Sunday, December 3 is the First Sunday in Advent. This Sunday begins a new liturgical church year, which is the cycle of seasons in the church. Each season has its own theological emphasis, color of paraments and vestments, appointed scripture readings, and practices observed in the congregation and in the homes. In our homes we keep track of events with a calendar so that we remember what has happened and what is expected to happen in the future. In our congregation we follow the historic practice of keeping track of days, seasons, and commemorate special occasions with a calendar. Our calendar does not track the weather or the school schedule or travel sports. Our calendar is structured around the acts of salvation that God has completed for us in his Son, Jesus Christ.
The church year is organized into three sections : Sundays and Seasons, feasts and festivals, and commemorations. The Sundays and Seasons include Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, followed by the Time of the Church (the days after Pentecost). The feasts and festivals are remembrances of events and people from the Bible. They are located on the calendar dependent on when the event took place, or, if it is a person, when that person either was born or died. The commemorations are an opportunity for the Lutheran church to remember with thanksgiving individuals or events which have been noteworthy in the life of the Church and especially in the history of the Lutheran church.
The scripture readings appointed for the Sundays and Seasons are on a three-year cycle, although some Lutheran congregations continue to follow the historic one year lectionary. Each year in the three-year series are named, without much creativity, A, B, and C. We begin this Sunday Series B. Each year focuses the Gospel readings from either Matthew, Mark, or Luke. The Gospel of John finds a place inside of each year. Matthew is the focus for Year A, Mark is the focus for Year B, and Luke is the focus for Year C.
This year, we will witness the events of our salvation unfold in the Gospel of Mark. I encourage you to read through the Gospel of Mark. The author was a companion of St. Peter named John Mark. He is believed to have been the cousin of Barnabas, who was mentioned by Paul at the end of three of his epistles. Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys. Mark is noteworthy for including no details about Jesus’ birth or infancy. He begins with John the Baptist at the Jordan River as the forerunner of the messiah preparing the way. Mark focuses less on the teaching of Jess and more on the mighty works that demonstrate the arrival of the messianic age. He does include discourses from Jesus on his way to Jerusalem through a retelling of a series of conversations that Jesus has with a rich young ruler, James and John, money-changers, and his opposition. Mark uses the word “immediately” and the word “and” to show movement and connection between the events of Jesus’ ministry.
This new church year is a wonderful time for you to begin new practices in your home. Begin having family time together that includes reading the Bible and praying for others. Get to know your neighborhood with the confidence that you are loved by God more than you can imagine and sent by Him into your neighborhood in ways beyond your imagination. Plan to attend midweek Advent Simple Suppers (6pm) and Vespers (7pm) on December 6, 13, and 20. There are so many things you can begin this year that enrich your life and help you connect with God’s purpose for you.