November was another good month on the running front. While I was not able to hit 100 miles again this month, I was able to surpass several benchmarks. My total mileage for the month of November was 88.6. This allowed me to surpass my November average of 84.66 and my 2016 monthly average of 86.67. This brings me to 953 miles for 2016, which is already 100 miles more than I ran last year. This really helps me set my goals for December.
Of the seven years I have been running, I have only surpassed 100 miles three times, most of those when I was doing some serious mileage. 100 miles would be really nice, but it may not be realistic. I need 47 miles to get to 1,000 miles – if I do that I would pass last December at 45 miles. My goal is to run at least 50 miles. My December average is 74. That would be really cool if I made that. I would like to surpass my monthly average for the year – as already mentioned that is 86.67. If I do, I would end up with over 1,040 miles for the year which would be better than 2009, 2010 and 2015. This would also put me in great shape to start the new year.
That’s about all I have – as always, I am pressing on!
One of the things that I have wanted to do for several years now is to write about the church year. I have written about it from time to time, but I wanted to make it a Wednesday feature. This feature will look at the various aspects of the church year – primarily the seasons but also much of the symbolism. I wanted to do this in my current context of being the lead pastor of our church, instead of the worship person.
For those of you who don’t know, just like we have a calendar that runs from January to December and we mark the seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall – just as we have fiscal calendars in the church – the church has a calendar that is based on seasons – not the meteorological seasons but the church seasons. These seasons are based on the life of Jesus. The church has been following these seasons since around the 5th century. In the Wesleyan church, we have not typically followed the church year except for Christmas and Easter. Around 20 to 30 years ago, Advent was introduced, mainly with the Advent candles and it tends to be an introduction to Christmas. Over the last 10 to 15 years, I have seen an interest in Lent. I had always heard about Lent but dismissed it – as many do now – as a Catholic thing. What I have discovered is that it is much more. Lent is simply the Latin word for Spring – but it has a much more deeper meaning than that.
I do find it interesting that for a church that believes in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have essentially ignored Pentecost – when the Holy Spirit came upon the church and gave them the power to live holy lives and perform acts of service. Usually Pentecost gets ignored because of Mother’s Day or Memorial Day or now Graduation Day. Not that there is anything wrong with celebrating those days – but Pentecost is important.
As I’ve mentioned, the church year is divided into seasons:
- Advent – the season of Advent starts off the church year. We are most familiar with the advent wreath and the candles – more about this next week when we talk about Advent in more detail. Advent is a season of preparation for the arrival of Jesus. The word Advent means “arrival.” During this season we prepare our hearts – we prepare our hearts fot Christ’s first advent – when he was placed in a manger in Bethlehem – and we prepare our hearts for Christ’s second advent – an arrival that was promised 2,000 years ago. For over 2,000 years Christians have been awaiting the arrival of the second coming of Jesus – when Jesus splits the eastern sky and gathers his people and takes them home. Advent is the first of two seasons of preparation – both seasons are designated by the color purple – which symbolizes penitence. Over recent decades however, there is a trend to use blue for advent which symbolizes the royalty of the coming King Jesus.
- Christmas – This is a twelve day season from December 25 (for many December 24 would also be considered to be in the season of Christmas. This is a celebration season. The two primary celebration seasons are designated by white – the color which symbolizes purity and Jesus. We celebrate that Jesus is Emmanuel – God in the flesh who came to dwell among his creation. We call this the Incarnation. Christmas lasts from December 25 to January 5 – and thus the song the Twelve Days of Christmas – meaning the twelve days after – not before. Christmas has a minor feast day – called Holy Name of Jesus. It would have been the day that Jesus was circumcised and given his name.
- Epiphany – Epiphany falls on January 6th. It is the celebration of when the Magi (or Wise Men) came to visit Jesus. Some traditions celebrate it with King’s Cake – which has a miniature baby baked into it. The Magi brought three gifts on their visit to the Christ child. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Gold denotes that Jesus is the King of Kings. Frankincense denotes that Jesus is the great High Priest. Myrrh shows us that Jesus will die for our sins. The word Epiphany designates an “a-ha” moment. It is that moment when the lights come on. It is also designated by the color white. Epiphany shows us that Jesus was born for the whole world and that he has been made manifest to the whole world.
- Ordinary Time – following Epiphany we come into our first section of Ordinary Time. As I’ve said before, Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary. It actually comes from the word “ordinal” which means counted time. During this season we “count” the Sundays after Epiphany. There are several major days during this season. The first is the Baptism of Jesus, which falls on the first Sunday after Epiphany. We are reminded that Jesus was baptized – perhaps to show that he was one of us – meaning that while he was still divine – he was still fully human. He identified with us. The second major day is Transfiguration Sunday. This Sunday falls on the last Sunday before Lent. For the majority of the season the color is green – signifying growth – however on this two major Sundays, the color is white – again, symbolizing Jesus and his purity.
- Lent – begins the next season, and as I’ve already mentioned, Lent is the Latin word for Spring. I love the season of Lent because it reminds us that we are human – we are not God and that we are all in need of revival. I often refer to Lent as spring training for believers. It is a time of preparation – 40 days – (remember Advent) for Easter. It’s color is purple – it is a somber season as we remember that we are sinners saved by grace. Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of leading an Ash Wednesday Service. This reminds us that we are dust and to dust we will return. It is a time when we deal with our sins. We always read Psalm 51 – David’s confession following his sin with Bathsheba. Lent leads us into what I believe is the most powerful part of the church year.
- Holy Week – This week goes from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. During this week, we are reminded of the great sacrifice that Jesus paid for us. At the end of the week, there are several opportunities for worship. Maundy Thursday, which gets its name from the new commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples at that last Passover meal. Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another. We have done various options on Maundy Thursday – all which are very meaningful. Good Friday is also another powerful day – it is the day that we remember that Jesus died. I think it is important to remember that Jesus died – I love the somber worship of Good Friday. Too many believers want to skip right to Easter Sunday – but we need – like the disciples did – to wait in silence. For one I think it makes the celebration on Sunday so much more. Holy week uses scarlet – symbolizing the blood that was shed for our sins.
- Easter – Really the ultimate celebration of the church year. It is a 50 day season – not just one day. We celebrate that Jesus rose from the grave – the ultimate conquerer. Jesus conquered sin, death, hell, and the grave. For the Sunday’s following Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Why keep such a celebration to one day. As you can see the color is Gold – symbolizing the King of Kings – on the subsequent Sundays, we use white – again the color of Jesus.
- Pentecost – 50 days after Easter we celebrate the birthday of the church. The Holy Spirit came upon the church in Jerusalem and the world has never been the same.
- Ordinary Time – This brings us to another much longer season of Ordinary Time. Again we are not preparing – not celebrating – but simply growing – growing in Christ. This season of Ordinary time counts as the season after Pentecost. The first Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. We celebrate the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is also All Saints Sunday – November 1 – where we remember those who have gone on before – think the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12. The last Sunday of the church year is Reign of Christ Sunday. It is similar to Easter in that we celebrate Jesus eternal reign. We celebrate His Lordship. It is a great way to end the year and bring us back to Advent where we remember he is coming again to reign.
That is the church year in a nutshell. Over the next few Wednesdays, we will look at Advent in more detail.
A very appropriate piece for this first Monday of Advent. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
As I write tonight it has been a good week. We started out with some snow last Sunday and then two blustery cold days. Since then the weather has moderated a bit. This morning we woke up to snow on the hilltops. It was beautiful. As I wrote in my Running Update, I am trying to run at least a mile every day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. On my normal rest days, I plan on running just a mile – a half-mile up the road and back. Over the last few days – while at my mom and dads, I ran more hill work than I am used to, but that was good because it made me stronger. But enough about running…the weather is supposed to be nice for the next couple of days – a little extended fall up here in the Northern Tier.
On Tuesday night of last week, Pam and I co-preached a message called “Peace and Thanksgiving.” The YouTube link is [here.] The message went well and we had many of our core McCrae Brook people at the Otto-Eldred Community Thanksgiving Service. This is part of the Otto-Eldred Ministerial and Pam and I and McCrae Brook are part of. Before we did that, we had to go pick up James at Houghton. It was good to have James home for Thanksgiving.
On Wednesday morning, we headed down the road to Allentown to spend Thanksgiving with my mom and dad. It was good to be home and we got to do some local shopping and get so some places that we don’t have around here. On Thursday my aunt, uncle, and one of my cousins and her husband came. We had a good time visiting and playing music.
Friday we went shopping but avoided most of the crazy Black Friday shopping – we didn’t go out early. It was a good time – we even got to go Chick-fil-A which was a treat. Yesterday we headed back to Eldred and got ready for worship today.
We had a good service today as today was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means the arrival of someone important. Today I preached on the importance of preparing our hearts for the arrival [video link]- both the first (Christmas) and the second (Christ’s Second Coming) Advents. As part of the service, we received communion – it was a special time and the Holy Spirit was evident.
This afternoon, we took James back to college and then this evening we Facetimed some good friends of ours in Virginia who are headed to El Salvador this week. We prayed for them and got caught up and started making plans to go visit next spring.
That’s about all I have for this week. Have a great week!
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit
us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I can’t believe that November is coming to a close. This month has been more difficult than the last couple of months because the weather is changing here in Eldred. It is much more seasonable and that means cold. At the moment I am about 71 miles for the month. I want to at least make it to 85 – I have four days to do it. It’s been several years since I tried this and I am going to try it again, weather permitting – I want to go on a running streak – which means running at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That might help me to my goal of 85 miles in the month of December. It will be different this time because I am not at a job where I am constantly on my feet and leaning out the drive thru window. Maybe this time I can complete it and not get hurt. On Thursday, I’ll update you on how I did this month.
First Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2016
Romans 13:11-14 | New Living Translation (NLT)
This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Here we are at the beginning of a new church year. This year we are on cycle A of the readings. Today’s scripture isn’t what most people think of when they think of Advent. For most of us Advent is connected with Christmas – and there is a connection with Christmas, but Advent is NOT YET Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. The word advent simply means the arrival or coming of something. In the context of Christmas we think of it as preparing our hearts for the first arrival of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem. In a larger context, it is about preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus – the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Paul reminds us that we need to live our lives with urgency – for the time is short. Time is running out. We are reminded – both sinners and saints – that now is the time – that we should wake up and get ready. There are not many of those who wouldn’t lift a finger to at least decorate a little for Christmas. While we don’t go “all out” in decorations, we do put up a tree – it is part of the preparation. Here Paul is telling us – get ready – get prepared because Jesus is coming again – his second advent is just around the corner. Prepare your hearts for his arrival. Decorate your lives for the King.
Thanksgiving Day, USA (November 24, 2016)
Philippians 4:4-9 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
These words from Paul remind us that peace is connected with thanksgiving. For more thoughts on the subject, here is Pam and I preaching at the Otto-Eldred Community Thanksgiving Service on Tuesday evening.