The church year begins with Advent. Just as the earth is ruled by seasons in order that food and sustenance may be found in due season, so too the Christian church is ruled by that which she receives sustenance from, Christ.
The church year is not something my generation really thinks is a big deal. In fact the only time the church year has any effect on modern churches is Easter and Christmas. Other than those days, modern churches have little or no interest in the other seasons of the church. One reason may be because those days are the days that the offerings and attendance are highest. Maybe just a coincidence, but I'm just pointing out the obvious.
Back to my point…The church year is ruled by the one thing that gives us life and that is Christ himself. The church year follows the events of the life of Christ. That is what our year centers on. Pagans began to worship the earth because they see the earth as the most important thing in the universe. Humans focus their life and time on what matters most. When our focus is no longer on God in Christ Jesus on the cross, something will take his place. This is why "You shall have no other gods" is the first commandment. We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.
We however will never rightly focus on Christ and his life. Fallen creation doesn't by default center or believe in Christ to be the source of life. The earth has its calendar, the church has her calendar. Jesus even uses the seasons as a teaching tool for teaching us that we need life from him. The seasons of the earth teach us where we stand in regard to the Law of God.
When you look at the world you know that nothing is permanent. Even the big redwood trees, the oldest living organisms on earth can come to a sudden death with forest fire or disease. Floods and famine remind us that this earth is definitely fleeting. Looking at the changing world we would indeed have reason to worry. And many people make large sums of money playing on these fears. People put their money where their heart is.
The Christian church though has reason to rejoice in a fleeting world. Our life is centered and focused on the very thing that will never pass away, God's word of salvation in Jesus Christ. This is something creation will never teach us. The work of God is evident in creation. The love of God is found at the cross, "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9-10.
We are so different from the world in where we place our trust that we have a different calendar to express this hope. Some who are hostile to "manmade traditions" try to say that it doesn't matter if we follow the church year. They are correct. It ultimately doesn't matter, but it speaks volumes when a church turns on its own and rebels against the very thing that has pointed many generations toward Christ. A family doesn't have to have dinner together to remain a family. A family doesn't have to celebrate Christmas together. But being together around a meal strengthens the family bond and they grow in love toward each other. The individual family members can survive on their own, but who in their right mind in our current societal filth wants to do anything that breaks unity?
St. Paul reminds us that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33), and he tells us to “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). ‘Everything is permissible’ --but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ --but not everything is constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
The Christian church thrives on unity and when the church thrives in unity the rest of the world benefits from our love. If there is anything that causes disunity between you and a neighbor resolve the problem. Repent and confess your sins. Hear the gospel together. Know that your sin and the sin of your neighbor has been taken away. Why live as enemies, Christ has made you brothers and sisters.
This is a special treasure of Advent, the opportunity to examine our lives according to God's word. Advent offers us repentance as a gift. Advent, which means "to come" teaches us three realities that we only behold by faith:
First, we remember the longing of God's people as they waited for the Messiah to "advent", to free them from their bondage to sin and death.
Second, the Messiah has come and freed the whole world from sin and death. Now we believe he comes to us in his Word and Sacrament to give us forgiveness.
Third, we believe he will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.
As we follow the church year we follow the life of Christ which was for us. During Advent we intentionally reflect on how we rightly wait for Christ's return in repentance. We are given the opportunity to slow down the Christmas rush. We hear why the child will be born to die for us. We get to join with the church of all ages in a common reflection on why Christmas is indeed a celebration.