- 3 keys to making sure every service of worship is informed by the Advent expectation.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a saying we like in the church: “Every Sunday is Easter!” The implications of this statement are absolutely filled with hope and promise, as the church proclaims every time that she gathers to worship, “We worship a risen, living Savior!” If we think of how all of this began, however, we understand that before Jesus could live, die, and resurrect from the dead, prophesy had to be fulfilled, and He had to leave His throne in Heaven to be born of a virgin, Mary. God’s people were looking for a Messiah. They were expectantly waiting for God to send someone into their lives who would rule and reign. God’s people were living in a season of Advent. They were promised a Messiah, and they were waiting.
Before Easter could happen, Advent must have happened first, and this is why Advent begins the liturgical, Christian calendar each year. We cannot celebrate a resurrected Savior without His birth taking place. So each year, the church gathers together to remember Christ’s anticipated arrival into this world. God-incarnate made His miraculous entrance into this world in the form of a baby, born to a woman who was a virgin in a stable among dirty animals. God promised Jesus’ coming into this world, and He fulfilled that promise in the most beautiful and unusual way.
This baby—the Son of God—became a man and began His earthly ministry. Jesus lived a perfect, holy, sinless life on this earth. He did what absolutely no man or woman in this world could ever do. He was obedient to His Father in Heaven in everything He did; however, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians, 5:21, ESV). Jesus, who was sinless, became sin in order to pay the penalty of sin, even unto death, and He was buried in a tomb. Scripture teaches, however, that on the third day, Jesus arose from the dead, conquering sin and death!
After His resurrection and spending forty days on this earth, Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). And while His disciples watched as He ascended, two men appeared to them saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The same promise that has been given to the disciples in the book of Acts has been given to you and me. Jesus Christ will come again! This is an incredible promise of God, just as incredible as Jesus’ first coming into this world.
So here we are, living in a season of Advent, just as the Jewish people. As Christ-followers, we are expectantly awaiting Christ’s return to this earth. While every Sunday, I do believe, is Easter for the Christian church, as we seek to worship a risen Savior, every Sunday is also Advent, as we gather together expectantly awaiting Christ’s second-coming to this earth, knowing that He is coming to accomplish the will of His Father and, to once and for all, defeat Satan and sin. If we worship a resurrected Savior, we certainly cannot turn our minds and hearts away from this promise of God in our worship. So what if every Sunday were Advent in our churches? As worship pastors and leaders, what should we be seeking to accomplish in our worship planning and leading in order to lead God’s people in this season of Advent? I believe there are three truths that we should be leading our people to sing about and to think through as they worship God corporately each week:
1. We must lead our congregations to focus upon the cross of Christ in corporate worship.
When the church gathers in corporate worship each Sunday, it is only because of what Christ has done through His substitutionary death that allows each one of us to come before the throne of God in worship. It is only because Christ has sacrificially inaugurated His Kingdom on this earth, that we can be the church. Without the cross, our lives are pointless and condemned to Hell, but “…God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” In order to look forward to Christ’s second-coming, we must look backwards to an empty, bloody-stained cross in order to know what He has done for each member of the church. The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive! It is by grace that we have been saved! It’s only because of these great truths that we can look forward expectantly to Christ’s second-coming.
2. We must lead our congregations to desire with urgency that lost people be saved.
Christ will return to this earth, and the implications of this truth are glorious for those who are saved. For those who are not saved, however, this truth is destructive, because God promises to judge sinners by pouring out His wrath on them. If we are true people of God, the thought of people living eternally in Hell, separated from God, should break our hearts. Worship of God fuels missions and evangelism. We must lead our people to understand that we worship the God of the nations, and He has placed a call in the life of every believer—to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Our worship of God in our corporate gatherings each week should fuel this mission with urgency. Christ has called us to be His witnesses throughout the world until He returns.
3. We must lead our congregations to find and have hope in Christ’s promised return.
In a world that seems to be unraveling daily, as we watch the news to see where sin continues to ravage this world, it is easy to become full of despair; however, Christ promised His people before His ascension into Heaven that He had all authority and power in Heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). This promise should lead us, as His people, to have hearts full of hope. Christ is sovereignly reigning over this world at this very moment, and while those apart from Christ have no understanding of the future, we—as Christians—know what the future holds and Who holds it. Revelation 21 gives us an incredible picture of hope, as John tells each of us that Jesus will wipe away every tear that is in our eyes and sin and death will be no more. Corporate worship is the closest thing to Heaven this side of it, and if we do not proclaim hope in Christ as worship pastors and leaders, we have failed miserably. If we look back to number one, our hope is given through the cross of Christ, and it will be fulfilled through His second-coming. Our hope is Christ alone.
As New Covenant believers, we have an incredible opportunity in which each Sunday is Easter and Advent. This world in which we reside is full of hate, pain, and death; however, because of what Christ has done on the cross, we can have hope in His promised return when He will destroy sin once and for all. Until He comes, may our hearts be focused upon worshiping Him, and through that worship, may we urgently seek to share the Gospel, praying that God will continue to save people from sin and death until Christ returns.
Landon Reynolds is a Christ-follower, husband, father, and pastor. Currently, Landon is an associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Florence, SC, where he oversees music and worship. He holds degrees from Anderson University, SC, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Currently, Landon is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Anderson University, SC. Find his blog at calvarycaresworship.com.