From darkness to light: the essence of the Christian belief

In the northern hemisphere, the month of November is dark and dreary. The days become shorter, the temperatures fall. For many people it is a miserable time of year. But there is hope, and this is always stronger than the night. Things will become better.

The fact that things will become better is true in many respects. A night lasts twelve hours and then a new morning dawns. Even death is not the end of life. Those who believe in Christ look forward to life after death. It is a New Apostolic certainty that those who have died can enjoy a dignified life in the beyond—at the behest of God. The congregation on earth can intercede for those who do not want to miss this hope and opportunity at eternal fellowship with God.

The God without limits

As the last month of the church year, the month of November stands as a symbol of hope for our future. The divine service for the departed on the first Sunday in November shows us just how little we, who live in this world, understand about the beyond. However, it also makes clear that God cannot be limited to the short span of a human life. The divine service for the departed challenges us to go to work: we need to be sensitive to the needs and fate of our neighbour, and intercede on his behalf with God. Our intercessions bring to expression our trust that God will grant strength, joy, and salvation to those who believe in Him.

The God who will return

At the beginning of our pilgrimage to God is Jesus Christ. Through His sacrifice and resurrection, Jesus has opened up for us the possibility of perfect fellowship with God. He has promised to return and take us unto Himself: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14: 3–4). We approach the day of His return by progressing along the way that leads there—which He Himself is—in faith, obedience, and unity.

The God who is proclaimed

The divine service on the third Sunday in November is captioned by the appeal: “Let us welcome others!” Being a witness of Christ has an inviting component. It is not only a self-centered mission to walk chastely and in the spirit of the gospel, but to go out and spread the gospel. It is not man who is at the centre of the proclamation, but God. Christians are to bear witness of the Risen One, the returning Christ. Christians pave the way for people to redemption. Christians are advocates and supporters, they pray for others. Christians also link arms with others and help them to move forward; they edify. Christians are not loners, but people who enjoy the company of others. God’s offer of salvation and redemption is there for all people. This is the gospel we need to spread and exemplify.

The God who loves human beings

The last Sunday in November marks the end of the current church year—it is followed by the season of Advent. A fitting conclusion to the church year is the thought that God is the Alpha and Omega. Alpha is defined as the beginning, Omega is the future. Omega is our hope for eternal fellowship between God and man. The Bible text for this Sunday is found at the end of Scripture: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21: 6–7).

The water of life is an image for divine life, which is imparted to us through the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the gospel and by receiving the sacraments. God grants salvation freely, no one can earn it through works. We express our thirst for salvation by professing our faith and sharing the offer of salvation. The best way to proclaim Christ is to act according to the divine law of love.

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Peter Johanning
Divine service