Calendars, So Many Calendars!
There are many calendars that we schedule our lives around. These give us seasons and patterns of life. The calendar of official National Holidays sets the pattern of our work (as this defines paid holidays.) The school calendar defines the mandatory attendance days for public school. In Kalamazoo County, the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Services Agency (KRESA) defines school holidays and most importantly, provides Christmas and Spring breaks. Even Kalamazoo has its own schedule of Art Hop Fridays, Food Truck Nights and Bell’s beer releases (with Oberon Release the true start of Spring!) The church calendar is only obvious to most people as Christmas and Easter. Liturgical churches (like Immanuel) begin the Church year with Advent—a time of waiting and also of preparation— building expectation for the coming of the Christ (the Incarnation) at Christmas. This year Advent began on November 27.
I am often amused by the TV calendar. The start of new TV series is traditionally in September. This goes back to the days when US auto manufacturers would begin their production of new model year cars in late August. The shows that they sponsored were to advertise the new cars— so new advertising, new shows and new cars were all timed to begin together. You may have noticed that new shows are now introduced later as modern viewers extend summer activities as long as they can (and many more people now live in the warmer south and southwest.) For me, it doesn’t really seem to be fall until “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is aired and it’s not Christmas until “Rudolf, The Red Nosed Reindeer” is shown. The first weeks of the New Year always begin with an emphasis on health, nutrition and exercise as a response to the gluttony of the holidays and in preparation for the renewal of said gluttony for the Super Bowl! From there it will be a run to the “year end” episode and the coming of summer and reruns or trial shows.
Let’s Start the Physical Health Kick Now!
I would like to prepare you for the start of the New Year by suggesting a head start right now!
We can begin by raising our exercise level and considering our eating habits before we enter the holidays. Adding an extra walk or trip to the gym the next couple of weeks could be helpful. Likewise, if you can remember that it’s easier to keep weight off than it is to lose it then maybe that extra helping of stuffing might sting a bit on your fork. I like the practice of either using a smaller dinner plate or insisting on seeing the plate between portions of food. Since we have all been trained by our depression era parents (or grandparents) to “eat everything on your plate” the only solution is to put less on the plate in the first place. Drinking more water is another key. European tables are always full of large bottles of bottled water (some carbonated.) Soda pop, diet or otherwise, is simply liquid Satan. I remember the very rare treat of getting a 7-ounce bottle of Coke at the barber shop. It was so cold you could barely drink it. But it was a once a month treat and not an every-day thing.
I know that we always seem to be eating at Immanuel. It’s a very Jesus thing in that table fellowship is a mega-theme of the New Testament. That’s the way we share Holy Communion as a natural part of weekly worship; “breaking bread” together is essential to a Christian community. However, if you ask what the healthiest diet is, many “experts” will suggest the Mediterranean diet similar to what you will find in Israel. My lunch in a Kibbutz on the “Sea” of Galilee consisted of a whole grilled “Jesus” fish and plenty of salad and vegetables and pita bread. Maybe we’ll have to try that at least once…
Let’s Start the Spiritual Health Kick Now!
The season of Advent can most certainly be a few weeks of preparation for a renewal of Spiritual Disciplines as well in the coming New Year.
Here are essential Spiritual Disciplines:
· Suggestion: Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayer, The Creed and the Lord’s Prayer
· Portals of Prayer
· Daily Devotions on Email, Text Messaging or phone app
Daily Bible Reading
· Suggestion: The One-Year Chronological Bible
· Suggestion: Worship at 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM (miss the first come to the second)
Weekly Bible Study
· Sunday Adult Study
· Monday Evening at Immanuel
· Tuesday Evening at the Baumgart’s
· Wednesday Morning at Immanuel
· Start one…
· Review your giving (things change— an update could be in order!)
· “Simply Giving” (automatic) offerings
· Special Gifts or Memorials
(Personal service opportunities at local charities)
· Loaves and Fishes
· Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
· Red Kettle ringing!
· Giving Tree for Christmas in December (Family and Children Services)
Emphasis on Daily Bible Reading!
Sometimes it’s easier to get the motivation to pursue a project if the goal is BHAG!-- That is a big, hairy and audacious goal! I think reading the entire Bible in a year qualifies as a big, hairy and audacious goal to attempt. Given the amount of material to read, this really requires a daily Bible reading plan and effort. The benefit then, is that the discipline of daily Bible reading will be reinforced by participation in the plan and reinforced by the church acting as a team to provide encouragement and support.
The plan is to use the One YEAR Chronological Bible. Participants will receive such a Bible and/or electronic resources and be ready to start the first of January. Having personally slogged through Leviticus I can promise you that it will be a lot easier to accomplish this together (regulations regarding mold… oh my!) My hope will be that the scope and integration of the Bible will reveal itself to you. The chronological approach is especially helpful in the historical sections— the flipping back and forth between Northern and Southern Kingdoms and the overlap between Kings and Chronicles easily becomes confusing to the point of distraction or frustration. Placing these events on a consistent timeline is much easier to grasp.
So then, let’s think of Advent as a time of waiting and of preparation. We can keep an eye on our physical disciplines as a preparation for January. Just think of how much better one might feel not to have to lose holiday weight. And let’s also prepare our spiritual disciplines to begin the New Year ready to read our Bibles! Amen. Come Lord Jesus.