November 26, 2020

Finding Ourselves in Jesus

Maesta, Duccio di Buoninsegna

Finding Ourselves in Jesus
Why We Observe the Christian Year

• • •

During this Advent season, I will be using Walter Wangerin Jr.’s book, Preparing for Jesus, for daily readings to prepare my heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

As I was looking at it the other day, I was taken immediately by Wangerin’s testimony of what keeping the Christian Year has meant in his own life. He grew up in the church and has experienced walking through the church calendar every year of his life.

Before we look at that, let me say a word about the Christian Year itself, which begins this Sunday, Nov. 27.

For those of you who might be new to Internet Monk, I assert that the practice of keeping the Christian Year within a church community may be the single most helpful habit you can develop in order to experience what our founder Michael Spencer called a “Jesus-shaped” life.

Why? Because the Christian Year (also called the Church Year or the liturgical calendar) is an annual, Christian way of keeping time and remembering the story of Jesus.

The Christian Year…

  • Begins in Advent, the season of preparing for Christ’s coming at Christmas,
  • Commemorates Christmastide, the season of celebrating the Incarnation of Jesus,
  • Marks Epiphany, the season of recognizing how God’s glory was made manifest in the life and ministry of Jesus,
  • Keeps Lent, the season of remembering Jesus’ journey to the Cross and his call for us to take up our cross and follow him,
  • Walks us through Holy Week and the events of Jesus’ Passion,
  • Commemorates Eastertide, the season of celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and the new creation he has inaugurated,
  • Recalls Pentecost, when the Risen Lord poured out the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Church,
  • Leads us through the Season after Pentecost (or, Ordinary Time) when we learn to walk in the Spirit day by day as God’s people.

Here’s Walter Wangerin’s testimony about what observing this calendar annually has done for him:

Throughout my life it has been my good fortune to experience the story of Jesus with every turning of every year. The number of the years of my unfolding age is also the number of times I’ve traveled with my Lord from his birth to his death to his triumphant rising again.

And because the story has been more than told to me; because it has surrounded me like a weather; because it comprehends me as a house does its inhabitants or a mother does her child, the life of Christ has shaped mine. My very being has been molded in him.

And because my response to this story has been more than an act of mind, more than study and scrutiny; because the story invites my entering in and personal participation; because I have experienced the life of Christ with deeper intensity than I have my own daily affairs, the Gospel story now interprets for me the world’s story. It is through the Gospel narrative, as through a window or a template, that I see all things, that I relate to them and come to know them.

In every sense of the phrase: I find myself in Jesus.

As I enter his story, I enter him. As his life embraces mine, he embraces me, and I am his.

Preparing for Jesus, Walter Wangerin, Jr.

If you would like to read more details about this path of following Jesus, check out the books we recommend on the iMonk Bulletin Board in the blog’s right hand column, and check out our series of posts from last November called, “Church Year Spirituality.” You can find those in the Archives, Nov. 2010.


  1. Ch Mike,

    Somewhere N.T. Wright calls Ascension “the forgotten feast”. I hope the suggested books say something substantial about the Ascension. It’s always been of great significance to me, and Wright opened up that significance for me even more. Shortest exposition and I think the one easiest to find is here:

    A blessed Nativity season to you.


    • Yes, Dana, good point. Ascension is part of the climax of Eastertide, the enthronement of the risen Christ. In my experience, Ascension comes into focus more clearly when we celebrate Easter as a season within the annual cycle rather than just a day. The Great Fifty Days of Easter not only begin with the great feast of the Resurrection, they also build from that high point toward the even higher vista of the Ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost. Too many of us blow all our horns on Easter Sunday and forget that it is just a beginning.

  2. Amen Amen Amen…….We are all called to be the Body of Christ in the world….to allow Christ to live in and through us, thereby doing our part in bringing about heaven on earth. Thank you for the timely reminder.

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries

  3. Walter Wangerin, Jr. Thank you Chaplain Mike for letting us know about this book. Wangerin’s book on Paul is one of the most profound books I have ever read. I will be ordering a copy of “Preparing” immediately.

  4. must have received the invisible i-monk memo, because i started reading this book yesterday!

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    The Christian Year…

    Ends the Sunday before Advent, with the Feast of Christ the King. Prefiguring the Second Coming, this cycles right into Advent to blend the Second Coming with the re-enactment of the First, and the cycle continues.

  6. Over the years I have read and pondered Walter Wangerin in books and in The Lutheran. Several years ago I read that he had inoperable cancer and mourned my loss. Well he is still here and adding to my faith. His article ” Half a lung, half a lung onward” speaks to my heart. I like his idea of going to Ephiphany makes sense to me. Christmas is more than just one day .

  7. If Advent is going to be celebrated here at the I- Monk….are we going to get those little calendars that have chocolate in them?