The lure of a fresh start is ubiquitous. The idea that we are not tied to our past, that we are not destined to repeat the mistakes we had made, the idea that change and redemption is possible, and if only we could make a fresh start without our past following us, we could live into who we are supposed to be.
This is why we make New Year’s resolutions. A new year is a fresh start. The image for the old year is an very old man, with a long white beard, slumped over a cane. Conversely, the new year is a small child who has their whole life ahead of them, no past to follow them. So we make resolutions to do things, to be better people. Resolutions that will help us to be the people we want to be. We make resolutions because we can, in a way, start afresh. Like many people, this year I will resolve to lose weight (again), and I will resolve to stop procrastinating (again), and I will resolve to be more organized (again).
I like fresh starts, and I will guess that you do too.
This is the beauty of Advent. Advent provides a time for the church year to start over, but also for each of us to refocus our lives, both individually and as a body. Advent, of course, is more than simply a season in the church year, Advent is a orientation of life in which we are always standing in the already (Christ has already come and redemption has begun), looking forward to the not yet (Christ has not yet returned and redemption is not yet accomplished). It is fitting, then, that the first season in the Church calendar is one that models what the rest of the year is to be — always living in the tension that the reign of God has come, but has not yet fully arrived.
In Deeply Loved, Keri Wyatt Kent discusses the practice of “Review of the Day” which is a recovery of the ancient practice of the Examen of Consciousness. Far from simply ruminating on our shortcomings, a practice of retrospective remembering where God was faithful even in times in which we were not; where God showed up even in times when we did not. This daily look on the past day solely exists to help us tomorrow. We only have a future because we have a past. Several times in scripture, we are told to remember. We remember the past because it illumines the path before us.
Advent is a season of repentance, which requires looking back, but looking back only so that we can move forward. It is so fitting that Advent is a time in which we examine the past year, not only individually, but corporately as well.
I look back at my past year and I can see God working, but I also see places where I didn’t realize that God was working. I see times in which I was faithless, times that I would love to do over. I can see times in which I was so wrapped up in the hurry of life, that I have forgotten to pay any attention to God, and I can see where, regardless, God continues to pay attention to me.
I am sure I am not alone here.
Advent is about new beginnings. Advent brings a fresh start. We look back so that we can move forward.
We live in the already, and we remember the already because it points us toward the not yet, and this is where the good news is in all of this.
So this Advent, not only am I slowing down, I am also looking back, because this is the only way that we can look forward.
This post is in the Deeply Loved Advent Blog Hop Series hosted by Angie Mabry-Nauta
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