You might often notice that I refer to events or significant Sundays on “The Church Calendar.” The Christian Calendar or Christian Year refers to a yearlong calendar that marks time according to God’s activities rather than ours. It is to live life in a rhythm with Christ at the center of our worship.
Time is referenced in the Bible as both chronological and seasonal. The Christian Year is a co-mingling of both of these kinds of time. We as Christians celebrate events in which God acted in history for the benefit of his people. In order to remember those moments, dates have been assigned on the Christian Calendar so that we will not forget these significant events and praise God for what he has done.
So, then, to observe the Christian Year helps us as God’s people to recall and retell the story of God, especially the redemptive events of Jesus. In doing so, it provides a guide for our spiritual growth. The Christian Calendar is arranged in such a way as to proclaim the gospel over the course of a year. One of the ways that helps us to remember particular seasons is through the liturgical colors: purple signifies a time for preparation and penitence; white represents celebration, joy, and victory; green lets us know it is time to focus on spiritual growth and mission; and, red helps us recall the Passion of Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian Year is organized and arranged with these seasons:
Advent – The Christian Year begins not on January 1, but four Sundays before Christmas Day and up to Christmas Eve. The purpose of Advent is to anticipate the incarnation and prepare us to celebrate the coming of Jesus. We are also reminded that Jesus will return again at the end of the age.
Christmas – Yes, Christmas is more than just a day on the church calendar and encompasses the twelve days from December 25 to January 5 (you may recognize the 12 Days of Christmas). Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ.
Epiphany – Epiphany follows Christmas from January 6 to the day before Ash Wednesday. The term Epiphany means “manifestation.” This is a celebration of God’s revelation, his manifestation to the entire world, not just the Jews, but the Gentiles, as well. Epiphany emphasizes Christ’s earthly ministry of teaching, healing, and preaching.
Lent – There are forty days in the season of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Lent is a time to recall Christ’s temptation, conflict, suffering, and death. It is a season to contemplate our discipleship in light of Christ’s Passion, engage in repentance, and put deliberate focus on spiritual disciplines.
Easter – As with Christmas, Easter is not only one Sunday; it is a season of fifty days up to the day of Pentecost. Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus; helps us recognize our new life in Christ; and, includes celebrating the Ascension of our Lord.
Pentecost – This season runs from Eastertide to the Sunday before Advent. Pentecost celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, acknowledges our spiritual power, and calls us to rejoice in receiving God’s power.
Ordinary Time – This is the same season as Pentecost. Ordinary time refers to the ongoing work of the church to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the typical, expected, ordinary work of ministry that Christ’s followers are to do.
As we are now embarking upon the longest season of the Christian Year, Ordinary Time, we remember and realize that it is our joyful duty to follow Jesus and obey his commands in our normal everyday lives as Christians. Wherever we go, the gospel of Jesus Christ goes with us. May we experience together the journey in this ordinary time of seeing others come to Christ and our faith strengthened in the power of the Spirit. Even so, come Lord Jesus.