The recurring seasons in the calendar year are vital in the life of the Christian because they offer us opportunities for a fresh start. We would despair if our lives were never afforded a new beginning.
For much of the twentieth century, communist Russia had no celebration of Christmas only winter. We can see parallels between that atheistic society and that of C. S. Lewis’ fictional Narnia, where under the rule of the White Witch, it is always winter and never Christmas. This is an apt metaphor for our day, as we see the gradual loss of “Christmas” and of the centrality of the Incarnation from our culture and the public square. Despite what the secular priests of our age preach, our deepest need is not to find one’s self, but to know God — by denying self, following Christ, and carrying our cross.
As we participate in the Holy Days and liturgies of the Church year, our lives are changed. We are brought into the Real Presence of God, and as a consequence, we are confronted with new moments of decision to love as He loves. This new start is emphasized in the Sunday Epistles appointed at the beginning of Advent and Lent, the preparatory seasons for the two great festivals of Christmas and Easter.
… now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Prayer Book, pp. 90–91.)
Massey Shepherd, borrowing from the thought of the late William Ladd, said the word now possesses in our Advent Collect a certain richness and power. It makes “vividly real to us in the present time both the first coming of our Lord in His Incarnation and His second coming in Judgment.” He says further that every season and every holy day of the Christian Year is for us an advent, a coming in the present time of God’s mighty acts of old in His Christ and in His saints.
Fr. Gordon Hines+