One of the things the early church developed was the liturgical calendar to help Christians learn about, remember and live out the life of Jesus. Over the years the Eastern and Western traditions of the Church have modified their own liturgical calendars. There are some differences but they are mostly the same. While Christians are not required to recognize or use the Christian liturgical calendar, many have found it useful in practicing our faith, myself included.
While we are more familiar with the Gregorian Calendar which we use today, which begins in January and concludes with December—what we call the calendar year—the Christian calendar is different. What does it look like?
- Advent: the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Advent means “coming”, so it is a time when we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, and remember that Jesus will come again.
- Christmas (or Christmastide): begins Christmas Day and runs twelve days to Epiphany, January 6, customarily understood as the day when the Wise Men visited Jesus. While most of the world wraps up Christmas on December 26th, many Christians are just beginning their Christmas celebration.
- Epiphany, January 6: a time to focus on recognition of Jesus as God’s Son, remembering how God manifested himself in Jesus’ life through his teaching, his example in living , his healing and his compassionate love especially for those considered outcasts. For me this season lasts until Lent.
- Lent: beginning with Ash Wednesday, the Wednesday seven weeks before Easter. It is a time to remember Jesus’ humanity, his suffering, and our mortality; it is a time to contemplate the cost of following Jesus.
- Holy Week: which includes remembrance of two important events in Jesus’ life—his last supper with his disciples, Maundy Thursday (from the Latin: Mandatum-Jesus command to love one another) and Good Friday, a remembrance of Jesus suffering death. We offer worship opportunities on these two days, though most people don’t give them a thought on the way to Easter.
- Easter: a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday morning following the Friday of his death, the third day (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The season of Easter runs for seven weeks after Easter. We often focus on Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
- Pentecost: the seventh Sunday after Easter, when we recall and celebrate God’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit and, in the eyes of some, the birth of the church. Technically Pentecost lasts one day, and then the time from Pentecost to Advent is called “Ordinary Time”. I rather like to think of Pentecost lasting all the way through to Advent. As the longest season it reminds us that the life of discipleship is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash. It is a long season. It also reminds us that we are to live each day as if it is the last or the day of Jesus’ return, worshiping and serving God faithfully.
As we enter the month of April this year, we come nearer to the moment of Jesus’ suffering and death. I encourage you as you gather to worship to focus on the white cross in our sanctuary. As you look at it, what event in Jesus’ life does it shine a light on? What emotions does it evoke in you? What is the significance of the cross for you? For Christians in general? What difference does it make in your daily life? What does it mean to you when Jesus tells you that if you want to be his disciple you must take up your own cross and carry it daily? What does it mean that if you want to gain abundant life you must lose your life? What questions do you bring to the cross?
I look forward to sharing the journey of discipleship with you.
Grace and Peace,