Seasons at Gloria Dei

One of the best kept secrets in Evangelical Lutheran Worship can be found inside the back cover of our hymnal. There you will find a clear plastic sleeve, designed as a place where a variety of information about worship can be shared. The worship committee has placed this series of statements about celebrating the seasons of the church year.

ADVENT: Season of Waiting

The church year begins with Advent, the season that slows us down and teaches us to wait. Advent means “coming” and we wait for three comings—the coming of Jesus in his birth at Bethlehem, the coming of God’s presence among us in worship and community, and the second coming of Christ at the end of time, when God’s reign will be known in all its fullness. Blue is the color of the sky just before night ends, a promise of light about to rise, a promise we mark by lighting candles, one each week.

CHRISTMAS: Season of Fulfillment

Following Advent’s night of blue, Christmas explodes in a blaze of light, flowers, color, and music. The tree is decorated with “Chrismons,” white and gold symbols of the savior, Jesus the Christ. Bright poinsettias are reminders of life, even in winter. The candles of the Advent wreath are joined by the Christ candle in the center and by the spreading candlelight that marks our Christmas Eve worship. Music and song bring joy and festivity. All we have waited for, all for which we have hoped, has arrived. The true light, which enlightens everyone, has come into the world (John 1:9).

EPIPHANY: Season of Revelation

Epiphany celebrates Christ as the Light of the World. The Magi, representing all nations, came from the East, following the light of a star. We, too, have a star to guide us; the Word and sacraments reveal God’s grace and mercy. We hear scripture proclaim Jesus’ identity in his baptism at the Jordan River and his first miracle and we know God’s presence in baptism and communion. The pulpit and altar hangings change from white to the green of ordinary time, a reminder that we carry the light of Christ into our daily lives.

LENT: Journey of Faith

Lent is a period of 40 days leading up to the celebration of Easter. Traditionally it has been a time of preparation for baptism, reviewing the basics of faith, and observing the disciplines of repentance, fasting, prayer, sacrificial giving, and works of love.

The season begins with Ash Wednesday a day to acknowledge both our need for repentance and for God’s mercy. Our foreheads are marked with a cross of ashes—a sign of our own mortality. In addition to Sunday worship, Gloria Dei offers a midweek meal of soup and bread, time for learning, and an opportunity for worship and prayer around the cross.

Lent culminates in Holy Week. On Palm/Passion Sunday we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the whole story of his suffering, death, and burial. On Maundy Thursday we remember that Jesus commanded us to love and serve one another, a calling we commemorate in footwashing. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper and conclude with the stripping of the altar area as a sign of Jesus’ abandonment. On Good Friday—as the sanctuary grows ever darker—we hear again, through music and scripture, the story of Jesus’ last hours. At the Vigil of Easter (Holy Saturday) our darkness turns to light and our sorrow to joy as we tell the stories of our “family” history, welcome new members, and celebrate the first Holy Communion of Easter.

EASTER: Christ Is Risen!

Easter is the origin and center of the Christian faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again and Christ will bring us also from life to death. We are a resurrection people! Easter is not one day, but a season of 50 days, a “week of weeks.” Even more, every Sunday is a “little Easter” because it is the day Jesus rose from the tomb.

The season begins with the Vigil of Easter—a service of light, a telling of our “family stories,” a remembrance and celebration of baptism, a feasting together at the Lord’s Table. The somber purple of Lent gives way to white and gold. Simplicity gives way to an abundance of candles and lilies. The joyful spoken and sung “alleluias” return to our liturgy.

On the seven Sundays of Easter the first reading comes from Acts rather than the Old Testament. Most of the gospel readings come from John, telling of Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the disciples. 40 days after Easter is the Feast of the Ascension when Jesus’ earthly ministry ended and he returned to God.

The altar painting at Gloria Dei depicts this event. The 50th day of Easter is the Day of Pentecost, celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church.

SUMMER – EARLY FALL: Season of Growth/Season of Creation

The first half of the church year, from Advent to Pentecost, is often called “the time of Christ,” when the lessons trace the life of Christ. The second half of the year is sometimes called “ordinary time”—no great celebrations of God’s mighty acts (such as Christmas or Easter.) Instead this is a time to reflect on God’s goodness, especially as seen in creation, and to grow in our faith.

This time has also been called the “long green season” after the color used for the altar and pulpit hangings, as well as seasonal banners. The various shades of green and the blue-green of our planet as seen from space, suggest the beauty of creation and the many stages of growth in Christian life.

Each summer we set aside five Sundays as a Season of Creation, concluding with Lake Superior Sunday on the third Sunday of July. Through scripture readings, hymns, and prayers we give special attention to and recommit ourselves to an earth-honoring faith.

During the August weekend of Duluth’s Blues Fest, Gloria Dei’s Sunday service features blues music—in celebration of the wide variety of music through which we worship God.

AUTUMN: Season of Endings

The long green season of growth that began with Pentecost continues into the autumn, now focusing even more on growth in discipleship. Educational opportunities have resumed and Sunday worship includes some special occasions and festivals:

  • Blessing of the Animals on a Sunday near October 4, the day of commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi
  • Service of Healing on a Sunday near October 18, the Feast of St. Luke
  • Reformation Sunday, remembering both our Lutheran heritage and the church’s need for continual reform
  • All Saints Sunday, remembering those who have died

November is also a time for giving thanks and for committing ourselves to the faithful stewardship of all God has given us.

As the leaves fall and the days shorten, the church year moves from ordinary-time to end-time. The liturgical color is still green, but it becomes richer and darker, accented by the golds, deep reds, and even dark purples that characterize this time of year in the northern hemisphere.

On the final Sunday of the church year we celebrate the festival of Christ the King and we shift our focus from Christ’s work to Christ’s return.

Wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome here!

Learn More about Gloria Dei