Have you ever wondered about Church terms you may have heard, or said, without understanding them-terms such as church year, liturgical year, or seasons of the church year?  Have you ever wondered about the different colors of cloth you see in church throughout the year, as well as other decorations?  What do they all mean?

In today’s blog post, I’m going to speak about our life together in the church.

The life of worship in  Catholic Churche and many Protestant Churches revolves around a 12 month cycle that is different from the calendars we use today, ranging from January 1 to December 31.

The Church Calendar or Liturgical year, actually begins 4 weeks prior to Christmas.  It ends on Christmas Eve.  This is known as the season of Advent.  The word “advent” means, “coming”.  The focus of this season is on the announcement of the coming of the Messiah, both through Old Testament Prophecy and the Annunciation of Christ’s impending birth to Mary.  The term for this is “Incarnation.” This is often known as the First Coming of Christ, when God became human as a baby.    This is often referred to as the Second Coming.  The second great theme of Advent is the good news that Christ will return again. At this time, Christ will right wrongs, bring justice and restore humanity and creation to the way God originally planned it. Advent reminds us we are living in an “in between” time with work to do for Christ.   Purple has been the traditional color of Advent,   reminding us how he came to die for our sins.In recent years, many congregations use colors of blue and gold.  These are also royal colors and proclaim Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

One of the most familiar observances of Advent in worship is the Advent Wreath.  This is an evergreen wreath with three purple and one pink candle, with a 5th large white candle in the center.  Since evergreens stay green year round, they represent eternal life in God.  The circle reminds us that God has no beginning and no ending.  The Pink candle is the candle of Joy and is lit on the third Sunday of Advent.  It is a shifting from looking back, to looking ahead with anticipation.  The white candle represents Christ the light of the world.  

Christmas begins on December 25 in many countries around the world.  It celebrates the birth of Christ.  The color of this season is white, symbolizing the innocence of the baby and also the purity and holiness of Christ.

Twelve days after Christmas, on January 6, the season of Epiphany begins.  The word, Epiphany means “to reveal”, “to show”, or “to make known”.  The focus in Epiphany is the beginning of showing Christ to the world.  If January 6 is on a weekday, the Sunday before it, is known as Epiphany Sunday.  This Sunday focuses on the Wise Men or Magi who visited Christ.  This is the first known act of the people outside of the Jewish faith coming to Jesus.  The message is “Christ is for everybody.”  The First Sunday after Epiphany is known as “The Baptism of the Lord Sunday.  The color is green, representing new growth and life.

Following Epiphany is the season of Lent.  Lent is a 40 day period of Fasting, prayer, reflection, repentance, confession, and recommitment to Christ.  The number 40 is an important number in scripture as it reminds us of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness before launching his ministry.  The color usually associated with Lent is purple, signifying sorrow for sin and why Christ had to die.  During Lent, some churches remove all visual enhancements for worship such as banners, and cloths on the pulpit and altar table.

Lent ends at Easter, where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The color is white, symbolizing life eternal. Easter lilies are popular flowers at Easter.  Their flowers are like trumpets, reminding to sound the trumpet of the Resurrection.  Easter is celebrated for 50 days.

On the 50th day, we enter the season of Pentecost.  This is the birthday of the church.  Acts 2 tells us that when the disciples were gathered together, the Holy Spirit, or God in the person of the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were dramatically changed.  They had a power that was so evident in their lives and ministry.  The color of Pentecost is red, symbolizing the fire of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and on you and me.  Pentecost continues until Advent, and the cycle begins again.

Each season of the church year has special services to help deepen faith and understanding.  Through the church year we relive and remember the major themes of scripture.  Themes that tell of the good news of God’s plan of salvation and how he has accomplished that through Jesus Christ.  This good news reminds us of our mission to go and share this good news.

Whether your church, or faith upbringing observed the Christian Year and all of it’s opportunities, I hope and pray that each time you worship, wherever you worship, you are filled with the awe and wonder of God and God’s love for you.

Happy New Year

Pastor Bill


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