According to the civil calendar, New Year’s Day is always the first day of the month of January. So, according to the civil calendar, 2022 will end on December 31 and New Year’s Day 2023 will fall on January 1.
The church or liturgical calendar is different. According to it, New Year’s Day is always the first Sunday of Advent. Moreover, this first Sunday of Advent always falls on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This means the date on which a new year starts shifts a little each year. According to the liturgical calendar, New Year’s Day 2022—the first Sunday of Advent—fell on November 28, 2021. New Year’s Day 2023—the next first Sunday of Advent—will fall on November 27, 2022.
Why bother noting this distinction? Following the liturgical, rather than the civil, calendar might provide us with one way of witnessing to our freedom in Christ.
We might summarize the Good News of Jesus by affirming that Jesus is the truth who sets us free to love and leads us to eternal life. Jesus speaks to us true words which free us from the causes and consequences of evil. Causes of evil from which Jesus frees us include false Olympian gods like Bacchus the god of consumption.
One way we might witness to our freedom for Jesus and from Bacchus is by structuring our time in relation to Jesus rather than to that false god. One way we might do this is by thinking of the days, weeks, months, and seasons of the year in relation to the life and teachings of Jesus. That is what the liturgical calendar helps us to do.
November 27, 2022 will be the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of the new liturgical year. By thinking of the month of December in terms of Advent, we prepare ourselves to observe Christmas in an edifying (“upbuilding”) way. We recall what it meant for us when Jesus came to us for the first time. We also open our minds and hearts to what it might mean for us today for Jesus to come to us again individually as Christians and together as church.
Our Olympian culture, of course, encourages us to be free from Jesus and for Bacchus. It encourages us to define the meaning of life in terms of physical comfort and convenience. It encourages us to prepare for Christmas by indulging in conspicuous consumption. It encourages us to measure the love others have for us, and so their importance to us, in terms of the number and monetary value of the gifts they give us on Christmas Day.
Jesus knows there is a better way for us to live. Regarding the first Sunday of Advent as New Year’s Day, and Advent as the first season of the year, is an edifying way of being free for Jesus and preparing for his coming to us again.
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