While we were driving to worship we told our son that today (November 30, 2015) was the first Sunday of Advent which means this is the first day of the new year in the Christian year. We then said, "Happy New Year!" in a way that was far too enthusiastic for a six year old boy at just after 7am.
More puzzled than excited, he asked, "So what year is it now?"
We tried to explain that the Church year does not have numbers like the "regular year". He was puzzled and asked, "Then how do you know how old you are?"
"I guess you don't ever know how old you are in the Church." We replied.
My son is like most of us in the West who view time as a line. There is a start, there is a middle and there is an end. And perhaps that is how time works in some ways. In other ways time is less like a line and more like a circle. Our sisters and brothers in the East have a better grasp on this idea than we do but the Church talks about time as both a line ("In the beginning...") AND as a circle (through the calendar).
Advent, the season we have just entered, is spoken about as the "start" of the Christian year. And to a degree this is true. But it really is the same "start" that we have had for hundreds of years. We tell the story of the birth of God in Jesus and tell stories of humility, hope, and anticipation.
We may never really know how old we are in the church, and there is a beauty in that. We all are as innocent as children and as wise as an elder. We all have the ability to die to ourselves and be born again. So I say to you, happy new year and welcome back to where we started.