Beginning by looking at the end

Seeds
12/13/2012

Beginning by looking at the end

Christ the King Sunday is the last day of the church year. It is also the Sunday before Advent begins.

According to the Christian worldview, humans need God to bring us life and salvation, and Christmas celebrates this coming of God in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Christians affirm that Christ comes not only in a past event but is also in our present life and the world’s unfolding future.

So it is that Advent is not about Mary’s pregnancy but about the church’s continual prayer that God will come (the root meaning of “advent”) to us, bringing life to a dying world.

Advent is a time to meditate on the meaning of life and what is in our own hearts and to pray for God’s salvation and wholeness for all.

The Holy Communion celebrated each Sunday of Advent brings to us the Christ who is ever present for us with mercy and joy.

By now, many musicians and other worship planners have noticed that some hymns, such as “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying,” are no longer in the Advent section of "Evangelical Lutheran Worship." Rather they are in a category called End Time.

The Revised Common Lectionary, which shapes the rhythms of worship for many Christian denominations including the ELCA, includes the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and other texts addressing the end of time during the Sundays in November prior to the beginning of Advent.

Advent is the only season in the church’s year that does not have a distinct day to initiate it.

Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday was added as the conclusion to the liturgical year in the 1960s. Before that, the church year did not end with a festival.

In most places the year ended and began without clear distinction. Advent arrived quietly, like a thief in the night.

Advent has many layers of meaning that begin to emerge with the Scripture readings during November, easing us into December and pushing us toward the festivals of Christ’s incarnation: Christmas and Epiphany.

Advent is about more than anticipating the birth of Jesus. It celebrates the many times that Jesus comes to us, including as a baby in Bethlehem, as a victor at the end of time and each time we gather as a community around word and sacrament.

The church year is cyclical. There is no ending and no beginning. We begin by looking at the end. Worship planners and leaders would do well to begin “thinking Advent” in November. A longer Advent season may help the various meanings of the season to be explored before the special celebration of Christmas.

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