“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
by Seattle ALC
For many centuries the cross has been the symbol of the christian church. It represents Christ’s vicarious atonement for sin. Its message embodies the complete redemptive work of Christ which began with His conception by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it includes His sinless life, His sacrificial death, His glorious resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His intercession for us, and the promise of His visible return.
When St. Paul made the statement that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but to us which be saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1: 18), he did a magnificent job of summing up the entire work of our Lord in behalf of the sinner. Unless we accept His entire work, we have no part in it at all. His perfect work of reconciling the world unto the Creator (II Corinthians 5: 19) cannot be appropriated in a piecemeal manner. Either Christ and His work are the sole reason for our salvation, or we are totally without any of the benefits of His ministry.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15: 1-4)
According to the wisdom given to them, the early church fathers designated different parts of the year for observing various parts of the work of God in Christ. As we follow this tradition, we have the opportunity to give special consideration to the work of Christ for us and also His work in us. The church year is divided into two segments: namely, from the first Sunday in Advent to Pentecost, and from Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost) to the last Sunday after Trinity. The first period deals with the life of Christ, from His birth to His ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. The second deals with the life of the christian, from baptism to the day of judgment. The great theme of the first part is Christ for us, while that of the second part is Christ in us. The first deals with all that God has done for our salvation through Christ. The second part is intended to show how we may receive the salvation of God through Christ and by daily sanctification be prepared for the Lord’s second coming.
The three main festivals of the church occur in the first part of the church year. They are Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.
CHRISTMAS is preceded by the Advent Season. Advent means “coming” and the texts of the four Advent Sundays treat of the coming of Jesus. Christmas celebrates His birth. The second day of Christmas commemorates the martyrs, suggested by Herod’s murder of the Innocents. New Year’s Day speaks of the Name of Jesus, which He received eight days after His birth. In this way we begin the secular year in the Name of Jesus. Epiphany means “manifestation”. It celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Wise Men, and throughout the centuries to all the nations of the earth.
EASTER, like Christmas, also has a period of preparation.
This is known as the Lenten Season. During this time the sermons dwell on the passion story of Christ, and the church follows the Saviour in spirit on His way to the cross. The texts of Palm Sunday treat of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and of the Holy Supper instituted by Christ on the eve of His final sufferings. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. Easter celebrates His resurrection.
PENTECOST means “fiftieth”, that is fifty days after Easter. The giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai occurred on the fiftieth day after the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. The New Testament Pentecost occurred on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead–ten days after His ascension into heaven. The outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit occurred on this holy day.
“WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS, ON WHICH THE PRINCE OF GLORY DIED: MY RICHEST GAIN I COUNT BUT LOSS, AND POUR CONTEMPT ON ALL MY PRIDE. WERE THE WHOLE REALM OF NATURE MINE, THAT WERE A PRESENT FAR TOO SMALL. LOVE SO AMAZING, SO DIVINE, DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL."
From the archives of the late A.C. Holmgren February 1989
Submitted by Pastor Stan
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