Cultivating a Christian Memory

When you first wake up, where do your thoughts go? More than likely, this is the most important thing on your mind and will typically define the rest of your day. Let's say you are planning a party or you are in the midst of a project at work. You need to focus energy and thought on how to get these things accomplished. While these are good things, is there something bigger shaping the way that we go about the smaller details of our lives? We need help focusing our attention.

The Significance of the Christian Calendar

For those not familiar with the traditional church calendar, the video below is a very accessible and short explanation. Since the season of Advent has begun, let's take a moment to reflect on how we can use the next four weeks to remind us that the story of redemption is the larger "meta-narrative" by which we as Christians understand not only human history but our own personal history. Our lives are embedded within a larger story.

Advent and the Advent Wreath
 
Advent is the Christian's New Year as we anticipate the arrival of the Savior.  In some traditions, the celebration of Advent is symbolized through the use of an advent wreath.

The word "Advent" is derived from a Latin root which means 'coming' or 'arrival', and the season (beginning four Sundays before Christmas) was developed sometime after the sixth century as a preparation for the evangelical festival celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

The four Advent candles in the wreath are lit successively, one candle the first week, two candles the second week, and so on. This tradition of increasing the number of candles each week sharpens our anticipation as it reminds us that we are getting closer and closer to the celebration of Christ's birth. Jesus announced himself as the completion of Isaiah's promise of "a great light" when he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). The full blaze of light in the Advent wreath on Christmas represents the fulfillment of this promise.

The Significance of Rhythm and Memory

Why is all of this important? 

As Christians, when we participate in the various seasons of the church calendar, we are reminded that we are presently connected to Christians all over the world and with brothers and sisters in Christ over the past 2000 years. This rhythm and memory is bigger than any national holiday. It transcends nationalism.

Psalm 136 is a picture of the people of God reflecting upon their history and sharpening their memory. The Psalmist starts with the Lord's existence, moves through creation and recounts His redemptive work in the Exodus. Each memory is followed by the phrase, "His love endures forever." Repetition is serving a good purpose by reminding us of who we truly are by what ultimately defines us.

As you participate in the season of Advent, allow this rhythm to cultivate a memory shaped by the Greater Exodus of God's redemption through Jesus. Remember......His love endures forever!

"The Story...As Told Through the Christian Calendar" © 2013 Christ Church Anglican  Click through to Vimeo to view original source.

Copyright © 2013 Tim Lane. All rights reserved.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.