O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel! Advent is my favorite season of the church year. It is a season of expectation, of preparation, of looking and waiting. Yes the Christmas Season is the big event in celebration of Christ’s birth. But I love the time we spend at home and church getting ready for His coming.
Advent is both preparation for the first Advent and also the second Advent of Christ. So while we prepare to think of Christ’s birth we also anticipate His return. We anticipate the day when Christ will reign and all God’s promises will be fulfilled.
As we wait we will decorate the church and our homes. We will sing, pray, and watch for the coming of our Savior. And as we wait God will “disperse the gloomy clouds of night.”
Tomorrow morning in preparation for Christ’s coming we will light the first of four blue Advent candles in each of our worship services at First United Methodist Church marking each Sunday in Advent. Blue is the color of hopefulness, it is also the color most often associated with Jesus’ mother Mary. It is a time to be excited about God’s work in our lives, God’s plans for our future, and the hope of the gospel both in Christ’s first and second advents.
Behold he comes
Riding on a cloud
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet’s call
Lift your voice
It’s the year of jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill salvation
(Donnie McClurkin – Days Of Elijah)
As we enter the Advent Season this coming Sunday we will be lighting Advent Candles to commemorate the season in Transformation Worship. So why do we celebrate Advent and light Advent Candles in a Contemporary worship service. Isn’t contemporary worship about worshipping in a way that isn’t traditional? Well, not exactly.
Contemporary Worship is about finding ways to share the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a post-modern audience. It is about finding ways to communicate the old old story of Jesus Christ and God’s love for us in new ways. But contemporary worship is not about tossing aside the gospel in favor in order to contemporary.
So, how do you tell what activities in worship are to be updated to make worship contemporary and what things do we do in worship that always remain? We have to understand that the same basic elements of worship that are found in a meaningful traditional service are also found in a meaningful contemporary service. In both forms of worship we pray, we sing praises to God, we share joys and concerns, we study the scriptures, we share in gospel music with musicians in the service, we he the message of the gospel preached, and we share in the Sacraments.
What is different is not the foundational content of worship but instead it is a matter of style and context. In a Contemporary service the goal is to connect with the current culture. So music is in a style that fits styles of music that are most popular today. Sermons should confront, as much as possible, contemporary issues that people are dealing with today. In Contemporary Worship you try to avoid insider language that only active and long time Christians will understand.
Even the way people dress in Contemporary Worship is geared to fit the current relaxed nature of fashion in our culture. The pulpit robes and albs worn by some pastors in traditional worship are actually based on academic garb and on street clothes worn by an average person in the day in which pastors began to wear such clothing. So in contemporary worship a more relaxed dress fits our more relaxed culture.
However, Contemporary worship must continue to preach the same gospel of Jesus Christ, teach the same doctrines, and emphasize a view of history that is Christ centered rather than culture centered. So why do we continue to light Advent Candles even in a Contemporary worship service? Because we as Christians need to put the Christian year and the Christian calendar above the secular calendar. We need to remember that Advent and Christmas are foremost about the coming of Jesus Christ in the world. And no matter how “contemporary” or “post-modern” we may get, we are here to teach the same gospel which Jesus brought to the world centuries ago.
This week construction of the new stage for First United Methodist’s contemporary worship experience began in Scott Hall. The new stage is the next step in better fitting our fellowship hall for Transformation Worship. The stage will be larger than our current portable stage and will allow for long term placement of instruments and sound equipment. For me it is symbolic of the commitment that First UMC has made to updating its facilities for the future.
Just this month we have begun our Open Our Doors Capital Campaign which will take us the rest of the way to raising funds for a renovated sanctuary, changes to Scott Hall, and a new entrance wing on the church.
What is exciting to me about the “Open Our Doors” campaign is that it gives us all opportunity to talk about the importance of being a welcoming church which welcomes everyone into our doors. And it allows us to continue to grow as a congregation that goes out of its doors to be in the community.
Over the weekend I attended a one day workshop describing the new movement in the United Methodist Church called “Rethink Church.” It is a movement which invites all of us to think of the church more as what we do in our community Monday through Saturday than what we do together on Sunday.
It is time for a movement like this in the church. In a world that needs the presence of Christ more than ever it is time to Rethink what it means to be church in the world. Check out rethinkchurch.org!