Special Worship Services
Southminster is a vital community of faith. We gather to worship together every Sunday, but some worship services or times of the year are particularly meaningful or different. Below is information about some of the most important days in the Christian calendar.
“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” During the season of Advent, we celebrate Christ’s coming into the world and watch with expectant hope for his coming again. In its historical origins, the season of Advent was patterned after the season of Lent, a six-week period of penitence and preparation for Easter. Similarly, the four weeks of Advent present an opportunity for communal discernment and personal examination, as the church prepares to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord and looks with hope for Christ’s return.
Christmas Eve / Christmas
What is “Christmas”? It is three words: God in flesh; or four syllables: in-car-na-tion. The Gospel according to John (1:14) tells us, “The Word became flesh and lived among us, … full of grace and truth.” Christmas proclaims that God has come in flesh, has come “to save us all from Satan’s power.” Christmas celebrates far more than a birthday; Christmas acclaims the advent of messianic salvation. Christ was sent among us in order to save us. …
What we pay homage to at Christmas, therefore, is that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s saving purpose begins with the birth of Jesus, the messianic Savior. God’s only Son is born among us in order to save the world. This is the message of Christmas.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent with a public act of confession and contrition. Acknowledging that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we stand in solidarity as fellow creatures before our Creator, acutely aware of our mortality. In the face of our transience, we pledge ourselves anew to live unto God’s Word in Jesus Christ, the eternal Word that remains forever.
In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation for the celebration of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In many communities of faith it remains a time to equip and nurture candidates for baptism and confirmation and to reflect deeply on the theme of baptismal discipleship.
Passion / Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, a time in the church year when we remember how Christ gave his life in love for the world. As this service opens, the crowd waves palm branches, wanting to crown Jesus as king. But as the story of the passion unfolds, their shouts of praise turn to demands for his crucifixion; he receives a crown of thorns as he is handed over to be mocked and killed.
Maundy Thursday begins the Three Days (or Triduum), remembering the new commandment that Christ gave us in word and deed as he taught us how to love one another, washing our feet as a servant. We also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, remembering the meal Christ shared with his disciples before his death.
Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus’ crucifixion. The hours of noon to 3 p.m. are particularly significant as these commemorate the time Jesus hung on the cross. It is an especially important time to pray for the church and the world for whom Christ gave his life.
The festival of the Resurrection of the Lord (or Easter Sunday) is the center of the Christian year. On this occasion the church joyfully proclaims the good news that is at the very heart of the gospel: that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
It is sometimes said that every Sunday is a little Easter; liturgical theologian Laurence Stookey suggests that it might be more appropriate to say that every Easter is a great Sunday (Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, Abingdon Press, 1996, 158-161). Easter Sunday is the Lord’s Day writ large: a great annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week. As such, the service should be centered around the typical and fundamental elements of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day: the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Easter Sunday is also an especially appropriate time for the sacrament of Baptism, if not celebrated during the Easter Vigil of the previous night.
On the Day of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit descending in a mighty rush of wind and flame to inspire the church’s proclamation of Christ’s rising and to empower its mission and ministry to the world. (See Acts 2:1-13; see also Joel 2:28-32.)
The notion of Easter as a season of 50 days ending at Pentecost is patterned after the ancient Jewish festival of seven weeks that extended from the beginning of the barley harvest (on the second day after the beginning of Passover) to the end of the wheat harvest at the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot (see Deuteronomy 16:9-12). The Festival of Weeks later came to be called Pentecost (“50th day”) by Greek speaking Jews. In Jewish tradition, Shavuot also marks the giving of the law to Moses at Sinai; this liturgical link may inform Paul’s discussions of the law and the Spirit (see Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 3 and Galatians 3).