I surprised myself this year when, without thinking, I referred to December—and the start of Advent—as the new year. The words just came tumbling out of my mouth—telling a friend I couldn’t meet for lunch until the “new year.”
When I started observing the church calendar about a decade ago, the notion that time itself could be an entrée into worship, a retelling of the Christ story, felt like a magical discovery. I was new to liturgy and adopted each liturgical practice intentionally and, at first, a bit awkwardly, fumbling over when to cross myself in church and stumbling through the prayers of the people. But, over time, liturgical practices become less self-conscious and more subconscious. What surprised me this year was how normal the calendar has become to me, how engrained. Somewhere along the way, my new year’s day became the first Sunday of Advent, no longer January 1.
There is something of a liturgical renaissance in evangelicalism. Evangelicals are rediscovering liturgy, and devotees like me geek out about it like some people geek out about Apple or Star Wars or craft beer. Liturgical practices are enduring and ancient (like craft beer, actually), but they’re also trendy. Many of us who’ve embraced liturgy have a newcomer’s zeal. Even I get tired of our liturgical triumphalism—we can talk like the Book of Common Prayer or Orthodox prayer beads or icons or the chanted mass can cure all of the church’s problems. We are self-consciously liturgical. We’re soppily falling in love with ancient forms of worship. And we talk about it a lot.
But liturgy, at its best, is more like the tracks of the train than the whistle. It’s silent ...1
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