(Click here to print the church year calendar—our church is using Series B 2014-2015 this year so you can follow along with the readings for today and all the Sundays of Advent.)
Today is the first Sunday of the new church year and the first Sunday of Advent. I’ve been in a liturgical church that follows the church calendar for 8 years and I feel like I’m still learning so much about the rich heritage we have been given in our faith. I’m planning a Lenten study based on the Prodigal Son parable and have been working on it for months and Advent can be thought of as a preview to Lent— a time of prayerful, repentant and joyous waiting.
We have tried to make it super complicated over the years with calendars and activities and have (more than once) become overwhelmed by week number 2. The last couple of years, we’ve used a simple Advent wreath and an iPhone app that has beautiful daily readings that reflect the liturgical calendar. We light the appropriate candle every night and read the reading. So beautiful, so simple, so doable. If you’re “new” to learning about Advent, I’m including lots of links and podcasts below to help you get acquainted with the church year and why the church has traditionally begun its year with Advent. Advent comes the Latin word which means coming and we traditionally think of Christ’s comings in terms of past (the incarnation of Christ on earth), present (in Word and water and bread and wine), and future (His second coming in glory). What is He coming to do? He’s coming to redeem us, to save us, by His perfect life and perfect death on the cross. Advent is ultimately about the cross.
The Church Year
(My pastor did a sermon on the church year last year and it’s an excellent overview of what’s in store as we walk with Jesus through His life and as He teaches and preaches and saves. One of the most peculiar things for me to subscribe to when I became Lutheran was the liturgy and the church calendar. After 8 years, I’m finally starting to really anticipate the rhythm and the meaning of it. In some ways, it seems simple and straight forward but then it’s also rich, complex and layered with the purpose of focusing on the gospel of Christ. By following a set calendar and lectionary, the scriptures are covered in a systematic way, with the life and cross of Jesus at its’ center. The church is centered around the major festivals—Christmas, Easter, and Pentacost, and is divided into two halves. The first half of the church year goes from Advent until Easter and covers the life of Christ. The second half goes from Easter through Pentecost, ends just before Advent and covers the teaching and preaching of Christ. The readings for the Sundays of the year have been the same for hundreds of years as the church fathers and Bible scholars paired them up to help interpret each other. It’s amazing to me how well the readings go together once you begin to see the genius of how they are paired. Even if you aren’t in a liturgical church, you could read the readings every week and begin to get a sense of this brilliance.
We need these season of the church year because otherwise it’s easy to forget that the whole point of it all is not chestnuts roasting on an open fire, or Jack Frost nipping at your nose or even a baby lying in a manger. The point of it all is Christ and what he wins for us by dying on a cross. Whatever can keep us there in a state of humility and repentance is what we need. Advent takes us to the cross.
Why do we need Advent so desperately?
We need Advent because we’re so impatient. Advent is the church’s way of saying Christ is coming and we need to prepare.
Hold Your Horses.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.
The theme of the first Sunday in Advent is HOPE.
We celebrate it by lighting the first violet candle.
Stir up Your power,O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Isaiah 64: 1-9
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence. When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned and in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.
I Cor 1:3-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mark 11: 1-10 (the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem)
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
- God With Us, Dr. David Petersen
- Podcast with Dr. Petersen about the Advent season
- Why the Church Needs Advent, podcast by Pastor Matt Harrison
- The Season of Advent, podcast Pastor Will Weedon
- Martin Luther’s Advent and Christmas sermons, for more depth.
- Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift, is an Advent devotional with Jesse tree ornaments that can be printed and used along with her new full color book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, to be used by families.
- The Jesse Tree, has ornaments that can be hung on a simple Jesse tree. We used this book when the kids were small.
An Advent Prayer
Our most gracious God, we pray for your blessings as we begin our Advent journey. Turn our hearts toward You. Forgive us our selfish preoccupations. Quiet us with Your words of comfort, peace and hope. And as we anticipate Your coming in glory, remind us of Your humble ‘comings’ to us—as a baby in a manger, in humility on a donkey into Jerusalem, in suffering as our Savior on the cross, in service as Your body and blood served at Your table, in cleansing in the waters of baptism, and in instruction in Your most Holy Word. Come to us because we cannot come to You. Come to us in love and forgiveness as we confess before You our utter hopelessness. Come to us with Your abundant mercy and love, which we neither deserve nor can merit. Come and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
We bring only sin.
We wait for You to come and save us.
You alone part the Red Sea and drown our sins in the waters of Holy Baptism.
You alone make manna fall from heaven and feed us life-giving Food.
You alone speak forgiving Words of mercy.
Come to us today. For You alone we wait.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
One of the most peculiar things for me to subscribe to when I became Lutheran was the liturgy and the church calendar. I’ve been in a liturgical church for seven years and I’m just now starting to really anticipate the rhythm and the meaning of it. In some ways, it seems simple and straight forward but then it’s also rich, complex and layered with the purpose of focusing on the gospel of Christ. By following a set calendar and lectionary, the scriptures are covered in a systematic way, with the life and cross of Jesus at its’ center.
Blessed Advent to you and yours.
p.s. (Enjoy a five year old video of my kids singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, complete with a little version of Emme and Hank!)