I finished the first book of my holiday reading on the plane last night: The Circle of Seasons (Kimberlee Conway Ireton, 2008). A book on the Christian liturgical year seemed appropriate as Advent is about to slide into Christmastide.
Kimberlee goes to my church, so I recognized at least half of the names in her stories and remember hearing a good number of the sermons she references. The book is all about bringing theology into everyday life through the means of the church year, and I enjoyed reading it because I've been looking for ways to make my beliefs experiential as opposed to purely cerebral and ethical. However, it did remind me of a mild grudge I have against my church at this time of year: the careful and near-absolute exclusion of Christmas themes and music from the Advent season. IOW, "O Come, O Come Immanuel" or "Of the Father's Love Begotten" is kosher for Advent, "Joy to the World" not so much. I can't argue with the leadership's liturgical logic, but the unintended consequence for me is that I never get to sing Christmas carols anymore, at least not in a full-bodied, four-part-harmony with fellow choir members sort of way. (Which is much more fun than singing in the shower or along with a CD in the car, y'know?) You see, neither my husband nor I is a Seattle native, so we're always out of town by Christmas Eve and are rarely back in church before Epiphany ends liturgical Christmas. So I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get to sing "Joy to the World" or "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing" with a choir again, much less the more obscure Christmas carols like "Gentle Mary Laid Her Child" or "Once in Royal David's City."
But other than that gripe? Liturgy is a good thing.