(Please don’t miss the video featuring Matt Boswell & Matt Papa at the bottom of the page.)
Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the church’s liturgical year.
The liturgical year divides the calendar year into a number of seasons, periods over which we retell the story of Jesus Christ and the saving work of God in and through him. We tell it year after year like a well rehearsed play – one that is familiar, always fresh and wonderfully relevant.
The play is in an number of scenes:
The prologue. We remember that God created the heavens and the earth, that God made man in his image to know and love him, and that sadly man fell away through rebellion and sin.
Scene one, Advent. At Advent we remember the promises God made to, and through, the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary herself, that he would intervene in the affairs of the human race to deal with their sins once and for all, and to reconcile humanity to himself.
Scene two, Christmas. At Christmas we recall the birth of Jesus Christ, who being God himself, became clothed in flesh to live among us, to live as one of us, to teach and to preach, to declare the gracious love of God to us.
Scene three, Good Friday. On Good Friday we recall the passion and death of Jesus Christ on the cross, the one who lived and died for us, taking our sin and paying the consequences of them. On the cross Jesus fulfils the promises of God and finally frees man from sin, and offers the hope of new life, and a new relationship with God, in and though himself.
Scene four, Easter. At Easter we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in which God’s mercy is declared and new life is made real by faith in Jesus Christ. We remember that Jesus has conquered both sin and death, and that by being united by faith in Christ we too have the hope of resurrection.
Scene five, the follow-up. In the months following Easter, we remember the teaching of Jesus Christ, his life, his work, his miracles. We remember the sacrifice he made for us and that he calls us to love and give ourselves to one another.
Scene six, Christ the kIng. Then at last we come to “Christ the King,” when we remember that Jesus Christ is God with us, who now sits enthroned in heaven, as Lord and King over all creation. The end of the story; Jesus enthroned in heaven, one with his Father, one with his people. The one in whom God is honoured, glorified and enjoyed forever.
Here we pause. Not because the story ends here, but because it never ends. This glory of Jesus Christ, this perfect joy of the saints, is not a moment that passes, but an eternal state that will never end. Rather than the curtain fall, and the stage go dark, the whole auditorium is consumed in the ever greater light of the glory of God.
Then back to advent: we clear the stage, reset the lights, put all the props back in place, reset the marks, and start to tell the story over again.
The church has told, re-lived as it were, this wonderful story, every year for over two thousand years. It never gets old, it never gets tired, it never needs to be updated or re-imagined. It is the amazing story of God himself stepping into our humanity to save us.