The festivals and seasons of the Christian year (or liturgical calendar) offer a way to order the annual life of the church according to the life of Christ and the events of salvation history. Maybe the liturgical year it is something you have noticed, and wondered about, or maybe it is something that you’ve never paid much attention to. But we cycle through seasons of the year inside the church, just like outside. This Sunday, which is Christ the King Sunday, marks the end of the church year, and next Sunday is the beginning of the new year: the first Sunday of Advent. To mark this change, and to perhaps help us to experience the liturgical year more deeply, this worship service is shaped like the church year – in rewind! You’ll see, as we move through worship, that we will have readings and music that lift up a particular day or Season. You will notice that some seasons focus more on certain texts or ideas. So have fun with this, see what new things you can learn, and enjoy the service as we rewind the church year and get ready for the new year!
(Note to readers: much of this information came from the website of the PC(USA) - http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/christianyear/
For the children's time, we talked about the seasons and how they change, and each child received a bookmark decorated with ribbons of green, purple, red and white. Our table, as you can see above, was adorned with stoles of the seasons. Each of the four readers wore a stole as well, and the stoles corresponded to the season they discussed. All songs come from the Presbyterian Hymnal.)
Christ the King
At the conclusion of the Christian year, the church gives thanks and praise for sovereignty of Christ, who is Lord of all creation and is coming again in glory to reign (see Revelation 1:4-8). Its color is WHITE, the color we use for celebrations – weddings, the Lord’s Supper, and funerals. The scripture readings and music are those which lift up the reign of Jesus Christ over all of creation and the church. This festival is celebrated on the last Sunday of the Christian year, a week before the season of Advent begins.
Call to Worship Colossians 1:15-20
Leader: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.
People: He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
Leader: For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
ALL: Let us worship God!
Opening Song: Come Christians Join to Sing
Ordinary time is actually two different seasons – the period between Christmas and Lent, and the period between Pentecost and Advent. The term “ordinary time” may sound like it refers to something that is everyday and uninteresting, but it is actually a term referring to “ordinal” or numbered Sundays. Usually the scriptures and music in this season focus on the stories of Jesus and the Epistles of the New Testament. The color for ordinary time is GREEN unless it is pre-empted by a special day or ceremony.
Matthew 4: 18-23
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.
Song: Amen, Amen
Pentecost is the day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit descending in a mighty rush of wind and flame to inspire the church’s proclamation of Christ’s rising and to empower its mission and ministry to the world. Easter is a season of 50 days ending at Pentecost, because it is based on the ancient Jewish festival of the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot. The Festival of Weeks later came to be called Pentecost (“50th day”) by Greek speaking Jews. The color of Pentecost is RED. On Pentecost we sing and celebrate the Holy Spirit, and we read scripture about the Holy Spirit, such as this one from Romans 8, our call to confession.
Call to Confession Romans 8: 26-27
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Prayer of Confession (sung): Spirit
Assurance of Pardon Romans 8: 28-31
Leader: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
People: What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven! Thanks be to God.
Easter: The Resurrection
Easter isn’t just a Sunday — it’s a season. One day out of 365 is hardly sufficient to celebrate the great mystery of our faith — that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Easter lasts seven weeks, spanning the 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday.
The season of Easter is intended to be a joyful time for celebrating the presence of the risen Christ in the church. During this season, the scriptures focus on the resurrection of Jesus, and on the post-resurrection events described in the Gospels. It’s appropriate to sing Easter hymns throughout the season. The color for Easter is white – the color of celebration.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, "He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.' This is my message for you." So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Easter song: Jesus Christ is Risen Today
The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a period of 40 days — like the flood of Genesis, Moses’ sojourn at Mount Sinai, Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb, Jonah’s call to Ninevah to repent and Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness. Sundays are not counted in this reckoning of the time, because every Lord’s Day is a celebration of the resurrection. In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation for the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In many communities of faith it remains a time to equip and nurture candidates for baptism and confirmation and to reflect deeply on the theme of baptismal discipleship. The scriptures during this time help us to reflect on our discipleship and to accompany Christ on his journey to the cross. The color for Lent is purple, the color of penitence.
Matthew 20: 17-28
While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised." Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?"They said to him, "We are able." He said to them, "You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Lenten Song: What Wondrous Love
There is no better response to the wondrous love of God expressed in Jesus Christ than to offer our gifts – our time and talent, and our offerings. Let us bring our offerings to God.
Prayer of Dedication
Epiphany is the celebration of God’s presence in the world in Jesus Christ. In particular, we celebrate the revelation of God’s promise and purpose to the nations of the world. The magi came from the East to worship to the Christ child, and God’s covenant of grace is extended to all who believe the good news of Christ Jesus. The symbolism of light reminds of the star that guided the magi, and of the bright dawning of God’s self-revelation in Christ. Epiphany hymns and scripture tell of the visit of the magi to see Jesus, and its color is white.
Matthew 2: 1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.' " Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Epiphany Songs: We Three Kings
The Season of Christmas extends for 12 days – from Christmas Day to Epiphany. Since at least the fourth century in Rome, Christians celebrate the incarnation and nativity of Jesus Christ on December 25. The season between December 25 and January 6 (Epiphany) has become an occasion for the church to celebrate and give thanks for the arrival of God’s Word made flesh which even death could not extinguish. Its color is white.
Matthew 1: 18-23
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."
Christmas Song: Joy to the World
“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” During the season of Advent, we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and watch with expectant hope for his coming again. In its historical origins, the season of Advent was patterned after the season of Lent, a six-week period of penitence and preparation for Easter. The four weeks of Advent present an opportunity for communal discernment and personal examination, as the church prepares to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord and looks with hope for Christ’s return. Scripture and songs focus our attention on prophecy and preparation. The color for Advent is purple, the color of penitence.
This year, our observance of Advent will focus on the prophecy of the Messiah from the book of Isaiah, and the many names and descriptions of the Savior. Our celebration of Advent each will lift up a different aspect of the prophecy and fulfillment we find in Jesus Christ.
Closing Song: Prepare the Way