As we move in worship to the Gospel reading, we adjust our position, from sitting to standing. We stand as a sign of respect because here, now, we listen to the Words of Scripture, specifically telling us about who Jesus is and what he has done. Not only that but in the more traditional liturgies the congregation sings in anticipation of this great news. For example, in Lutheran Service Book, Divine Services One and Two the Alleluia and Verse in anticipation of the Gospel follows either:
Common: “Alleluia. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Alleluia, Alleluia.” (John 6:68)
Lent: “Return to the Lord, your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and abounding in steadfast love.” (Joel 2:13)
While the Old Testament reading outlines the preparation and the epistle reading surveys the results, the Gospel reading is central. The culmination of creation and history and the full revelation of God’s plan of salvation meet in this person who is true God and true Man.
The three year lectionaries follow each of the Synoptic Gospels through each year: Matthew (Series A), Mark (Series B), and Luke (Series C). John is used occasionally in each, most often in Series B because Mark is the shortest of the Synoptics.
As noted in an earlier post, the readings follow the liturgical year. Thus, the focus from the first Sunday of Advent to Pentecost is on the life and ministry of Jesus, namely from the announcement of his birth to his pouring out the Holy Spirit after his resurrection and ascension to heaven. The other half of the year still include Gospel readings(!) all about Jesus, but the selections emphasize his teaching ministry as a means for the church to grow.