This Sunday, today, marks the last week of the church calendar for the year, also known as the liturgical year. Next week, the first Sunday of Advent, we begin the new church year – which is as it should be. The church year starts out with the anticipation of the arrival of Jesus, the King, on Christmas. Technically, the season of Advent ends on Christmas Eve and the next day, Christmas, begins the church season of Christmastide.
Advent, from the Latin “adventus” means the “coming” or the “arrival” and that is certainly what this time of year is about – the coming of the celebration of the earthly life of Jesus. The weeks leading up to the birth of our Savior are filled with anticipation of the Good News of His birth, announced by angels to shepherds in the fields. The season includes an Advent wreath, lit each week by families in the congregation who also read a piece of Scripture for the message of the week.
Each season of the liturgical calendar has a color associated with it that signifies what time of year it is. In addition to the color, most churches also have banners and other seasonal displays that support the theme of the liturgical season. The color for Advent is purple, or violet, with Methodist and several other denominations, including Lutheran, opting instead for blue.
Following Advent, we begin the liturgical season of Christmastide starting on December 25th and running until 40 days after Christmas, signifying the time that Mary took before presenting her Son at the Temple. There are various events woven into the fabric of Christmastide, but the end of the season coincides with Candlemas – the official day that Jesus was presented at the Temple. The liturgical color for this season is white – and then we move to what is commonly referred to a season of “Ordinary Time.”
This is a season of 33 or 34 weeks throughout the year, broken into two sections, that marks time through the ordinary course of church business. Some churches and denominations refer to this period as the “counted weeks” or the weeks “through the year” which do not belong to Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide or several of the other seasons that are celebrated by various denominations across the globe.
Liturgical colors for these times of Ordinary Time are green, but there are other times of the year that red is used, and several denominations allow variances in color choice depending on their feasts and other events specific to them. It is best to consult a liturgical calendar to see all the different colors for the specific days of the liturgical year.
Suffice it to say that the church year is organized in such a way as to celebrate the various aspects and events in the life of Jesus. These times include, but are not limited to, His birth, presentation at the Temple, the events leading to his death and resurrection. The church also recognizes His ascension to heaven and Pentecost, traditionally believed to be the beginning of the church as recorded in the book of Acts.
Always remember, it is the resurrection of Jesus, not His death or even His birth, that sets Christianity apart from the other religions of the world. However, it all starts with the earthly life of Jesus, and our preparation for His arrival.
Our verse for tonight looks to the birth of our Savior through the eyes of the prophet Isaiah. In fact, it is a verse that we have heard since our childhood. Isaiah tells us, in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”
My encouragement is that as this liturgical year comes to an end, and a new one starts next week, we can rededicate ourselves to the study of the Bible, prayer and worship. Of course, my prayer is that we may once again be filled with wonder at the coming birth of the Christ child this Advent season. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…