If it’s terrible such commercialism has infiltrated the care of bodies, it’s positively abhorrent it has become part and parcel of the care of souls.

Here again it’d be all-too-easy to list those televangelists and fake faith healers who will swindle the widow out of her mite. I could go into detail about false prophets bilking the innocent out of their money to pay for their private jets, limousines, and sprawling estates. And while that kind of behavior is sinful in many, many ways, and while they will stand in judgment for what they’ve done to their victims, there’s another dimension of commercialism that has taken root in the church. It’s far more sinister — and far more accepted. It’s the rise of the consumer church.

If you want to know what I mean by “consumer church,” take a look at most megachurches. Really, just pick one that seems to suit your fancy. These have, by and large (with the occasional exception), ignored the traditions of the faith to provide something more aligned with the current whims of culture. There’s nothing wrong with using a different worship style, but there is great danger in altering worship content. A consumer church will typically change both. The more negative realities of Christianity (hell, sin, etc.) get dropped in favor of fluff which omits the need for salvation. Ministers no longer “preach,” since people don’t liked being “preached at”; instead, they “speak” or “talk with you.” The term “sermon” is replaced by “teaching time,” and songs are sanitized as all references to “wretch,” “worm,” and other non-ego-stroking terms for the sinful self are removed. And yes, names matter.

The worship service itself mutates from a corporate act into lots of individual acts carried out in close proximity to one another. Rites and rituals are either omitted entirely or left unexplained, bewildering newcomers and those young in the faith. Catechesis disappears as classes and groups wane due to a lack of emphasis.

In short, our ecclesiology has died. Our liturgics have been entirely forgotten. We no longer live and teach our theology in a corporate setting. The fundamentally Christocentric nature of worship is supplanted by an anthropocentric — or even egocentric — “worship experience.” And why? Why jettison such things? To appeal to consumers who view church as something to be taken in like entertainment instead of a dynamic connection to a living God. Because people don’t put money in the offering plate to hear you tell them to repent. And the more money, the bigger the church; the bigger the church, the more famous the pastor; the more famous the pastor, the more money people give . . .

Did I mention we preachers sometimes have ego problems, too?

Not all megachurch pastors suffer from such thinking. Some truly possess a servant’s heart, and that gives me great hope. But it remains a common pitfall, giving in to a consumer-driven, commercialistic mindset. So we have to remember: fads change. People will want a totally different church twenty years from now because what’s “cool” will be totally different by then. But God never changes. The gospel never changes.

The grass withers, and the parachute pants fade, but the word of the LORD endures forever.

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The Rite Stuff

Once upon a time, back before the days of my deep theological reflection, before I had realized a calling in low church evangelicalism, I had dinner with a Roman Catholic bishop. I had met with the diocesan vocations director and formally begun discerning the call to the priesthood. I was issued a rosary blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II specifically for the discernment process, and the bishop wanted to meet with me and all the other discerners for food, prayer, and general fellowship. A month later — and three months away from the formal ceremony to sign on the dotted line, having been fast-tracked by the diocese and offered a potential place of study in Rome itself — I “discerned out” and returned to the Protestantism which birthed me.

My friends still call me Father Peters, though.

I dropped out for several reasons (and before you ask, mandatory clerical celibacy was not one of them), but there were two main things which made me want to “go home to Rome” in the first place. The first was a study of church history and historical theology, which convinced me contemporary Protestantism gets a few things wrong. The second — and the more influential, being guided by my heart more than my head for the only time in my life — was the Roman Mass itself. I visited a Roman Catholic church with a couple of friends and immediately and irrevocably fell in love with the eucharistic liturgy. The reverence, the congregational participation, the veneration, everything about it captured my heart at once. I fully admit I’m a “smells and bells” guy when it comes to liturgical worship. Now, speaking only in Latin or celebrating ad orientem may be a bit too sacerdotal for my taste — and orthopraxy, even in worship, must follow orthodoxy — but the rites and rituals of high church worship does it for me. It fits my personality.

I’m personally wired for such things. If I may say so myself, I have a gift for rites, for the ritualistic. It’s one reason I receive so many comments about my weddings and why I’ve already been booked for the funerals of those who may very well outlive me. It’s a talent, a knack I have.

We all possess a need for those sorts of things. Even if we worship in the low church style and receive Communion via “Jesus chiclets” and “Protestant shot glasses” as we do in my own denomination, we as individuals possess a need for ritual. I think we all realize this even outside of the church. After all, what are birthday parties? Graduation ceremonies? Quinceaneras? Bar mitzvahs? They’re rites of passage, ways to mark specific moments in time or special accomplishments in ritualistic ways. For example, someone once described a birthday party in these terms: “People gather around a sacrificial food after removing it from the fire. After chanting the required song of celebration, the object of celebration prays and extinguishes the ceremonial candles. The sacrificial food is portioned out, and gifts are brought to the celebrant.” Phrased differently, that’s, “Your friends and family take your birthday cake out of the oven and bring it to you. They sing ‘Happy Birthday to You,’ and you make a wish and blow out the candles. Everybody gets a piece and give you your birthday presents.” See? Ritual. (Don’t get me started on the liturgical garb we call “academic regalia.”) This stuff is everywhere, even in the most private moments of our lives. We invent it to make it so.

And we need to. These rites and rituals are critical for our life in community. They unite us. They create shared and common experiences. They act as benchmarks and guideposts, letting us know we’re at specific points in life while guiding us toward the next one. They reinforce what is important, remind us of what our cultural values are.

Rites function the same way in the church. You may be thinking, “My church doesn’t have any of this stuff.” Au contraire. Unless you wing it each and every Lord’s Day (which I cannot recommend), you follow a set order of worship — a prescribed ritual, if you will. Even if it’s “song-communion-song-prayer-reading-preaching-two more songs,” it’s still a liturgy, still ritualistic. You have a set way of observing the Table. A protocol for baptism. Outlines for funerals. Specific elements for a proper wedding. All of these are rites or rituals. All of these are specific things used as religious ceremonies and/or carried out in a pre-determined fashion towards a specific (religious) end.

These things don’t inherently detract from the proclamation of the gospel; instead, they enable and magnify it. No matter what the “religion is bad but Jesus is good” crowd may try to say, this sort of religious observance is implicitly an act of faith (more on those guys here). Baptism is considered the Christian rite of initiation, but very, very few have ever suggested we give it up because it’s a ritual. No serious reader of the Bible could look at Matthew 28:18-20 or 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and declare “Baptism and the Lord’s Supper must be abandoned! They’re ritualistic! They’re rites! Jesus never wanted us to do such ‘religious’ things!” I mean, he commanded them. Christ established these rites and bade us do them. What makes us think all such things are evil? How can they detract from the message of the gospel, of Christ and him crucified, when they are biblically pronounced proclamations of his death and a sharing in his resurrection? They are the gospel, enacted and visible words for all to see.

All rites and rituals should be so.

Every physical act of worship should be about Jesus, whether it’s the meet-and-greet or the benediction. Every ounce of our rituals points to the head of the church, Jesus Christ. We were created, wired to do such things. Let us do them in the name of the Creator, for the sake of the one who saved us and the Spirit who dwells within us.

In so doing, let us use these rites to teach the lost what it looks like to be saved.

In Awesome Wonder

When you’re but a wee child, everything is new, mysterious, and wonderful. Nothing is mundane or ordinary. The eyes of a child can see the beauty and the tragedy in all things, regardless of what they are, and respond in awe. We all know this to be true, else phrases like “childlike wonder” wouldn’t exist. I suppose it’s a function of inexperience, of naivete, of innocence. Whatever it is, it’s, well, wonderful.

But children grow up. As we age, we seem to lose our senses of wonder and amazement. (If you don’t believe me, try to impress someone.) Adults think we’ve seen it all; nothing is new under the sun. We stop seeing some things entirely, letting our minds fill in the scenery around us — or at least I hope I’m not the only one who hears “a couple of years” every time I ask “How long has that been there.” Things fade into the background, become routine, and cease to make us gasp in amazement.

I wonder sometimes if that’s why worship is unattractive.

People leave the church, stop coming to worship, all the time. It’s currently estimated that around 70% (70!) of young adults who were raised in church no longer attend services. I can’t speak for all 70%, but I’m willing to bet that for a great many of them, worship became routine. Every week at the same time they gathered in the same place to sing the same songs, say the same prayers, hear the same sermons, eat the same bread and drink the same wine. It became boring, dull, and predictable. They never encountered a dynamic, living God, an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present deity who did wild and wonderful things. The Savior of the Universe never did anything exciting, anything requiring imagination and demanding awe.

Recent trends in theology haven’t helped that. Instead of maintaining an emphasis on the mystical and the Other, we’ve focused on concrete rationalism. Apologetics is of inestimable value, don’t get me wrong, but when our corporate worship feels more like a lecture hall than a temple, we’ve misplaced our priorities. It’s true we must make an appeal to the mind, demonstrating a logically consistent and coherent faith. But aren’t we commanded to worship with heart, body, and soul as well? Does the body worship if it never has to do anything to participate in the service? Is the heart moved by data alone? Can a soul be impacted without the mysterious and the numinous?

Liturgical, “high church” worship leaves more room for mystery, true, but I believe it can and should be a part of any worship style. No matter the denomination or the order of service, the worshiper should experience a sense of awe, of wonder. The architecture of the building plays a part in this, as does the decor. The music can help, the prayers can help, the sermon can help. A proper celebration of the sacraments is one of the biggest contributing factors; who can truly grasp the provision of God’s grace through material things and not come away with a sense of wonder?

All of these things, though, should be presentations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Songs, prayers, sacraments, and sermons all should point us to the crucified and risen Lord — and if they fail to do so, they can’t properly be termed Christian. Without the gospel, there is no worship. Without the gospel, there is no church.

Without the gospel, there is no mystery.

For what can be more mysterious than a God who was dead and yet lives? Than a God who put on flesh and became a perfect man while remaining fully divine? Than a God who loves us enough to do that? Than a single God existing in three Persons so He could do that?

Folks, that’s mysterious. And the proper response to mystery is wonder. Wonder, amazement, a sense of Something Beyond, something incomprehensible and fantastic and awesome. That’s who God is. And if we realize that’s the God we worship, then our praise will never be dull or routine again. Each Lord’s Day will have its own wonderment, its own special feeling of divinity. It will be something we yearn for, a thing longed for and sought after, a thing so different from the mundanity of life it arrests our senses, demands the fullness of body, mind, heart, and soul, and never permits us to simply sit idle and fill in the gaps by rote memory.

It will be something wonderful.

An Open Letter to the Church Universal

Dear Church,

I know. I promised both of us I would never do this, that I’d never write to you in public like a public service announcement. And while I hate to break my word to you about this — you know how that always hurts my soul — and while I wish there were another way to say this, there simply isn’t one this time. Too much is going on, and you won’t answer your phone. We need to talk, even if you really don’t want to. So . . . here goes.

I miss you. I miss you so very, very much. You used to be different. Simpler. More focused. I’m not saying you’re too busy or too complex or whatnot, but it just feels like you’ve lost sight of who you are. You don’t keep the Main Thing the main thing anymore, as the saying goes. You’re the Church. The Bride of Christ. The Body of Christ. Baptized believers. The followers of the Way. “Little Christs.” Our Mother, even as God is Our Father. Jesus told you that the very gates of hell itself would not triumph over you. You’re built on the rock, secure in the confession that Jesus is Lord. You’re a hospital for sick souls. A teacher for those who need knowledge of God. Among other things.

Church, do you notice the theme? The single recurring element in everything you used to be — and were supposed to be? Jesus. God. The Holy Spirit. The salvation of souls from hellfire, the regenerate Christian life of the new creation. That’s you! That’s who you are! That’s what you’re supposed to do! That’s the Main Thing! The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Main Thing! Remember how incredible the good news is the first time someone hears it? That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, that the Son of God emptied himself of all but love, came to earth, taught, bled, died, and rose again all for us? That we receive salvation, forgiveness, and freedom because of that, if only we believe? It’s the Main Thing.

So why did you leave it behind?

Don’t give me that look, Church. We both know it’s true, and it won’t do either of us any good if you feign righteous indignation like that. I know you’re just acting scandalized so you can get me to apologize and ignore the problem again. I can’t do that this time. This is just too serious to drop. Because I love you. I love you, Church, with all my heart. I love the way you help the poor, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. I love how you go into prisons and offer redemption to those who think themselves beyond it. I love how you tend to the sick and elderly, how you befriend the friendless, extend hope to the hopeless. I’m head-over-heels for how much you love the dying and minister to the grieving and heartbroken. And the way you sing? All of your rites and rituals? Your worship makes me weak in the knees, so much so that I can’t even stand up sometimes and have no choice but to kneel down with you. You’re my favorite. I love you.

I love you so much I can’t let you go on like this.

I get it. You’re part of — no, a pillar of your community. You want to serve it and honor it. And that’s great! We’re servants, you and I. We paint homes and wash feet. It’s who we are. But lately you’ve been crossing the line quite a bit — and blurring it even more than that. You trade worship services for community events that may or may not try to masquerade as praise of God. You let politicians into your pulpits to advance their agendas instead of preaching the gospel. I mean, you’re overly politicized in general, really. You know I enjoy politics, and you know I think you, Church, should spread the gospel even in political ways at times, but . . . really? You’re more worried about maintaining political power than producing genuine disciples of Jesus Christ. Church, the Bible only commands us and commissions us for one of those things; guess which?

You’re not you when the Main Thing isn’t the main thing.

While we’re talking about being active in culture, let me reverse that and discuss how culture is too active in you. I’m not against contemporary music (you’ve seen my iTunes), but the stuff you’re trying to pass off as Christian just . . . isn’t. Yeah, I know; you’re being trendy, appealing to the younger crowd. Great! Fantastic! Do it! Get them in here! But give them the Main Thing when you do. Sing songs with biblical lyrics, not empty appeals to emotions. I mean, yeah, give us Jesus with a beat, but please make sure you’re giving us Jesus. All these programs you have going on? Which do you really need to do? It’s grand to have things for every age group, but if we don’t let all ages worship together, aren’t we really just contributing to the demise of the family we keep saying we’re protecting? Relax a little bit. Don’t try to do so much, Church. You’ll only wear yourself out. And all these trends and fads . . . please stop. Jesus threw the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple, so please stop trying to sell me brown water impersonating coffee before the service starts. If you love me, truly love me, you’ll permanently ban anyone on the platform from wearing skinny jeans ever again. Right now. And cool t-shirts, cool tattoos, cool glasses, cool bar stools for preachers, cool music stands filling in for pulpits . . . just anything cool that has no function besides being trendy. Those trends change too fast and have too little substance.

You want to be cool; I understand. You want all the cool kids to like you; it’s only natural. But Church, you and I, well, you and I will never be cool. Remember our Main Thing? Telling people about a guy bleeding out on a cross will never win popularity contests. A mixed choir of kindergarteners and octogenarians will never win any talent shows, either. We will never be the cool kids on the block. And you know what? We were never meant to be. Remember when you were young and had to hide in the catacombs or be killed? Or how about all those times people called you “an alternative community” because it was up to you to offer the world something different than what was popular? It is literally in your job description to be uncool. You’re asking people to die to themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow Jesus. You invite people to come just as they are but to leave new creations in the Holy Spirit, changing — repenting of their ways.

Total reorientation of one’s life generally isn’t popular.

Please, Church. Let it go. Let go of the idea you have to somehow make relevant the timeless word of God. It’s always relevant. Make it appealing, make it knowable, but don’t sacrifice bits of it on the altar of the false gods Relevancy, Popularity, and Cultural Clout. You do you. Be the weird kid who gets picked last at recess. That’s us, Church. The weird ones. The ones who put faith in a God we’ve never seen face to face. Who believe words written two and three thousand years ago are still absolutely true for absolutely everyone. Who sacrificially love everyone, even the ones who hate us. That’s the real you. That’s the Church I fell in love with and was called to shepherd.

Come home, Church. Come back to being you. Come back to the gospel. Let’s make the Main Thing the main thing again. Let’s go hug the homeless, give them a bed, and tell them about Jesus. Let’s hold hands and walk in faith, hope, and love one more time.

Because I love you. And I always will.

Love,

Chris

Zeitgeist und Heilige Geist

I like languages. I’ve always been fascinated with the way we use sounds and scratches on dead trees to convey meaning. And I like people who like languages, too; I once dated a girl who was fluent in six or seven different dialects (which put me to shame, and I’m no slouch myself). Today’s title borrows a word from German without an English equivalent (and so I thought, why not put the whole thing in German): zeitgeist. Literally it’s a compound word of “time-ghost” (which sound a bit wibbly-wobbly), and so it refers to what we think of as “the spirit of the age,” or “the spirit of the times.”

Every age in history has its own zeitgeist, its own particular cultural consensus as to how it views the world. Think of the Roaring Twenties and its accompanying sense of decadence, or the relative prudery of Victorian England, or the unflagging courage and valor of the Greatest Generation, or of the “flower power” of 1960s America. These are examples of the spirits of the age. They arise in every time period in every culture. They may even be in competition with each other depending on where one finds oneself; academia may have one prevailing wind, as it were, and rural areas another; Europe may be in opposition to Africa; you get the idea.

So what’s our current American zeitgeist? What’s the spirit of our age and area which defines how our culture looks at the world? It arises out of a confluence of different factors, but we can look at several of them. The political landscape, foremost on people’s minds this election year, is just a mess. It’s a combination of optimism and sheer horror.  (As one anonymous commentator on the Internet has said, “It’s like this is the final season of America and the writers are just going crazy.”) I think it’s also tinged with a bit of xenophobia, with the “other” being whatever is appropriate for your context: immigrants, homosexuals, Republicans, Gen X-ers, Christians, Muslims, what have you. Then we have to take into account a rampant individualism, especially as evidenced in the proponents of abortion, LGBT advocacy, the quickly-declining marriage rate, the steadily-rising divorce rate, the preference of young adults to rent rather than own homes (and thus not be tied down, among other reasons), the ubiquitous selfie, etc. Many, many things which point to the Self as the Golden Calf of our times. If I had to characterize our zeitgeist in two words, then, I would choose these: fear and narcissism. We love ourselves, and we’re scared of anything that a) isn’t us and b) might prevent us from being who we truly want to be.

One man’s opinion.

The problem with any spirit of the age, however, is that it must ultimately deal with the spirit: the Holy Spirit, the Heilige Geist from the title. An unchanging God will not bend to the personal preferences of particular people, nor will He kowtow to the whims of those who wish Him nonexistent or a carbon of themselves. God is God — and He is a holy God. A Holy Spirit cannot get mired down in the sins of the world without ceasing to be holy. And so God can participate in neither the fear nor the ego of our current zeitgeist. He stands as loving Father and final Judge of this age and all others. When the spirit of the age comes into conflict with the Holy Spirit, our loyalty must always be to the latter. We can’t let ourselves get so caught up in the world we lose sight of the holy; we can’t focus on the temporal to the exclusion of the eternal. And so we rest our identities and our souls in the one who stands outside of time.

Our worship should do the same. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating for solely traditional worship, and I’m not suggesting we should move into the purely contemporary (my thoughts on the so-called worship wars will come later). But we shouldn’t let our Christian practices of worship be dictated by popular opinion. We must continue to do what is holy and what is sacred. We continue on with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, regardless of rhythm; we continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost souls in a dark world; we celebrate the Table and we baptize those who come to saving faith; and we take our renewed bodies, hearts, minds, and souls out to the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.  That’s the real point of worship: to ascribe blessing, honor, glory, and power to the God who deserves it and to invite others to a place where they can do the same.

The church must continue to be a community called from among the world, called away from the zeitgeist, but then it must always go back out to the same world to offer it a different Spirit. The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit from a holy God of holy love.

F.A.Q. #4: What’s the Liturgical Year?

On the first day of Advent (two days ago, 30 November this year), I posted a simple “Happy new (liturgical) year!” on my social media profile. My seminary and ministry friends wished me the same, but other people commented or messaged me to ask, “What’s that mean?” It’s a question I hear a lot, particularly from people who attend or were raised in “non-liturgical” churches (everyone follows some sort of liturgy, though, whether they admit it or not). So today we’ll tackle the Christian calendar, seeking to answer the question “What’s the liturgical year?” or, as it may be more commonly asked, “Why do the colors in my church’s sanctuary change every so often?”

The word “liturgy” comes from two separate Greek words for “people” and “work” and literally means “the work of the people.” As we use it in church parlance, liturgy refers to the program/order of worship used in a corporate church worship service (sing a song, pass the peace, sing again, read the Scripture, hear a sermon, recite a creed, celebrate the Eucharist [or however your church does it]). The more formal or ritualized the service is, the more it has to be prayerfully programmed out, and so we say it’s more “liturgical.” The Roman Catholic Mass is a highly liturgical service, for example, with the parishioners playing a large role in the worship itself (this is also known as “high church”). Southern Baptist churches, on the other hand, while following their own liturgy of sorts, tend to be more free-flowing and sermon-oriented than the Mass and feature less congregational participation, and so we call it less liturgical (or “low church,” if you prefer).

In a broader sense, however, the Christian Church follows the Christian calendar, a.k.a. the liturgical year. Like any other calendar year, the church calendar features distinct seasons of worship. The first is Advent, a time of preparation for the coming Messiah (both in terms of Christmas and his second coming). Next comes Christmas — all twelve days of it, hence the song (which you are now humming). Christmas ends with Epiphany, celebrating the arrival of the magi (for the West) and the baptism of Christ (in the East); either way, Epiphany is a day to celebrate the manifestation of Jesus to the larger world. After Epiphany is a brief period of Ordinary Time (which is exactly as it sounds; nothing major goes on) leading up to Lent. Lent is the forty-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter, and it is observed through fasting and self-denial, preparation for the crucifixion of Jesus. Next comes Easter itself, a fifty-day observance of the resurrection of Our Lord, ending at Pentecost (literally “fifty”). From Pentecost until Advent, we return to Ordinary Time. Throughout each season, other observances occur, such as feast days of saints, Candlemas, Trinity Sunday, Holy/Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc.

Each distinct season is represented by its own color. Churches will change the decorations in the sanctuary, known as paraments, to the color corresponding with each season, and in churches where clergy don vestments, the color of the vestments (such as the stole, chasuble, or dalmatic) will change as well (more on vestments later). Advent is either blue or purple; Christmas and Easter are white; Lent is purple; and Ordinary Time is green. Pentecost, and feast days where observed, are red. The colors can change for other reasons as well (such as for weddings and funerals). So when the colors in the sanctuary have changed, you know you’ve entered a new liturgical season — and if you can recognize the color, you’ll know which one it is! (The liturgical year: color-coded for your convenience!)

The church year helps us cover our bases in worship, if you will. After forty days of Lent full of fasting and totally void of any “hallelujahs,” it’s much easier to both sympathize with the passion of the Christ and be more eager to truly mean it when you shout “Alleluia!” While most people in our contemporary society tend to skip Advent altogether and start singing Christmas carols, the season teaches us about expectation and hope as well as reminding us that Our Lord will return one day. Pentecost, somewhat tritely known as the birthday of the Church, nevertheless recalls to memory our origins as a worshiping community and the awesome blessings of the Holy Spirit.

The liturgical year allows us great joy, great lament, and times of ordinary Christian service. It reminds us of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how the Trinity interacts with us in our worship and in our daily lives. The Christian calendar provides an easy way to orient those daily lives to the Christian message, giving us easy paths to let our faith be seen in how we live each day.

Some churches still say following the liturgical year is “too Catholic,” and so they retain their forms of low church worship. To be fair, the calendar certainly wasn’t in existence in apostolic times, although they celebrated Easter and other observances. But to me, the church year is a great way to be in fellowship with the larger global church, and its value when followed in corporate worship and discipleship shouldn’t be underestimated.

And so, two days later, I’ll say it again: happy new year!