Prepare for the journey of a lifetime…
In the Western secular calendar, the New Year begins on January 1st. You may observe the start of that new calendar with a late night of celebration and a mini fresh start to your life, with new goals and personal disciplines.
In contrast, the Christian year starts on December 1st with the first day of the season of Advent. We start the year with the words of the prophets of the Old Testament, anticipating the new era that would begin with the coming of Jesus. We’re often shocked to find that the New Testament readings of the season do not dwell with the meek and mild infant Jesus in the manger, but instead point us forward to the second advent (or, “arrival”) of Jesus at the end of our current era.
Since this is the beginning of the church year, many of our habits of this season are similar to the secular habits of the New Year. The challenging Scripture readings and reflections in this booklet ask us to start anew on the journey of faith. They ask us to consider where God has been on our journey up to this point and where God will lead us, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, into the future.
All the way, we keep our attention focused on the way God’s grace (a fancy theological word for God’s “free and unmerited favor”) is at work in our life. All of our own work of discipleship is a response to what God is already doing in and through our lives!
Our Advent season has four weeks, and so there are four waystations on our journey together.
Week 1 — A Pending Invitation
We consider the beginning of our walk with Jesus. It doesn’t start with our decision to follow, but with God’s gracious invitation to start the journey. Christian tradition calls this Prevenient Grace.
Week 2 — A Tangible Hope
Having received God’s invitation, we repent (or “turn around”) and embark on the walk of faith. We leave former things behind, place our trust in God and are granted assurance that we are a child of God. Tradition calls this Justifying Grace.
Week 3 — A Desert in Bloom
Now that our lives are pointed in the right direction, we start walking! We take baby steps at first, falling down often. But as we grow in faith, we are able to follow Jesus through dangerous conditions and on uncertain roads. This is known as Sanctifying Grace.
Week 4 — Between Heaven and Hell
The final destination of our journey takes us by surprise. We do not know the day or hour when we will find ourselves at the throne of Jesus, when God will bring the work of our redemption and the redemption of the world to a close. For now, we keep this final day of salvation in mind as we place our lives into God’s hands. The final destination on our journey is Glorifying Grace.