Regulating the life of the church today by the Christian calendar is no easy task. Life-long habits need to be reoriented to this way of marking time. If churches are to accomplish this task, worship leaders and planners must learn a great deal about the history and theology that have shaped the Christian calendar. The great benefit of the Christian year is that the worshiping church is able to follow a rich and meaningful way of orienting its life around the work of Jesus Christ. As shown...
The Christian celebrates the saving events of God in Jesus Christ by marking those particular events in which God's saving purposes were made known.
Many churches that have rejected the practice of the Christian year follow the secular way of marking time. This article describes some of the "calendars" that churches use to mark time and points out some of the problems with the observance of civil occasions in particular. It is written from a Reformed perspective but will be useful to churches in any tradition.
In the first centuries a. d. the cycle of Christian time grew out of the conviction that all time finds its meaning in the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus the early Christians, beginning with the paschal event, extended the Christian calendar forward to Pentecost and backward to Lent and Holy Week. Later, in the fourth century, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany were developed to complete the cycle.
The resurrection of the crucified Christ is the point on which the weekly and annual cycles of the Christian calendar turn. In fact, it supplies the clue to the whole history of salvation and indeed the cosmos. Every Sunday and every Easter day is a commemoration and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and an anticipation of the day when the same Lord will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and finally establish God's universal kingdom.
The way Christians keep time is a way of remembering. In communal worship we remember and celebrate the events that make us who we are. Consequently the celebration of the Christian year forms us into Christ's body in the world.
Throughout the past generation, worship leaders and planners from many traditions have been working toward a consensus or ecumenical approach to the Christian year, resulting in the following outline of the year-long calendar.
Colors of the various seasons of the Christian year express the mood or feeling of the season. The following outline presents the colors most often associated with Christian seasons.
The anthology of songs for each season of the Christian year is a compilation of traditional hymns, gospel songs, popular hymns, and Scripture choruses chosen for their suitability for the seven major celebrations of the church year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. (You will find a listing of songs under each particular season in Volume 5.