The liturgical church year tells the story of God, as revealed within the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a story that begins with Advent and continues through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. After this, we affirm the life in Jesus that will not die: His Spirit. The season of the spirit is Pentecost, and the color is red. Next, we move into the Green season, when we speak of the natural consequences of Jesus’ liberating spirit within our lives. The Creation season, the presence of God within all of creation completes the liturgical year progression of birth, resurrection, and life.
In brief, we celebrate the following seasons:
|Advent||Advent is the beginning of the church year.|
|Epiphany||Epiphany is the season of the church year when we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.|
|Reconciliation||When we take a deeper look at the oppressive systems that separate us from each other.|
|Lent||The season of the church year when we adopt a more introspective tone in our worship.|
|Easter||Easter season begins with an ancient tradition from the Easter vigil.|
|Pentecost||The season in which the Christian church celebrates the gift and ongoing presence of the spirit of God.|
|Sacred Story||Each week the liturgy of the word (the readings and the sermon) will involve some storytelling.|
|Creation||In the creation season we look at our connections with nature.|
Advent is the beginning of the church year, when we retell the story of the presence of God within human history. The story begins as we wait for the birth of a child, Jesus of Nazareth, in the remote Roman province of Palestine. The experience of birthing is one of the central Advent metaphors for experiencing the presence of God within all of life. Advent is also the season of hope, as it looks for the new light to appear in the middle of the darkness. For Christians through the years, this new light has been Jesus.
These are some of the specifics of the Advent season at Redeemer:
-The four candles on the banners and Advent wreath point us in the direction of Christmas.
-At the beginning of the service each Sunday, we light one additional candle on the Advent wreath near the pulpit.
-The great Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” is heard throughout the season.
-The simple refrain, “My Soul in Stillness Waits,” is repeated throughout the liturgy.
-Following the entrance hymn, silence and waiting begin the service.
-Confession is part of this season’s liturgy, as we reflect on our lives, seeking and waiting for wholeness.
-Intentionally, female images and metaphors are used to speak of the action of God at this time. This is seen in the presentation hymn, “Womb of Life,” and in many of the Communion hymns.
-The Advent liturgy reflects the themes of waiting, listening, hoping, preparing, pregnancy, and the eventual coming of new life.
-The third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, meaning “We Praise Thee,” celebrates the joy of Mary. This Sunday is also called Rose Sunday. Thus, the pink or “joy” candle is lit and rose-colored vestments are often worn.
Epiphany is the season of the church year when we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as He searches for His light, His clarity. The themes of this season are reflected in the following ways in our worship:
-God is named as the light that overcomes fear and gives direction. The reference to the light dominates both the texts of the music and the spoken word.
-Yellow appears as the color of the hangings, frontal, and vestments. Radiating stars connect us to the Star of the Three Magi and to the light shining from Jesus of Nazareth.
-The Entrance Rite, Prayers of the People, Closing Prayer, and Final Blessing are written specifically for Epiphany.
Epiphany means “to make known, to reveal.” Jesus made the Good News of God’s love and liberation known to the point that it could not be ignored. That Good News threatened those who jealously guarded their power over others. When people are threatened, they act out in violence and fear. Therefore, Epiphany naturally leads into the passion of Lent, based on the idea that challenge to the norm leads to dissension and the need to persecute truth.
Reconciliation Season (mid January for 5-6 weeks)
On the Sundays beginning with Martin Luther King Day and ending with the celebration of the life of Absalom Jones, we take a deeper look at the oppressive systems that separate us from each other, and we affirm our responsibility as People of God to work for the eradication of this evil, both in our society and in ourselves.
The images of racism and the flight to freedom provided by the Underground Railroad become the lens through which we look at various oppressions. We know that all areas of oppression support each other and work together to keep people separated and afraid of each other. Were we to name only one oppression and ignore all others, we would miss this point. This liturgy seeks to address the need for reconciliation in a broad range of life experience.
The basic vestments for the chasuble and altar cloth are made from fabrics that reveal the rich pigmentations of people around the world. Over these skin-tone fabrics are placed quilt pieces in patterns that follow a traditional code, used as secret signals on the Underground Railroad.
Our liturgy opens with the choral introit, “Steal Away to Jesus.” This is the song of a worker so overburdened that heaven holds the only hope for rest. In this plaintive lament are imbedded hidden meanings that make it a code song. When plantation owners outlawed preaching by black ministers, secret worship meetings were held deep in the woods at midnight. When a lone voice sounded the song, “Steal away to Jesus,” and, one after another, voices joined across the fields in the song, it was a coded message that such a secret gathering would be held that night. As the choir sings the refrain, we reflect on our unity with all humankind, for, in all ages and places, humans have heard in thunder the Divine Voice. Once again, though, there is a double meaning. For slaves who did not intend to stay long on the plantation, the instruction to make an escape during a storm offered a good strategy for eluding bloodhounds.
At the center of this liturgy is a Litany of Reconciliation and Confession in which we name the inequality of power between people, as well as the ways we have abused that power, often unknowingly.
-The Standard of God is set before us: loving our neighbors as ourselves. In the form of confession, either kneeling or sitting, we acknowledge that, from time to time, we have fallen short of that mark. The ancient chant “Kyrie,” dating from the earliest days of the church, is sung by cantor and people.
-The priest and people reassure each other that God accepts and forgives them. This assurance is followed by the joyful acclamation: “God, You have set Your people free.”
-The liturgical music that surrounds the Gospel and follows the Prayers of the People and the Breaking of the Bread has a plaintive, chant-like feel.
-Purple hangings carry the message of Lent. A young green sprout grows from the base of a wooden cross, indicating the new life that can grow out of death of any shape and size. These banners bring to mind Jesus’ death.
The Easter season begins with an ancient tradition from the Easter vigil, the lighting of the “new fire.” Traditionally, all fires go dead on Good Friday. On Easter, a new fire is kindled. From the new fire, the Easter or Paschal Candle is lit and then brought to the front of the church, where it burns brightly for the fifty days of Easter.
Easter Sunday begins a festival season of celebration. Easter white replaces the purple of Lent. The sound of Alleluia now is heard. The somber tone of Lent gives way to the new life of Easter.
On Easter Sunday, one of the great days of celebration within the church calendar, we use incense to mark the occasion. Incense, an ancient tradition, is used to speak of the significance of an event or day.
Pentecost is a season for 8-10 weeks in which the Christian church celebrates the gift and ongoing presence of the Spirit of God within the lives of all people. Jesus had died and was no longer with his followers in person. But Jesus’ spirit was still very much present active within His followers creating, comforting, disturbing, and setting them free.
Throughout the centuries, the church has adopted certain symbols to represent Pentecost:
|Doves of Peace||Jesus said that he would leave His Peace, His Spirit, even though He would not be present in body.|
|Wind||This force has come to represent the energy, power, or Spirit that moves objects and people, even when it cannot be seen.Edit|
|Fire||This element has come to represent power, energy, and a way to create change.|
|The Color Red||This color has come to represent fire and the Spirit.|
Celebrating the Season of Pentecost at Redeemer includes:
-Changing the vestments, banners, and altar frontal to red.
-Having Doves of Peace appear on hangings and the altar frontal.
-Spelling out “Peace” in sixteen different languages on the column hangings.
-Wearing red to church on Pentecost Sunday.
-Ringing bells to convey the festive atmosphere of Pentecost Sunday.
-Serving strawberries to help us celebrate.
-Recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit from the ancient days of Abraham and Sarah to the present days of Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and Rosa Parks.
Sacred Story (August to September)
The new Season of Sacred Story began with a special storytelling workshop with Biblical storyteller, Jim Cyr. Throughout the first year, we heard Biblical stories told as they originally were in the oral tradition and it opened our eyes in new ways to the old favorites. The new Season of Sacred Story’s incarnation finds us hearing the stories of those Saints/saints, heroes/sheroes, and those close to us who have touched our lives in amazing, life-giving ways.
The vestments and hangings were inspired by Monet and invite us to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary of our every day lives.
Throughout this season, we find ourselves, our friends, our families, our loves and lives in the stories shared and the wisdom, courage, and hope within. At the end of the readings during the Season of Sacred Story, the reader says: Hear the story of God at work in the world. And the people respond: This is our story. May its re-telling nourish our growth.
We hope this might inspire you to come hear about the Holy in everyday lives … including your own.
Creation Season (October to Advent)
During Creation season we look at our connections with nature, rather than our domination of it. As stewards and trustees of the earth, we confess our abuse of this trust and pledge to reform our ways. God is seen in the midst of all of creation, rather than only within human history. This is how our worship reflects the theme of this season:
-Liturgical hangings portray scenes from the life of St. Francis and emphasize the four elements of creation: earth, water, wind, and fire. A depiction of earth, as seen from space, appears on the altar frontal.
-The chasuble worn by the presiding priest is adorned with a depiction of the cycle of life, using the image of the grape vine. The vine grows, matures, produces fruit, ages and dies, with its leaves providing the nourishment for new growth. The color of the season is the orange of autumn.
-The Prayers of the People confess our abuse of creation and call us into a new relationship with it. These prayers are modeled after those used at the United Nations Environmental Sabbath and Earth Day in June of 1990.
-At the offering, a different element of nature is brought forth each Sunday: earth, water, rock, fire, moss and grass, and a branch from a tree.
-Former Redeemer music director John Drew composed the service music specifically for this season. He adapted the words from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, Earth’s Crammed With Heaven, and set them to music.
-St. Francis is the saint who calls us to a simple life. His prayer closes the service.