“Sunday was the last Sunday of the liturgical year,” James said. “This Sunday is the first Sunday of the new year. The liturgical calendar, the church calendar, starts with Advent, with four weeks of preparation and anticipation and contemplation before Christmas.”
Helen laughed. “This sounds like the beginning of a Sunday school lecture. Just talk.”
James grimaced. “I’m sorry. When I’m talking to non-liturgy people, I fall into that pattern. Let’s start over. What was your question?”
“I’ll take your ‘non-liturgy people’ phrase as a compliment,” Helen said. “I wanted to know why are you reading Mark 13 for the first Sunday in December? Shouldn’t you be reading from Luke 1?”
“Because the best way to prepare for a celebration of the coming of Christ is to think of the larger story, the big picture. And bigger story is the coming of Jesus as the king, not as the baby.”
Helen shrugged. “I understand that big picture. But it doesn’t fit right now. To read Jesus talking about the sun being darkened and the stars falling and angels gathering chosen people feels like the opposite of what we expect at Christmas. The star over Bethlehem, the angels singing to shepherds, peace and goodwill.”
James started to speak, but Helen held her hand up.
“I know these are the words of Jesus and that they are true and that they are part of the story. But they feel out of place. That’s all.”
James nodded. “I understand completely. That why I was explaining that this is the beginning of the new year. The stories from Mark 13 and Isaiah 64 aren’t supposed to be Christmasy. They give us a moment to remember that the baby didn’t come to be a baby. They give us a little grounding as we are waiting for a parking space that we’re not living for a present or for the present.”
He took a sip of coffee.
“And they remind us that God is the one defining the story of Christmas, not the sales.”
I’m not sure who James and Helen are, by the way. They just showed up and started talking as I was sitting in the family room. But I appreciated the conversation.