Twelve Days of Christmas Gifts

nativity3So you thought you were done with Christmas because we are past December 25?

Wrong, my friends.  Those of us who are Christian know better.  You see, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a season.  Something so momentous as the birth of Christ is worth celebrating for more than just one day.

The Christmas season starts on Christmas Day, to be sure.  It then continues for twelve days until January 6, the feast of Epiphany.  Epiphany marks when the three wise men, or Magi, arrived from the far east to visit the newborn (actually about two years old by the time they arrived) baby Jesus.  You can read the account of this in Matthew 2.

The song “12 Days of Christmas” kind of gives you the idea about the Christmas season.  There are various explanations/conspiracy theories out there in the blogosphere about the origin of the song and the words/gifts as teaching device/catechesis/secret code for something or other.  But I have nothing to say about any of that, except to say that a lot of these are interesting to say the least.

Instead, I am coming up with my own list of gifts.  Because I don’t have a clue where to go to find a partridge in a pear tree or what it would mean if I did find such a thing.  (I do know how to get ten lords-a-leaping:  Fly them over here on Southwest.  And if that doesn’t have them a-leaping, tell them their tickets are one-way.)

So here we go:

Day 1.  For Arthur Blank:  Some tact.

Okay.  I get that coach Mike Smith had to go.  But the way he handled it was all wrong.  Those of you who are from Atlanta know the story.  Right before the start of the Cons’ last game of the season against the Carolina Panthers–the biggest game of the season, with an NFC South playoff berth on the line–it was leaked to ESPN that Blank had hired an executive search firm to identify a possible replacement for Mike Smith.  Only two places that could have been leaked from:  the executive search firm (not likely; executive search firms are notoriously secretive) or Arthur Blank.  If you don’t know the story, you can read it here.

Day 2.  For Gwyneth Paltrow:  A college diploma.  Seems Gwyneth Paltrow wanted a job at Yahoo! as a contributing food blogger, but they wouldn’t take her because she dropped out of college.

Day 3.  For fans of “normcore”:  An L. L. Bean catalog.

Day 4.  For Mark Driscoll:  Some humility.  Seriously?

Day 5.  For Mark Richt:  Candles, incense, and an exorcist.  These items will be desperately needed for next year’s Florida trip.

Day 6.  For Georgia fans:  A generous supply of Tums.  Chances are they will come in handy at least once next season.

Day 7.  For Bobby Petrino:  The undying gratitude of Georgia fans everywhere for taking Todd Grantham off our hands.

Day 8.  For North Korea:  A working internet connection.

Day 9.  For Amal Alamuddin:  The world’s undying respect, not because of anything she accomplished in her career, but because she managed to tie down George Clooney.

Day 10.  For Jameis Winston:  Some skates.  He may have just skated on sexual assault allegations.

Day 11.  For FSU administrators:  A moral compass.

Day 12.  For my readers (all two or three of you):  Best wishes for a merry Christmas and happy new year.  Thanks to all of you for tracking with me this past year, and I look forward to doing it again for another year.

Advent Week 4: A Shepherd’s Ambiguous Apologetic

advent4As we come down to the final week of the Advent season, allow me to direct your attention to Luke 2:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on
whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Imagine that you are one of the shepherds in this passage.  You are on the fringes of Jewish society, excluded from temple worship because the nature of your profession has placed you in a permanent state of ceremonial uncleanness.  You live a hard life, outdoors almost all of the time.  The nights can get pretty cold out in the desert.  Sheep aren’t exactly the brightest creatures, and they can get themselves into some crazy situations, from which you must rescue them.  They wander off frequently, and you must go and find them.  And then there are the wild animals who must constantly be fended off.

Your nation, Israel, is living in the Promised Land.  But what an existence.  You haven’t had a king of your own for centuries.  Long ago the Babylonians came in, destroyed Jerusalem, ransacked your kingdom, and led your entire nation (what was left of it after the Assyrians plundered it a couple of centuries before) into exile.  And though you aren’t in exile now, you might as well be.  Ever since the Babylonians, your land has been ruled by foreign empires one after another, each more powerful and oppressive than the last.  And your people have waited and hoped for centuries that God would remember his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, judge the foreign powers that oppress his people, and bring his kingdom to earth, that the promises in the prophets, especially Isaiah, that God’s kingdom would be established in Jerusalem and all the rulers of the world would submit and all the peoples of the world would flock to Jerusalem to learn of God and of his ways, would be fulfilled.  Your people have longed for a savior, a deliverer who would rise up, defeat all of Israel’s enemies, and usher in the kingdom of God as described by Isaiah and the prophets.

Hasn’t happened yet.  There have been several false starts over the centuries, several times when it seemed like the promised one was rising up to inaugurate God’s kingdom, only to have it all come to nothing.  By this point the conditions prophesied in Isaiah and other places are most emphatically NOT in place.  The people of the world are NOT streaming to Jerusalem to learn of the Lord and his ways.  The nations are NOT submitting themselves to the law of the Lord.  Injustice and oppression live on with a vengeance throughout the world.  Conflict and war rage on throughout the world, with no end in sight.

Your hopes reached an especially low point about sixty years ago.  You probably weren’t around for this, but your father or his father was, and you have heard all the horror stories.  A Roman general named Pompey came to Jerusalem and wanted to see the Temple.  He showed up on his horse and rode right into the Temple.  Despite the priests’ insistence that he do no such thing, he went straight into the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Temple where the presence of God was believed to dwell and where no one was allowed to enter except the high priest, and that only once a year, with rope tied around his ankle so that in the event he was struck dead by the Lord his body could be dragged out without anyone else having to go in there to retrieve it.  The final indignity came just a few minutes later when Pompey emerged from the Holy of Holies, alive, unharmed, and unimpressed.

This was a very sad day for devout Jews.  The meaning of the day’s events could not have been any clearer:  God had allowed this pagan general to enter into the holiest part of His temple, the place where His Name dwelt, and leave with no adverse consequence whatsoever.  Clearly this general, and the pagan gods he represented, were superior to Yahweh.  Clearly God had rejected His people and would have nothing more to do with them.

Now here you are one night, out in the middle of a field, and all of a sudden the sky lights up and a whole host of angels show up, giving you direction to go to Bethlehem and see a certain baby who represents the fulfillment of everything God has promised to his people Israel.  You go and see, and everything is exactly as you are told.  You go away in great joy and spread the news to anyone who will listen.

And then…nothing.

You go back to your fields and your shepherd’s existence.  You wait another thirty years (maybe you don’t make it that long–life was hard in first century Israel and shepherd’s lives were especially hard), and then stories begin to trickle back to you about this traveling rabbi doing crazy things.  Maybe you have the opportunity to leave your fields and join his following, and hear the teaching and see the miracles up close and personal with your own eyes.  Or maybe you have to stay in the fields and wait for the reports to trickle back to you.  Okay.  But in light of what the angel said, surely you were expecting a son of David to ascend the throne in Jerusalem and defeat all Israel’s enemies and usher in the long-promised kingdom of God.  But this isn’t exactly happening yet.  What do you take away from this?  Especially when this guy goes off and gets himself crucified?

Let this be a cautionary tale to all of us, that the things we think are so clear and certain and beyond even the possibility of doubt, aren’t necessarily so to those outside the Christian faith.  The most central piece of our faith, the Resurrection, was discovered entirely by accident one morning.  The resurrected Jesus only appeared to people who were or would become part of the Jesus movement.  It is their word we have to trust.  For my part I believe it; I believe these people are trustworthy and would not have had any reason to make any of this up, but I can see where people would doubt.

For this reason I am not very impressed with claims that we can know what we believe with certainty.  I believe that the quest for certainty, as it is talked about in many Christian and especially evangelical circles, is largely a fool’s errand.  I am no fan of the idea of an inerrant Bible; it may make us feel comfortable to have a sure and certain foundation, beyond any possible shadow of doubt, but in reality it just creates another proposition for us to defend.  And after seeing all the philosophical and theological gymnastics which must be performed in order to defend the idea of an inerrant Bible–is it really worth it?

If anyone had a sure and certain foundation for their faith, it had to be the shepherds.  They heard the angel’s announcement of the Gospel message.  They saw the baby Jesus in the flesh, with their own eyes.  But even with that, they had plenty of reason and opportunity to doubt, as we have seen above.

Faith is not about certainty.  Faith is about trust.  Trusting when you have good reason to trust but also good reasons not to trust.  The shepherds who heard the angel and saw Jesus with their own two eyes still had to trust what they saw and heard when the things they saw and heard afterward probably did not line up with what the angel’s announcement had led them to expect.  We have to trust the words of those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, as recorded for us in Scripture, even when we can see why others might doubt and even when we might have our doubts as well.

So we wait.  We wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus in just a few days.  We trust that this Jesus rose from the dead and that everything God has promised to us by virtue of this is true.  And we wait for Jesus to return at the end of the age, trusting that he will, just as he promised.

Advent Week 3: Rejoice in the Lord Always

advent3This is the third week of Advent.  This Sunday is traditionally called “Gaudete” – that is, “Rejoice”.  It has a counterpart in Lent called “Laetare Sunday”.  In both instances the purpose is the same: both come just past the midpoint of the penitential season and serve as brief reprieves from the rigors of the fast so that the Church might be encouraged in the feast which is to come.

On Gaudete Sunday the dominant theme is rejoicing.  The intro to the liturgy is Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice”.  For this week the purple vestments are swapped out for pink or rose-colored vestments.  If you have a pink candle in your Advent wreath, this is the week when you light it.

Last week we looked at Jesus’ promise to his disciples to send the Holy Spirit, which does not rank very high as a text which we would associate with Christmas.  Yet in this promise we find hope that the Holy Spirit inside of us will speak to us as he hears from God, reminding us of what is true–that no matter what happens we are baptized children of God for whom Christ died and all the benefits of his death and resurrection are ours, and reminding us of what is yet to come–that Christ is coming again at the end of the age to launch His new kingdom and put all things right, and we get to be part of that.

But there is another side to this promise.  For though all these things are true of individual believers, it is not just on the level of the individual believer that this promise applies.  You see, the twelve disciples who were with Jesus that night were at the very core of what would ultimately become the Church.

On the level of the Church, what Jesus was saying was that the Holy Spirit would be with and in the Church, that he would guide the Church into all truth, and remind the Church of what is yet to come.

The record of history bears this out.  The Jesus movement should never in a million years have made it out of first century Jerusalem, yet it has grown to a worldwide movement with millions if not billions of adherents.  The Church has survived, endured, and even prospered despite threats from without and within.  Despite persecution, corruption, false teaching, treacherous leaders, divisions, scandals, and our general attempts to run it into the ground, the Church is still going strong.  Any organization run in the way the Church has been run would not even make it to the initial public offering, yet the Church has endured for two thousand plus years.  Clearly Jesus has kept His promise that the Holy Spirit would be with and in the Church.

The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church into all truth and reminding the Church of what is to come.  The Catholic church has a special take on this, one which involves infallibility and the Magisterium.  Some evangelical movements hold a similarly narrow view, in which it is only their particular movement that is the true Church and everyone else is apostate.  The reality is that the boundaries of the Church are not concurrent with the boundaries of any human institution or movement; instead the Church consists of all bodies which faithfully preach the Word and administer the sacraments.  (What does it mean to faithfully preach the Word?  What are the sacraments and how are they properly administered?  That is another diatribe for another day.)

As Protestants, we believe that all truth is God’s truth.  Therefore it is perfectly OK to discuss things and even to raise ideas that are completely and totally out there.  As we talk through things, there is a sifting process which takes place.  This can take a long time–decades and even centuries–and can get excruciatingly messy at times.  This leads to the charge by our Catholic and Orthodox brethren that we are always dividing and it is a slander upon the Body of Christ.  This is understandable; while some issues and questions may be resolved in our lifetimes, others will not be.  And still others that we thought were resolved will turn out to not be resolved after all.  All we will see is the messiness and the rancor going back and forth on these issues.  But we trust that a sifting process is happening and that the Holy Spirit is using it to guide us into the truth.

Sure it would be nice to have a centralized, Magisterial teaching authority that could step up and shut down the Rob Bells and the Joel Osteens and the Ken Hams and the [insert name of your least favorite evangelical teacher] of the world.  But who corrects the Magisterium when they get it wrong (and they do get it wrong sometimes, the whole infallibility thing notwithstanding)?  NO ONE!!!!!!!!!!

So we trust the process.  As Protestants, we are willing to live with the Rob Bells, Joel Osteens, Mark Driscolls, Ken Hams, etc. of the world, knowing full well that that is the price we must pay, because we believe it is significantly better than the alternative.

And the Holy Spirit is reminding us of what is to come.  Jesus is coming back, and all that is wrong in the world will be made right.  His kingdom will be established in the world, and we get to be a part of it.

This week we rejoice because the day of the Lord is near.  In just a couple of weeks we will celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world at Christmas, and we look forward in faith to the day when He will return for real.

Diana Butler Bass: Fox News’ War on Advent

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post from Diana Butler Bass at Huffington Post.  With all that Fox News is doing to get people geeked up about the so-called War on Christmas, it is ironic yet important to note that the real Christmas season is not the shopping season leading up to Christmas, but rather it starts on Christmas and runs for twelve days afterward.  Instead of Christmas with all its lights, carols, and over-the-top decorations, almost all liturgical churches are celebrating Advent, which by comparison is much darker, more subdued, and more minimalist.  Bass explains the mood of the Advent season, what to expect in a church that celebrates Advent, and how this contrasts with the Christmas season out there in the world at large.

Bass then takes a pointed, and perhaps well-deserved, jab at Fox News for its pushing of the War on Christmas:  Perhaps they are attempting to distract us with the War on Christmas because the themes of the poor being lifted up while the rich are cast down, which are prevalent during the Advent season, run contrary to the values that Fox News is all about?  A bit of a stretch, but the point remains:  When we get all geeked up about the War on Christmas, we completely miss the point of the season:  that we are waiting to celebrate the birth of the Savior whom God has promised us, who has already come and will one day come again to establish His kingdom and put right all that is wrong in our world.

Read Fox News’ War on Advent by Diana Butler Bass

RHE on the War on Christmas

Today I wish to direct your attention to a post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog about the War on Christmas and the general persecution complex that many evangelical culture warriors tend to get around this time of year.  Her post is entitled “Are You Being Persecuted?” and comes with a rather helpful chart to clarify the issue.

I have spent enough time in the sort of evangelical circles that tend to get geeked up about the War on Christmas and other such things, that I can understand what is happening here.  Not that I agree with it or that I excuse it, just that I understand (sorta).  Many evangelicals believe in a Prosperity Gospel of sorts which operates at the national level–even if they would deny the Prosperity Gospel to their dying breath (at an individual level). They believe that God blesses those nations which bless Him and curses those nations which curse Him. They get this from verses such as “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”. Thus if our God is the Lord–that is, America acknowledges God and Christianity in all the ways that matter to the culture warriors–then God will bless us. If not, then God will bring judgment upon us and it will be bad for everyone, including us. Which is why it is incumbent on us to fight the War on Christmas or whatever the big cultural crusade of the day happens to be.

Yet the whole story of Advent is about how God showed up in a nation which did NOT acknowledge Him by any stretch of the imagination.  He showed up as a Jew in the Roman empire–an oppressed minority in one of the most violent and powerful empires in all of history.  Moreover, if tradition is correct, He showed up as an Essene, a member of a sect which lived on the margins of said oppressed minority.  When He arrived on the scene, no one acknowledged Him except a handful of poor shepherds.

The whole story of Advent is the story of how God can’t be kept out. God is present. God is with us. God shows up—not with a parade but with the whimper of a baby, not among the powerful but among the marginalized, not to the demanding but to the humble. From Advent to Easter, the story of Jesus should teach us that God doesn’t need a mention in our pledge or on our money or over the loudspeaker at the mall to be present, and when we fight like spoiled children to “keep” God in those things, we are fighting for idols. We’re chasing wind.

Read RHE: Are You Being Persecuted?

Advent Week 2: The Dark Side of Christmas

advent2Christmas season is upon us.  Malls are slammed with shoppers and people coming to visit Santa.  Kirk Cameron and Fox News are getting evangelicalism all geeked up about the so-called War on Christmas.  Football fans are all geeked up about the upcoming bowl season and the playoff.  And people are talking about holiday plans, stressing about difficult in-laws and all the other complications which the season inevitably brings.

But for some of us, there is a much darker side to Christmas.  Some of us have lost loved ones this past year, or seen a spouse or significant other leave, or are facing health challenges or an unexpected / unwanted change in professional status.  This is the first Christmas alone or without your loved one or in your new life circumstances.  And it feels very stressful–way more stressful than the usual holiday drama that the rest of us are dealing with.

What can possibly be said for people who are experiencing the dark side of Christmas?

We go to the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of man.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it….

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

–John 1:1-5, 14

This is new.  In every other religious system of the world, the Word (or whatever they would call it) is something written down, something to read and learn and live by.  But in Christianity, though there is a written word to learn and live by, the Word is so much more than that.  The Word is an actual person, one who has come to live among us.

But wait.  It gets better.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

But I tell you the truth:  It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you, but if I go, I will send you to you….  I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  (John 16:7, 12-13)

This is unheard of:  Not only has God come to dwell with us through Jesus Christ, but he is now living in us through the Counselor/Spirit of truth, whom we know as the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit inside of us will not speak on his own but will only speak what he hears.  He will remind you of what is true–namely that you are a baptized child of God and that no matter what happens you are still part of the family of God and all the things which God has promised to his children are still true of you.  And he will remind you of what is yet to come–namely that Jesus is coming again and all that is wrong in our world will be made right.  Jesus is coming to establish His kingdom here on earth, and you get to be a part of it.

Advent Week 1: Why Bother with Advent?

cameronKirk Cameron, who has previously been referred to in this space as the Lane Kiffin of evangelicalism, is at it again.  He has a well-established reputation as evangelicalism’s go-to guy anytime a cheesy and horrible Christian movie needs making.  His latest offering, entitled “Saving Christmas”, is out in theaters now.  When a family Christmas party is ruined by a nonbeliever’s comments, Cameron steps in to save the day by explaining the true meaning of Christmas.

Of course the movie tanked on Rotten Tomatoes, with a lowly 8% critical approval rating.  Cameron tried to game the Rotten Tomatoes system by issuing an appeal via his Facebook page for all his followers to “storm the gates of Rotten Tomatoes” by giving the movie positive ratings.  At one point, the “Audience Score” (a separate metric from the approval rating) reached as high as 94% but quickly dropped back down to around 33% where it sits presently.  Cameron, as expected, blamed this on the “haters and atheists”.  (Next time Kirk, try making movies that are actually worth a shit.)

But for the next four weeks, we will leave behind the crazy antics of Kirk Cameron and everyone else out there who is going on about the “War On Christmas”, and move to a completely different universe.

Advent is the four weeks before Christmas.  More precisely, it is three full weeks plus whatever fraction of a week is needed to get us to Christmas.

advent1Advent is a season of darkness.  Not the special darkness of Lent, which results from the shadow of the Cross falling squarely across our path, but a more general, pervasive darkness, the darkness of a world in waiting for the coming of its long-promised Savior and Redeemer.  During this season, liturgical churches change the color and the decor and do some things differently.

Now I presume that many of you grew up in an evangelical context, which means that, except for the occasional Sunday school teacher going off about the liturgy being “too Catholic” or something to that effect, you probably have no clue about Advent or anything else having anything to do with the liturgy.  (Those of you who do come from liturgical backgrounds, please be patient with me while I attempt to bring the rest of us up to speed.)  So you are probably thinking:  Why bother with Advent at all?  Why go to all the trouble to have a special season for four weeks prior to Christmas?

Allow me to answer this question by way of example.

The calendar we follow regularly shapes our lives and forms us on a deep level.  Those of you who are college football fans can attest to this.  In August there is training camp along with all the buildup to the start of the season.  The season starts on Labor Day weekend; there are a few games of interest but for most teams, opening weekend means going up against a cupcake opponent as a tune-up for the more difficult portion of the schedule to come.  By October, most teams are getting into the meat of their conference schedules.  Division races are heating up, and the true contenders are beginning to emerge.  By November, it is put-up-or-shut-up time as the conference and national title contenders narrow down to just a few.  The weekend after Thanksgiving is the last weekend of the regular season, with the big-time in-state rivalries and grudge matches.  Then it’s the conference championships, followed by the bowl games, and then the playoff which makes its first appearance this year.

In January, as the season winds down, recruiting season kicks into high gear leading right up to February 5 which is National Signing Day.  Then it’s spring camp through March and into April, with most teams having their spring games late March or early April.  During this time the hype, anticipation, and speculation about the coming season begin to build.  This buildup intensifies through the quiet of the summer months until training camp starts back in August, right up to the start of the next season on Labor Day weekend.  And then you get to do it all again next year.  And the year after that.  And the year after that.  And so on.

As you repeat this pattern over and over again, year after year, you find that it begins to shape how you perceive time.  The long haul through the regular season, with one agonizing, heart-throbbing game after another, week after week.  Then the postseason.  Then the madness of recruiting season.  Then the quiet of the spring and summer months, with the hype and buildup to the coming season.  The key conference matches of October.  The rivalry games of November.  The bowl games.  National Signing Day.  The spring games.  These all serve to mark the passage of time in the life of a college football fan.

If this is true in the life of a college football fan, then all the more reason for the Christian believer to employ the same principles in spiritual formation.  And what better way to do this than through the time-tested pattern found in the church year calendar.  Each year begins with Advent and Christmas, where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is followed by the season of Epiphany, where we celebrate Christ’s life and ministry on earth.  Then Lent and Easter, where we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.  Then Ascension and Pentecost, where we celebrate Christ’s ascent into heaven and the birth of the Church.  Then Ordinary Time, where we get to live out the life of the Gospel and all that Christ’s death and resurrection means to the world, until Advent comes around and we get to do it all over again.

If we are formed as people by the calendar we keep, then the church year calendar as described above is sheer genius.  It takes us through the life and experiences of Christ, from his birth all the way to his death, resurrection, and beyond, year after year, on an endlessly repeating cycle.  It is simple enough for a child to latch on to, yet offers abundant opportunities for creativity and flexibility.  Those of you who come from liturgical traditions can attest to this, as your experience of the church year calendar may vary significantly from what I have described above, and even from what other liturgical Christians do with the church year.

Allow me to close with a quote from Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year.  This is one of the leading books on the church year and its importance in our lives as Christians.  Webber sums up the essence of the subject as follows:

Ancient-Future Time presents the historical understanding of the Christian year as life lived in the pattern of death and resurrection with Christ. This spiritual tradition was developed in the early church and has been passed down in history through the worship of the church. It enjoys biblical sanction, historical staying power, and contemporary relevance. Through Christian-year spirituality we are enabled to experience the biblical mandate of conforming to Christ. The Christian year orders our formation with Christ incarnate in his ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and coming again through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. In Christian-year spirituality we are spiritually formed by recalling and entering into his great saving events.