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This month, along with Redeemer members, our students are observing Advent in our daily chapel services. This has included a greater variety of colors adorning our altar and pastors, and a proliferation of saints’ days. While many Christians for centuries have observed this season of the church calendar, today many do not. So why do we, especially as Protestants?

One reason is respect for our “fathers and mothers” in the faith. Just as we honor and learn about America’s founders, despite their human imperfections, so too we honor and learn about Christianity’s great men and women. Like us, they are saints, another word for Christians. They were not perfect, but they were faithful, just as we hope to be. They established Advent and its practices, and many of their stories cluster around the church calendar at this time.

Today we still sing “Yankee Doodle” and “America the Beautiful,” songs written centuries ago, to remember and learn about our patriotic heritage. So, similarly, by singing hymns that date all the way back to the third century, and reciting Psalms and other portions of the Bible during our morning services, do we learn about and remember the words and deeds that have come to us in our Christian heritage. We are singing the very words the Bible tells us the angels in heaven sing, and doing the very actions that great cloud of witnesses has done before us. This is a way to affirm we are part of the Christian family.

We also remember stories with more and less historical veracity about the saints who have gone before us, just as we retell, for example, the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree. This is one importance of all biography, literature, and myth-telling: to learn from example about eternal truth. As Jesus showed by teaching through parables, besides scientific knowledge and other ways of knowing, humans also understand great truths through story and allegory.

Recognizing this has driven a trend back to the church calendar among a variety of expressions of the Christian faith, including more liturgically minded Christians such as Catholics and Lutherans but also those used to more contemporary worship.

There’s the bestselling Christian mystic Ann Voskamp, for example, whose Advent book is “The Greatest Gift.” Others include these evangelical mom bloggers, who talked about their shift towards Advent in a podcast; and this Baptist-turned Anglican writer explains how it made her family Christmases once again Christ-centered. Recently, Reformed theologian James K. A. Smith discussed his new book, which explores how what we do habitually — he uses the term “cultural liturgies” — shapes how we think and who we are.

They, like we in our academic instruction, find value in history, tradition, biography, and cultivating habits aimed at virtue. Together, as Christians today connected with Christians before us and to come, we are exploring a question Christians have asked since Jesus came to earth: How, then, shall we live? Our religious heritage has some answers to that question that all Christians should engage. One of them is a church season called Advent.

A blessed final few days of Advent to you and yours, dear friends.

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