OLIN'S NOTES: (Reflections from an ancient priest at 4:00 AM!)
Nehemiah is a great study for the beginning of the church year:
I. Each new year is a time for returning to a renewal of our relationship with God.
A. Often, the challenges of life seem to cause us to drift away from God, rather than becoming more strongly one with God.
1. This can be for many reasons: life events, we lose our focus and drift away, complacency, or lack of leadership.
2. God calls us from our slavery to other "kingdoms" back to the place God has given us. In Nehemiah, it is a physical place - Jerusalem - that becomes the center of the spiritual place of renewing the people's relationship with God.
3. The strict instructions God gives about the dimensions of the Temple, for example, are not unlike those a homeowner might give one's contractor for building ( or in this case, rebuilding) a home.
B. It is our choice whether we choose to continue to drift away or to turn more openly to God.
II. As we journey from Christmas into each new year, the church seasons of the year offer us a chance to renew our relationship with God, and to deepen our trust in God's desire to have a deeper relationship with us.
III. For example: Advent I Collect leads us through Advent to Christmas (the season in which we awake anew to the reality of God's coming into our world out of God's eternal love for us.
IV.Through our "participation" in Christ's baptism, we are "re-baptized" and have the chance to renew or deepen our relationship with God through Christ in this new year.
V. This is our EPIPHANY, our awaking to the depth of God's love for us and our renewal or deepening of our love for God.
VI. This leads us into LENT, the season in which we support each other in letting go of those things which have caused us to distance ourselves from God and we prepare (or are prepared) to burst forth (in spring) renewed in our deeper trust in God.
VII. Now, we burst forth anew (or renewed) and we are raised as Christ is on Easter to live the life to which we are called.