The Christian Calendar
The church follows the Christian Liturgical Calendar which begins with the First Sunday of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas. The Christian Calendar developed out of the experience and life of the church and from the natural desire to celebrate and give recognition to events that are important to Christians. It is a yearly cycle emphasizing special seasons and days of the year and focuses on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the sending of the Holy Spirit to the church; and part in the Kingdom of God. Liturgical colors and other symbols are used to remind us of the meaning of each season and are displayed throughout the sanctuary during the year. The seasons of the Christian Year are: Advent (blue), Christmas (white), Epiphany (white), Lent (purple), Easter (white), Pentecost (red), and Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide (green).
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. Traditionally, two colors may be used during Advent: blue to symbolize hope, which our church uses, or purple to represent both royalty and penitence.
The Advent wreath of evergreen is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. Four candles are placed on the circle of the wreath, one for each week in Advent. Some churches use four purple candles while other churches prefer three purple or blue candles and one rose or pink candle to represent joy. One larger white candle is placed in the middle as the Christ candle.
In the United Methodist Church, the lighting of the first candle symbolizes Hope, the second symbolizes Peace, the third symbolizes Joy, and the fourth symbolizes Love. We light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day reminding Christians that Jesus is “The Light of the World.”
We rejoice at the birth of our Lord and Savior! The season of Christmas begins on Dec. 24 and lasts until Jan. 6. It is the season of praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
The colors used are white or gold to represent the purity of Christ’s humanity and the holiness of his divinity. The manger is used as the symbol of Christmas to remind us that Jesus came in an unexpected way as a humble servant to transform the world.
Epiphany is January 6, the day when the Wise Men were supposed to have visited Jesus. This is the beginning of the Epiphany season which continues until the day before Lent.
The word is Greek and means a “showing forth”. It is observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by “showing” Jesus as the Savior of all people.
White is used on Epiphany and the first Sunday after Epiphany, but green is the color used during the remainder of the season to represent hope and growth even as the leaves show forth in the spring. The star is used as the symbol of Epiphany as a reminder of the star that guided the Wise Men to Jesus.
Lent is the time of preparation for Easter, a renewal season, a time of penitence and self-denial, and of intensive nurturing of the Spirit.
The practice of self-denial is known as fasting. Christians choose to fast from things that distract them from God. Some will undertake acts of prayer and scripture reading to draw closer to God.
The season of Lent (from the Old English word meaning “lengthen”) lasts for forty days, from Ash Wednesday until Easter Eve. The symbol of Lent is the Cross of Christ. The liturgical color for Lent is purple to represent the royalty of Christ as King.
Easter is not just one day, but is celebrated during the year as a special season. The church also commemorates Christ’s resurrection every Sunday.
The Easter season, Eastertide, begins at sunset on Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. It focuses on Christ’s resurrection and ascension as well as the giving of the Holy Spirit on the first Easter (John 20:22-23) and the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Pentecost is the anniversary of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples and is the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise to bestow the Holy Spirit unto all of his people.
It is one of the oldest days of the Christian calendar and is regarded as a celebration of the beginning of the Christian Church. Pentecost (from the Greek pentecoste, meaning “fiftieth”) begins 55 days after Easter and is the sixth season of the Christian year, the season after Eastertide.
Red is used on the Sunday to represent fire, Christian zeal, and the work and ministry of the Church. The symbols for Pentecost include the descending dove, tongues of fire, and the mighty rushing wind.