Biblical Foundations of Christian Festivals

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Christians, like the Jews, have developed a calendar of feasts to celebrate God's great acts of salvation. As explained in the following nine entries, these feasts are organized especially around the birth of Christ (Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany) and around his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost). Increasingly, churches are recovering these feasts as principal acts of worship in recognition of their relationship to the biblical...

Background to the Christian Festivals

Emerging from its Judaic background, the Christian church did not continue the observance of the festivals of Israelite worship but developed a liturgical calendar of its own, based principally on major events in the life of Christ.

The Lord’s Day (Sunday) Biblical

From New Testament times, the church met for worship on the first day of the week, the day of Jesus' resurrection. The Lord's Day has absorbed some features of the Jewish Sabbath, but also differs in important respects. It is a day that incorporates within it all the festivals of the Christian year. Terminology

Advent (Biblical)

The historic starting point of the Christian year is the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christian "Pascha," or Passover. However, for most Christians, the Christian seasons begin with Advent, a time of preparation for the celebration of Christ's coming.

Christmas (Biblical)

As the celebration of the birth of the Savior, Christmas calls attention to the mystery of the Incarnation, the vulnerable participation involvement of God in the human scene.

Epiphany and After (Biblical)

The Epiphany, or manifestation, of Christ is a celebration of his revelation to the peoples of the world. The Epiphany season follows Christmas and extends to the beginning of Lent.

Lent (Biblical)

The season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday, has traditionally been a penitential season, a time of preparation for the commemoration of the events of Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection.

Holy Week (Biblical)

In the Western church, Holy Week is not a separate season but a part of Lent. In the Eastern church, Holy Week is a season to itself. Holy Week commemorates the final events that led to the death of Jesus.

Easter (Pascha) to Pentecost (Biblical)

The celebrations of the Easter season have always been the most joyous festivals of the church year, for they focus on the event that vindicates Jesus as Lord and Messiah and that offers the promise of life for those who belong to him. "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20). The Easter or Paschal season includes Ascension Day and concludes with Pentecost.

Season After Pentecost (Biblical)

The liturgical calendar, which sequentially presents events in the life of Christ, ends with Pentecost. The season between Pentecost and Advent is called the "season after Pentecost" in most Christian traditions. Although it does not feature any major festivals of the Christian year, many lesser feasts and fasts fall in this period. Two of these, standing at the beginning and end of the season, are Trinity Sunday and the Festival of Christ the King.