Driving an old truck has heightened my attention to rhythms. At about 60mph, my 1995 Chevrolet develops a soft rhythmic shudder in the rear end. The tires and suspension are in good shape, but the truck just doesn’t seem to like to move at certain speeds. So, I slow down or speed up just enough to bring the ride back into harmony. Or at least back into what passes for harmony in this particular vehicle.
Our lives can develop shimmies and shakes from time to time, too. Something gets a little out of balance, and we know we need recalibration to be our best selves.
Ardelle and I came to the Episcopal Church together during Advent about 20 years ago, and the practice of observing the church year was an essential part of what attracted us. In prior years, we had felt dragged into Christmas against our wills – or at least dragged at a pace we hadn’t chosen. We wanted a little help slowing down, paying attention, bringing life into a better balance during a time of year when everything seems to conspire against doing so.
We’ve been hooked on Advent and the seasons that follow ever since. Not only does the liturgical year carry us through the Christian story, but it can also become a kind of sacred rhythm in our lives, a backbeat to our prayers, if you will.
Since Halloween is now past (which means the retail world is flashing the impending arrival of Christmas everywhere flashing is allowed) you may have noticed that Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year. This is a very occasional occurrence that can seem like an annoying shimmy in the calendar.
What it means is that at 10 a.m. Dec. 24, we will celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent. And we will return the same day for Christmas Eve, at 3:30, 5:30, and 10:30 p.m. What I hope the convergence of Advent’s end and Christmas’ beginning does is to make the shape of the liturgical year more conspicuous to us, reminding us of the ways we’re shaped by the whole story of redemption as it unfolds through the seasons. There’s nothing like a little shudder in the back wheel to jolt us back into attention, right?
But there are other offerings we’re adding for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany as well. On Monday, Dec. 4, we will begin opening Calvary Church for prayer at noon each weekday. Four days a week we will offer the simple Noonday Prayer service from the prayer book, with time for silence embedded within it. The service will only take 10-15 minutes, but the church will remain open for prayer and meditation afterward for a time. Each Wednesday at noon, instead of Noonday Prayer, we will offer Holy Eucharist, with prayers for healing. And we are also offering a 15-minute Vespers service at 6 p.m. Wednesday nights. Those who choose to attend can still eat with the Koinonia community at 5:30 p.m., and will be finished by 6:15 p.m. to move on to choirs or classes or other gatherings.
What all of these services share is a relationship to the life-giving rhythms of prayer that we’ve received through our Anglican tradition. Maybe pausing for prayer in the Calvary chancel some weekday will provide just the nourishment you need to go back to your home or workplace refreshed and readied to extend the love of Jesus to someone who needs it, knowing that someone may well be you. Or maybe just the knowledge that Calvary’s doors are open to downtown Memphis for prayers each noonday will be a source of peace to you, a reminder that your prayers are always held by the prayers of other people in other places.
I hope you join us for Advent IV and for one of our Christmas Eve services, and again at 10 a.m. on Christmas Day if you choose. Maybe you’ll be able to join us at noon on a weekday or for a Wednesday night as well. But what I pray for most is that even during the frenetic season of Advent and Christmas, our life together as Calvary will help each of us find wholeness and a life-giving rhythm in our lives. Since my very first Advent, I’ve only become more convinced that the possibility of such abundant living is worth resetting my whole calendar for.
Mondays at 12:05 p.m. – Noonday Prayer
Tuesdays at 12:05 p.m. – Noonday Prayer
Wednesdays at 12:05 p.m. – Holy Eucharist: Rite II with Prayers for Healing
Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. (During Koinonia) – Vespers
Thursdays at 12:05 p.m. – Noonday Prayer
Fridays at 12:05 p.m. – Noonday Prayer