November marks the end of one worship year with Christ the King Sunday, and the beginning of another worship year with Advent.
The title of this article is a play on words. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end—and this month gives us the opportunity to celebrate with the end and work back to a celebration of the beginning. The worship calendar gives us constant reminders that all our worship centers on Jesus. We can’t make him the center of the center—he already is. The GCI worship calendar keeps us focused on him. So let’s start with the end.
Christ the King Sunday
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NRSV)
We end the worship year with a celebration that everything we hope and pray for culminates in the establishment of the kingdom of God. This kingdom was determined before the foundation of the earth. Creation itself “awaits with eager longing” because it “will be set free from its bondage to decay.” (See Romans 8:19-23.) This is the when the Acts of the Apostles comes to fullness. This is the time every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. This is the time when there will be no more tears and no more death. This will be a time of full reconciliation with Father, Son and Spirit. This is when we can enjoy the fullness of our relationship with the Triune God.
This is a day we celebrate that the lame will walk again, the deaf will hear, the blind will see and the mute will be able to sing praises along with us. This is the day all Christ followers look forward to and pray will come soon. It’s a time of celebration.
The week after this celebration we begin the worship calendar all over again with Advent—four weeks looking forward to the incarnation, when God became one of us. It seems odd to celebrate the end right before celebrating the beginning, but there is wisdom in being reminded annually of the cycle of worship. With Advent, we are reminded how much we need the kingdom we just celebrated the previous week. The world is in despair and we need God’s kingdom. We live in darkness and we very much need the light that came into the world.
Advent reminds us of the long period of waiting. “I can’t wait for 2020 to end” has been a theme many have shared on social media. We are still amid a worldwide pandemic and waiting for Covid-19 to end. This year was full of protests and riots across the world. It was a year of an ugly election cycle in the U.S. and we won’t know the outcome even as this article comes online. Many have lost jobs and many others have lost family members due to the virus. It is no wonder there is a cry for the year to end. We desperately want some good news, and we get impatient with waiting.
How often do we start our prayers with, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and end up crying “How long, O Lord?” The scripture I quoted above tells us even creation groans in anticipation. The world is full of darkness; it has been since the fall. But we know the solution, and the solution has a name. Jesus is the light of the world. His way of life brings light and life to others. His command to love as he loves reminds us that we are to share the love and light of Jesus.
So while Advent is a time of waiting, we focus on some incredible themes that point to Christ—hope, peace, love, and joy. Many of our congregations incorporate the Advent candle as part of their worship service as a good reminder of what the season is all about. The center candle is the Christ candle, and it reminds us that Jesus is the center of all good things. As the light, he is the source of our hope, our peace, our love, and our joy.
Advent sermons typically start with the hope of Jesus’ return and ends with Mary hearing from Gabriel.
In the RCL sermons you will find the following four themes for Advent 2020.
- November 29: The theme is “all passes away, mercy endures.” We are reminded to base our hope not on things of this world, but on Jesus. He tells us in Mark 13 that we will see the Son of Man descending. Don’t lose hope; Jesus will return. Check out Gospel Reverb for this week’s Advent theme.
- December 6: The theme is “comfort in God’s faithfulness.” The RCL sermon focuses on three voices found in Isaiah 40. These voices remind us that no matter how bad things seem, our God is faithful to deliver. Jesus is the good shepherd.
- December 13: The theme is “Jesus brings restoration and joy to all.” While the Christmas season brings great joy to some, to others it is a reminder how little they have. The sermon reminds us that the gospel of Jesus is good news for all—including the poor, the broken, and those mired in despair. He is our new beginning.
- December 20: The theme is “God with us.” Here we look at Mary and her response to Gabriel’s announcement. God calls us to participate. That participation isn’t always easy, but God will never ask us to participate without his involvement, and nothing is impossible with him. He is and always will be with us.
In GCI our center is Jesus. Our worship calendar centers on Jesus. Our worship centers on Jesus. May God bless you as you prepare your congregation or fellowship group to celebrate the Omega and the Alpha by praising centering on the center – Jesus our Lord.
Praising God for the worship calendar,