The season of Lent is a time of repentance and a time of discipline. You may choose a Lenten discipline such as abstaining from a particular food, giving more resources to the poor, or spending extra time in prayer and Scripture. All of these are noble pursuits that perhaps find their roots in Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. The purpose of Lent is not to dwell on the sufferings of our Savior, but rather to prepare ourselves for a celebration of his resurrection. Lent is a time for repentance and prayer and for renewal of our Baptisms.
This week we come to the end of the Epiphany church year season. Throughout the past weeks of this season, the lessons have been describing to us the identity of the Child who was born in Bethlehem at Christmas. We have seen Jesus as the true God. Today, on the final Sunday of the Epiphany season, we receive the greatest revelation of Jesus as true God when his glory shines through and the disciples see him as he really is in an event called the ‘Transfiguration.’
Throughout the season of Epiphany, Jesus reveals who he is. We have learned that he is Lord and Messiah, that he is the Son of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, that he has power over unclean spirits, and that he speaks God’s Word with authority. This week, we learn he has power over physical ailments and that his purpose to preach the gospel must be carried out in many locations.
The hymn "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" (hymn #167 in our Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary) is one of the monuments of Lutheran hymns and is called the Queen of Chorales. It was used so extensively at weddings, that the idea really became common that if this hymn were not sung at the wedding, the persons were not properly married.
After confessing our sins and receiving assurance of our forgiveness, the Rite II liturgy in our Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary continues with the Introit, the Kyrie Eleison, and the Gloria in Excelsis. In these steps we enter in to the presence of the Lord for worship, ask for his help in earthly needs, and praise him with the song of the angels.
Epiphany is the second oldest festival of the Christian church year. Only the Easter season is older. The Festival of Epiphany is always January 6th and marks the start of the next church year season (thus the 12 days of the Christmas season end on 1/5). Yet the Epiphany season is an extension of the Christmas season.
For some of us, the Holy Spirit has been a bit of a background character to the Father and the Son in church. During December, our small Bible study groups thought more deeply about the Holy Spirit and his work. We explored the biblical language, the activities of the Spirit, and how those activities happen in our lives today.
There is a wide gulf between God in his holiness and us in our sinfulness. We put on clean clothes in the morning to come to church, but more importantly we need a clean heart in the presence of the Lord. So at the very beginning of our worship services, we need to lay our sins on Jesus and be assured that God does not condemn us for our sins, but forgives and forgets. We need to “lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God.”
The Advent Wreath is more than a pretty decoration. It is a trigger during the four weeks of the Advent season to turn our thoughts and heart toward Jesus.
Many different meanings have been given to the four candles and the other parts of the wreath. None are right or wrong. Here is one common interpretation of the meaning of the various parts of the Advent wreath.
Happy New Church Year!
We live in a time when we follow an annual calendar based on the orbit of the planet Earth around the sun. New Year’s day on that calendar is January 1st. The Christian church also follows a calendar, but based on the orbit of the Christian life around the Son of God.
Hymn #466 in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (“We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer”) was originally written as a prayer of thanksgiving in the Netherlands after the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.