Hello Church Family, Allow me to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year as this will be my last video update for 2019. Some of you know my 3 sons – Glenn, Garrett and Gatlin. Many of you know that all three played American football – and yes, they all played the position of linebacker. They are tough guys, and the mantra heard around our house was “Deliver the blow, don’t receive the blow.” From 1996 – 2013 we had 17 years of being involved in organized football. We started at the beginner level of Pee-Wee football and went all the way through to Division II College Football. In many ways, our lives were revolved around football - and believe me, football had its own liturgy. It seems like a strange use of the word “liturgy”, which has come to refer to an established formula for public worship, prescribed rituals, and the following of a specific worship calendar. So, let me explain the liturgy of football. Public worship of any football team starts with tailgating in the parking lot where fans gather to share food and fellowship. At a certain point, the fans enter the sanctuary--the massive football stadium of high school, college and professional teams. Prescribed rituals include playing the National Anthem, tossing the coin to determine offense and defense, four 15-minute quarters of action (with a halftime show), cheerleaders lining the sideline with chants, dances and lots of screaming, and celebration dances in the end zone when touchdowns are scored. The calendar is exhaustive – especially when fans (fanatics) try to keep up with college, professional and the recent fantasy football leagues. Pre-season runs the length of summer, regular season takes us through autumn all the way to December when we start fresh with the playoff season, and then we make our way to the Christmas party of football – The Super Bowl. The letdown after the Super Bowl is remedied by the plethora of mock drafts building up to the college draft day in mid-April. Get the picture? Football has become a religion. For many, it’s the center of their lives. In GCI, we have a different center. Our GCI Mantra is “Christ is the Center of the Center.” And our liturgy points to Jesus. Therefore, the GCI Calendar also focuses on Jesus. Christian liturgy refers to an established formula for public worship, proscribed rituals or sacraments, and follows a specific calendar. In GCI many of us have been following a Christian calendar since we experienced the amazing renewal of grace all the way back in 1995. Our GCI worship calendar is not new, it is simply helping us keep Jesus the center of the center in when and how we worship on special days. Early on in church history, Christian worship focused on the resurrection of the crucified Lord Jesus Christ, celebrated weekly on Sunday (the day Jesus rose from the dead) and annually on Easter. Over the centuries, the liturgical year was filled out with Christ-centered celebrations and commemorations, resulting in the annual worship calendar most Christian churches follow. In GCI, we are no different, following the same calendar as most of the body of Christ. The cycle of celebrating Christ as the soon coming King of kings, followed by the remembrance of the events leading up to his birth and the miraculous incarnation when God became human in the person of the baby Jesus is the season of Advent and Christmas. This is followed by a time of celebrating the light that illuminated a dark world and then walking along with Jesus through his earthly ministry all the way through to Holy Week. Holy week begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem, the events of the Last Supper, the reality of his sacrificial death on Good Friday, and the conquest over the grave on Easter Sunday. We continue with remembering the Lord’s ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the church and celebrating our Triune God with Trinity Sunday. These celebrations are filled with songs, hymns, scripture reading, drama, sermons, prayers, and sharing in the Lord’s table – all being done in worship and praise to our Savior Jesus. These events help us not only remember Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and anticipation of his second coming, they also help us keep him the center of the center. This is why followers of Jesus look forward to participating in this powerful cycle of worship and remembrance we find in the Christian calendar. While Advent begins the new Christian year, we end the previous year with an acknowledgment of who Jesus is. I hope all GCI churches around the globe will participate in the worship year as we approach Christ the King Sunday on November 24th. In December we start the new Christian calendar year with four weeks of Advent, leading up to our Christmas celebrations. It is our pleasure to make sermon outlines available through Equipper, and we will have additional informative articles as well. A bonus piece is that there will be printable versions of invitation cards that you can customize to be shared with friends and neighbors to include them in the special Christ-centered celebrations. 2020 will be a time of furthering our understanding of how we can be more vigilant in making Christ the center of the center with how we worship. But more than an educational experience, it is my desire that the upcoming year will be a year of worship where we experience Jesus. Let the celebrations begin!