It’s Advent again. I’m reading a few different devotional books geared toward the season. One of them is a book I probably wouldn’t have picked up had I seen it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble (thank you for the gift, Missy Bevins!). I’ve just begun Scott Erickson’s Honest Advent, and I like who he’s reading as he writes. In his second devotion, Erickson quotes one of my favorite writers.

“The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr sums up his spiritual practices like this: ‘The physical world is the doorway to the spiritual world.'”

For me, church works like that. Our ancestors in faith worked through centuries to structure the year with great intention. They built the 365-day cycle around three main events: the birth of Jesus (Advent/Christmas), the resurrection of Christ (Lent/Easter), and the Holy Spirit coming to abide with us (Pentecost). I am passionate about this centuries-old way of marking time because I believe it makes more physical (via our worship) the spiritual truths of our faith.

Do we have to have Advent wreaths, lessons and carols, and purple paraments and stoles? No. Do we engage our faith differently this time of year because these material things open doorways to the spiritual world? Yes.

Erickson says, “John writes that the Word (the Christ!) gave life to everything and everyone. … Put simply, the function of light is to help us seem more clearly. Jesus’ life helps us see our own lives more clearly.”

For me, church works like that. It is–you and we are–the vessel through which I feel more connected to and grounded in Jesus’ life throughout any given calendar year. Year after year, we meditate on the birth, life, work, death, and resurrection of the person at the center of our faith. It’s a physical, mental, and spiritual formation process. Our information-obsessed world teaches us that we read/see/hear something, then we know it, and then we move on to read/see/hear something else. That’s not really how knowing works. A truly well-educated person knows that knowing something requires careful attention given over time–often a lifetime.

So, we’ve rebooted and begun yet another yearlong meditation on Jesus. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to you for being part of my “physical world” that opens a “doorway to the spiritual world.”

Pastoral Ponderings is a brief, weekly devotional email from Rev. Zach Bay. You are invited to peek behind the curtain of the pastor’s study at what he is reading, thinking about, and working on this week. Pastoral Ponderings may be a set of loose threads of thought or well-wrought article. It may be only a paragraph, but it will never be more than 400 words. Feel free to click reply and write back anytime. Zach enjoys hearing from you.