Joyce Borger (firstname.lastname@example.org), an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, is editor of Reformed Worship and Lift Up Your Hearts, and director of Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church.
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If you are an RW subscriber and are reading this article shortly after it arrived in your mailbox, you are reading this in the midst of Advent. Though it isn’t Lent as I write this editorial either, in many ways it feels like Lent, and I wonder: where is Easter?
“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
—John 1:14, The Message
It’s that time of year again. Time to prepare for Advent and Christmas, looking for a new take on the old story, trying to find some creative ideas to get the juices flowing. But, as we all know, those ideas can’t be too involved because the months around Christmas are busy. As you and your congregation begin to prepare for this important season, may I make one suggestion? Leave room to think deeply.
It isn’t enough. I am wholly convinced that it isn’t enough.
World Communion Sunday isn’t enough. All Nations Heritage Sunday isn’t enough. It isn’t enough to sing a song from a different culture on occasion. It isn’t enough to pray for a nation and community other than your own on occasion.
Sometimes I feel weary. I feel weary when I hear about the “nones”—those who claim no religious belief. I feel weary hearing about millennials leaving the church and thinking about all the energy exerted to keep them coming. This week I read about the “dones”—those who used to be involved in the church but simply are done with the whole organizational mess.
Joy to the world, the Lord has come! For those who observe it, Christmas is a day of much anticipation and celebration. In my home it is no different. Blessed with many friends and family, we have multiple celebrations to attend and gifts to exchange. It is a busy time with all the preparations and events at church. And there are so many traditions: the children’s Christmas pageant, our church’s Living Nativity, the Christmas Eve candlelight service, monkey bread on Christmas morning, family worship. Christmas is a wondrous time—a joy-filled time.
Welcome to this theme issue on shalom. You may not see that word outside of this editorial, but the whole issue can be summed up in that one Hebrew word. In reality, shalom is more than a word—it’s a concept, a dream, a promise. Whether we are talking about becoming a hospitable community, caring for the needs of people with disabilities, fighting human trafficking, working for immigration reform, or seeking solutions for the conflicts in the Middle East, we are talking about becoming a people of shalom.
While I was talking with someone the other day, she spoke of the “time collapse” of the Christian year. “Every year, Christ is born, then dies, and rises again. The next year he is born, then dies, and rises again. . . .”
Why do we rehearse the entire gospel message year after year? We do it because we are people who forget. We need to be reminded of the truths the Christian year contains. We need to be reminded of the grace of God’s story and of the fact that we are God’s beloved, saved, and redeemed children.
How do we speak in worship? What language do we use? Sometimes the best response is silence, awe, and wonder. Sometimes we need to spring to our feet with joy, raise our hands in praise, and clap with the trees of the field. We speak with unscripted words such as “amen” and “praise the Lord” and with scripted but equally sincere phrases such as “thanks be to God” and “hear our prayer.” And sometimes we speak in poetry.
For many of us, Advent marks the beginning of the church year. But is it the proper place to start? The season from Advent to Epiphany is only one chapter in the metanarrative that began with the creation of the world. Scripture makes it clear that the mission of God is to redeem the world, to bring the nations to himself.
In the Old Testament, God chose to work primarily through the Hebrew people to bring others into the covenant community. In Genesis 12 God says to Abraham:
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I am excited that Reformed Worship is beginning a weekly blog and absolutely thrilled at the group that we have gathered to write. They are a diverse group of practitioners, academics, musicians, and theologians; what connects them all is their love for the church and worship that is thoughtful, relevant, rooted, innovative, global, contextual, creative, and disciplined.
-Rev. Joyce Borger, editor