Church of the Resurrection

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Why We Celebrate Advent

December 01, 2018

If you attend Church of the Resurrection on the first Sunday of Advent, odds are that a few notable things will strike you. For one, you’re likely to hear congregants cheerfully greeting each other with the words “Happy New Year!” even though it is still November. Upon entering the sanctuary, you will find the altar, stage, and clergy robed in purple, a welcome change from the twenty-some weeks of green-colored robes that have marked the long season of “after Pentecost” Sundays. Finally, you’ll notice subtle changes in the music and liturgy, including the service being opened with the somber and beautiful song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

These physical and verbal cues are markers of the fact that Advent is the beginning of the liturgical calendar year. This calendar is a tool that the Christian church has used for millennia to establish a sacred daily rhythm, in which the life of Christ is as important as the changing of the months. Thus, the “happy new year” greetings are not a joke, but rather the acknowledgment that Advent invites us into the Biblical anticipation of Jesus’ life on earth, and thus the beginning of our walk through his life in the seasons of Christmastide, Epiphany, Lent, and Eastertide.

The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” Yet Advent readings do not solely focus on prophesies of the arrival of the Christ child in Bethlehem, but also scripture in which Jesus’ second coming is foretold. This is because the liturgical calendar is not simply convenient way in which to commemorate Jesus’ life, but instead an active tool for our daily spiritual formation. We rejoice in the fact that the God of the universe chose a moment in history to take on a human body and walk among us, but also that the Bible promises that Jesus is active by the power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and that he will physically come again to judge the living and the dead.

This is why the color purple is the color of both Advent and Lent. Advent is like being told that you’re going to have a very important house guest, but their specific date of arrival is unknown. The natural thing to do is start cleaning your house so that when they do arrive, your house is not a mess! In Advent, we do our spiritual house cleaning both in preparation of the joy of Christmas day, but also in the joyful expectation that Jesus is coming back. The song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” captures this reality, as it speaks to the longing of our hearts for Jesus to come again even as we rejoice in the promise that he will.

So it is that we celebrate four weeks of Advent before we jump into the joy of Christmastide, even as we pray this collect on the first Sunday of Advent:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tagged: advent, liturgy

Why We Celebrate Pentecost

May 14, 2018

Every family has its own birthday traditions. In my husband's family, you were allowed to eat sugary cereal and stay in your pajamas and play video games all day. In mine, we picked our favorite meal and cake and helped my mom cook them. Interestingly enough, the Church has her own birthday tradition. In it, her people wear red and eat bread and drink wine and celebrate baptisms. This tradition is called Pentecost, and it is our spiritual birthday.

The story of Pentecost is remarkable. The apostles and Jesus' followers are all gathered together to celebrate the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' descent from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Suddenly, the sound of a strong wind descends from heaven and they are each crowned with tongues of flame. Perhaps, having followed Jesus around and seen his miracles, this did not faze them too much. But then something happened that changed their lives–and ours–forever: they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before that moment they were individual followers of Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit descended, the Church as we know her was born.

I don't know about you, but I still get excited when my birthday rolls around. I begin anticipating days beforehand, and it saddens me when a close friend or family member forgets it. It stands to reason then that I should get excited when I know Pentecost is coming. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church body grew from a small group of Israelites to an international force. On this feast day we at Resurrection join in celebration with our fellow body members all over the world and rejoice that God has given us his Spirit and in doing so united us as one Body. Now there's a true cause for celebration.

Remember to wear red or another bright “fire" color like orange or yellow on Pentecost.