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This coming Sunday (December 20) will be the last of the four Sundays of Advent. Advent is the first season of the liturgical year as supported by the “Revised Common Lectionary.” Some of you may be asking, “Steve – what does that sentence even mean?” Let me deal with those key terms in reverse order and ultimately concentrate on Advent.
The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of weekly themes and related scriptures that cover the major stories of the Bible. It is around these themes and scriptures that the weekly Worship Resources are based, as published each year by Herald House. The Revised Common Lectionary has a history that I cannot summarize here but that is well documented in the introductory pages of the print version of our Worship Resources each year. The Revised Common Lectionary was adopted by the church in 1995 as a basis for our worship planning. Relevant scriptures from the Doctrine and Covenants and/or the Book of Mormon are added on most Sundays to ensure representation of our “additional witnesses of Jesus Christ” in our worship planning.
The “liturgical year” is the calendar of significant events in Christianity around which the Revised Common Lectionary is built. It includes the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and then “Ordinary Time” for the months between Pentecost and Advent. Other than Christmas and Easter, I associated those terms with other “main-line” Christian denominations – Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. – from the time I first became aware of them (probably in high school) until well into young-adult-hood (early to mid-1980’s). Then we started to hold “Maundy Thursday” services just before Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Then Advent became part of our worship planning in the early 1990’s or so. And the other seasons became known to us as we became more familiar with the worship planning cycle.
“Advent” has two meanings in Christianity. It refers to “a time of preparation and penitence before Jesus’ birth” (Worship Resources). “Advent also refers to the second coming of Christ and the final judgment that accompanies the coming of the kingdom of God.” Also, “historically, Advent is a time of fasting and repentance, yet it has strong overtones of joy as the Christmas season approaches.” (Dictionary of Bible and Religion, Gentz) That “fasting and repentance” part has somehow escaped me for all these years. I generally look to the prevailing themes of hope, joy, peace, and love as precursors to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas. The “overtones of joy” have definitely taken precedence for me.
My hope is that you are enjoying the hope, joy, peace and love aspects of this Advent season. It has not been an easy year for us. Despite the restrictions on household gatherings in most areas, I hope you are being able to plan events that will enable you to be in contact – even if by phone or video conferencing tools – with your loved ones. This will undoubtedly be a Christmas that we will all remember for a long time – but for reasons that none of us anticipated last Christmas.
May you truly be able to celebrate this last Sunday of Advent with its emphasis on love. It is important that we remember and celebrate both the human love we have for one another and the divine love that is shared between God and each and every one of us.
As always, I pray for you God’s blessings of joy, hope, love, and peace in these challenging times.
Canada West Mission Centre President
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