The church year provides a ready-made pattern for worship. The key seasons are Advent and Easter, which not only mark important events in the life of our Lord, but also inform the church’s responses to these events in outward and inward worship. In addition, the church year puts the congregation in tune with a great body of Christian tradition that stretches across the world and back through the centuries.
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.
Following the lead of secular culture, many Christians place Christmas as the most important day in the Christian year. This article suggests that a more profound understanding of Christmas arises out of an awareness of the history of the Christian year. Christmas should be understood in light of the events which follow—Epiphany and, eventually, Easter.
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.
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.
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.
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.