The church year is quietly drawing to a close

This year, the month of November has five Sundays. The church year ends on the last Sunday of the month, meaning that the Advent season begins at the end of November. How quickly a year passes! Reason enough to occupy ourselves with future things. What is meant here is a fundamental theological concept.

The doctrine of future things is what theology refers to as eschatology. This area of study has to do with life after earthly life: the resurrection, eternal life, the return of Christ, the kingdom of peace, the Last Judgement, and the new creation. It is all about looking ahead to see what is coming, and to learn about those things for which we, as Christians, must prepare: the end of time and the dawn of a new era, namely the time of salvation that God has promised.

Preparations are important

The theme series begins on the second Sunday of November and deals primarily with the return of Christ. This is an event for which we must prepare, and the biblical record shows us that this requires us to grow in the love of Christ—something the early Christian congregations exemplified for us. The message of the divine service is therefore: love for one’s neighbour consists of wishing him a successful life in the mind of Jesus—and perhaps even helping him to arrive at leading such a life. The members of a congregation should make the effort to become more and more familiar with one another, and show increased solidarity with one another.

Judgement also means alignment

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5: 10)—this sounds rather menacing at first, at least if we are aware of our weaknesses. Many Christians are all too happy to push the judgement seat off into some far-distant future. In a certain sense, however, a judgement already takes place at the return of Christ, not only at the Last Judgement. It is comforting to know that the Lord looks upon the heart, and does not judge by appearances. Being a true follower of Christ and diligently practising the law of love offer good prospects for a lenient judgement. Such Christians can indeed hope in the grace of God.

The end of the church year

The fourth Sunday in November is already the last Sunday of the church year again. The theme of the divine service is all about eternal life in the new creation. “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3: 13). That is how the Bible portrays this point in the timeline of the divine plan of salvation. And we must also prepare for this point. The divine righteousness that will prevail in the new creation should already be visible today in the form of the mercy we show others, and is to be a defining feature of our congregations. Let us see to it that the righteousness of God is revealed every day anew in that we do not begrudge anyone the love of God, irrespective of gender, ethnic or national affiliation, education, or social status.

He is with us

The Advent season begins on the fifth Sunday in November. For many people, this will be an extraordinary time of unforeseen challenges. Many have lost a loved one as a result of the corona virus. Many are without work, without money, without hope for a better future, or without friends or family—they in particular will need our special attention over these days. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider writes: “The message for the first Sunday of Advent is very simply that God keeps His promises! The Holy Spirit tells us again and again: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the Redeemer, the Anointed, the King!”

These thoughts give us new strength in dark days and bring new hope for a better future.

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Peter Johanning
Divine service