This post first appeared in Faith’s Foundations, the newsletter of Faith Lutheran Church in Three Lakes, WI.
This has always been, and I suspect will always be, a busy time of year.
We’ve just come out of the great “Christmas” marathon in both the church and secular culture: Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November; Black Friday; Small Business Saturday; Cyber Monday; four straight weeks of Advent, the season of waiting and preparation; National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day; Ashura; Mawlid; Hanukah; the Winter Solstice; Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; Holy Innocents’ Day, commemorating the massacre of the children recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew; Kwanzaa; New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. With all of these holidays happening within about a month or so, it can be overwhelming!
And yet, as we enter a new year, the holidays just keep on coming. There is always something to look forward to! Take the month of January, for example. On the liturgical calendar, there are a number of lesser festivals and commemorations:
January 1 – Name of Jesus
January 6 – Epiphany of Our Lord
(this is actually a major one)
January 11 – Baptism of Our Lord
(another major one)
January 19 – Confession of Peter
January 26 – Conversion of Paul
That’s five liturgical holidays—holy days—in just one month on the Lutheran calendar. Other churches celebrate many more lesser festivals and commemorations (and of course, many celebrate less).
At first glance, even these five holidays look like too many. We are used to celebrating holidays with grand displays, with big parties, with lots of food, and lots and lots of work! Holidays are hard!
But I wonder… what if? What if holidays, holy days, are about more than joy and celebrations, big gatherings, and work? What if commemorating, remembering these events is more about calming down than building up?
There are joyous holy days in the liturgical calendar, like the Nativity of Our Lord, or the Resurrection of Our Lord, or the Day of Pentecost. But there are also quieter, more reflective holy days, like Ash Wednesday, the Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil), and All Saints’ Day.
In the church, we recognize and realize that life is about more than just the happy parties. It’s more than just feeling good and pretending everything is alright. Sometimes, things aren’t alright. Sometimes, we need to step back from the false front we put up so that everyone will think we’re okay. Sometimes, we need to mourn and be comforted as well as laugh and be joyous.
This upcoming year, we will have plenty of opportunities to do both. We will celebrate, in our church and in the world, great events and accomplishments made by communities and people. We will lament losses in our community, tragic events, and moments of sadness that unite us in our suffering.
All of these days, all of these moments, are holy and good—even the sad ones. It is my hope, then, that you will take time this year to pause and reflect during these holy moments; to laugh and to sing joyfully, to cry and lament; and to praise God in all things, at all times.
Featured Image: This is a photo of the building over the Cave of the Patriarchs, which traditionally is thought to house the tombs of Abramah, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. It is an important site for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.