Advent Begins in the Dark

“Advent begins in the dark,” Fleming Rutledge declared in her 1996 sermon on the first Sunday of Advent (Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, 2018, p. 251). We’ve leaned into that darkness in this issue of Reformed Worship as we consider the four “last things”: death, judgment, heaven, and hell (p. 33). It’s the darkness out of which we plead, “O Come, Emmanuel” (pp. 3 and 13), the darkness that’s the backdrop of Mary’s Magnificat (pp. 15 and 19). It’s a darkness that can overwhelm us and cause us to freeze, unsure of our next step, or it can propel us forward as we look for the light. We can be overcome by all the injustices in the world, or we can roll up our sleeves and join the Spirit’s work of righting wrongs. Dr. Neal Plantinga reminds us that, in the interim, “God’s redemption is good news for people whose life is bad news” (p. 28).

And it’s never all bad news. Indeed, God is with us and sometimes shows up in the most startling ways (p. 13). Cassie Lokker testifies that even as she experienced a season of profound physical darkness, she was able to find joy in the Christmas season (p. 39). Yes, Advent begins in the dark, but if we listen to the gospel message, we can hear the undertones of hope that lead us to the very necessary yet unexpected gift of Christmas (pp. 41 and 43).

This Advent, as in the Advents that have gone before, there is much that is wrong in this world. But in our lamenting and in our working to root out injustices, we are a people of hope, knowing that, as sure as Christ has died and has arisen, Christ will come again.

It is with our gaze fixed on a hope-filled future that we also celebrate Reformed Worship’s transition to a new publisher, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. There has been a lot of work happening behind the scenes to make this as seamless a transition as possible. However, if you run into any issues, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We can be overcome by all the injustices in the world, or we can roll up our sleeves and join the Spirit’s work of righting wrongs.

If you look at the inside front cover you may notice a few changes. We welcome Carlos Lemagne who has begun helping with advertising and social media. Bethany Besteman has been working with us for a while, but I’d like to officially welcome her. You may recognize her name as she has written for both the journal and the blog.

We want to congratulate designer Frank Gutbrod on a new position as art director of another journal, and are exceedingly grateful that he has agreed to keep working as Reformed Worship’s designer. We are also blessed by the ongoing leadership of Dean Heetderks, who has been the art director since RW began, the dedication of the rest of the staff—Kai Ton Chau, Karen DeVries, and Laura Meyering—and for the behind-the-scenes folks at both the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship who take care of a myriad of other details and provide oversight and leadership.

While this issue marks the beginning of a new chapter for Reformed Worship our commitment to supporting worship leaders, planners, and pastors with helpful resources and thought provoking articles remains. One of RW’s strengths is that much of what we publish comes from you, our reader, and is a reflection of what the Holy Spirit is doing in and through the church. May God be praised and God’s church blessed through this continued partnership.

Rev. Joyce Borger is senior editor of Reformed Worship and a resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Reformed Worship 149 © September 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.