There is a shape or pattern to historic Christian liturgy. In summary form that design is fourfold: It has involved being gathered, being ministered to by God’s Word, being further nurtured by the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and then being sent out in mission. Gathering, Word, Meal, and Sending!
As Lutherans we often talk about “Word and Sacrament”, and in keeping with the sequence I just mentioned, we first are gathered by the Holy Spirit to receive the Word and the Sacrament, and then having been forgiven, nourished, and equipped we are sent out to our vocations in the family and society. And then having been sent in this endeavor, we are regathered once again for the Divine Service, that is, to be forgiven, nourished, and equipped by the Word and the Sacraments.
From the earliest days in Christianity the cycle just mentioned happened at least every seven days. And Sunday, the day of the week that our Lord was resurrected, became the most common day to meet once a week. This is also called in Scripture “the first day of the week.”
In Acts 2:42 we read, “And they [baptized believers] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” It would be easy to quickly read and gloss over the word “devoted”. The tense of the verb here indicates that they “continually devoted themselves,” and there is a sense of the Greek word behind the English of giving steadfast and unremitting attention to a matter!
And in Luke 24, beginning with verse 27 the Risen Lord Jesus is found teaching two of his followers. We read, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” And then just a few verses later we find Jesus breaking bread with them at table. It was then that they recognized Jesus! Word and Sacrament! Being gathered for the same, and then being sent…
Since You Asked…
What does the Advent Wreath Symbolize?
The circle of the wreath reminds us of eternity and our God and Father who has no beginning and no end. The green boughs indicate the hope of life being renewed. The candles represent Christ, the Light of God, who comes into this dark world to bring light and life. The four colored candles lit successively over the four Sundays in Advent, represent the patience required in waiting for Christ’s coming. As there were centuries of waiting between the Old Testament prophets and the birth of Christ, so we must patiently wait for Christ’s return at the end of the age. At Gift of Grace we wait until Christmas Eve to finally light the white center candle (the Christ Candle) to indicate that the fulfillment of the promise of God with the birth of the Christ Child on the first Christmas morn.