What Is a Church Calendar and Why Should Christians Use It?

God created time and space, and gave them as gifts to His creation. Such gifts bring order and definition to our universe, as well as a way to reference events that have already happened, things that are now occurring, and those events yet to come. Man was given the responsibility to manage these gifts.

You’re familiar with the phrase “Time waits for no one.” Time is the most valuable commodity we have; either we will waste it or invest it! We all have only a measure of time on earth (Psalm 31:15). Therefore, the greatest gift you can give to someone is your time. In essence, you consider that person worth such a costly exchange!

The first Law established in the earth was the Law of Sowing and Reaping (Seedtime and Harvest--Gen. 8:22). If we make time for others (God first), the Lord will “stretch” our time, either literally or figuratively. He will increase our productivity and effectiveness, and His blessings upon our use of time will result in what appears to be more “free” time.

 “So I will restore to you the years (In the Hebrew, more akin to ‘opportunities’) that the swarming locusts has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.” Joel 2:25 nkjv

Actual time wasted in sin and disobedience can never be regained, and the consequences of our actions will leave marks upon time that others will reference. However, God in His mercy, who is the Lord of time and transcends it, offers to the penitent the restoration of many missed opportunities.

In an effort to use time wisely, man has invented many time-keeping devices--from sun dials to printed calendars to gizmos with impressive bells and whistles. Whether managed electronically or by the “old-fashioned” ballpoint pen, the phrase “I’ll pencil you in” is Standard English (particularly in the West). Moms keep track of soccer practices, school plays, and dinner menus.

Dad skillfully manages his weekly work schedule, knowing that minutes, hours, and days translate into much needed income for his family. Children manage to “make time” for their extra curricular activities, but somehow lose that ability when it comes to managing homework deadlines. The saying, “We always seem to find the time for the things we consider important” is so true for all of us…at any age!

What about personal time with the Lord? What about time invested in Church life? These investments have a higher rate of return than all our other activities combined! We are eager to “pencil” in everything else, while our time with the Lord remains a flexible option.

Christians read in the Old Testament how God moved His people through a rhythmic calendar of seasons, feasts, and holy days that enabled the unified, covenant community to stay focused on the spiritual in a material world. Some people say, “That’s no longer necessary”. I beg to differ. A church loosed from ancient moorings is adrift through time. 

Modern Church life is often lived out incrementally--from Sunday to Sunday or event to event with no true sense of identity, why they worship, and where they’re going. There’s no link to history and no connection to the
now unfolding and future encompassing of the Kingdom of God.

For instance, many believers have lost the truth of the “Communion of the Saints”  that once existed in the historic churches; that is, that as the faithful gather for the Covenant Meal the boundaries of time and space can be surpassed in Christ as the Church in heaven and earth worship as one. 

Some time after the council of Nicea (A.D. 325), the concept of a Christian Year began to develop. It was designed to move around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Sadly, most churches today mark ecclesiastical time by who speaks from the pulpit, not Who’s present at the Altar. The modern Church calendar is packed with a flurry of diversely focused meetings, programs, and concerts--all designed to hopefully keep the busy family interested in “growing and going for Christ.”

By contrast, the historic Church remains relatively faithful to the way the early church marked time on earth and measured spiritual growth. Most of the elements of the Christian Year were combined together during the 4th and 5th centuries into the form that we recognize today.

The Christian Year begins on the first Sunday of Advent (the fourth Sunday before December 25). Festivals or “feast days” commemorate historical events in the life of Christ or in the experience of the early Church. Dates remembering the lives and contributions of the great saints and martyrs of the Church are also recorded in order for today’s faithful to emulate their courage, purity, and devotion to Christ.

The Seven Seasons of the Church Year
teach the four doctrines of the Church:
The Incarnation
The Atonement
The Resurrection
Holy Trinity 
  1.  Advent – Preparation
Color:  Serum Blue (or purple) – the royalty of Christ as King
Significance:  Begins the Christian Year/penitential season of reflective thankfulness for our Savior’s first coming as Servant and Sacrifice/readiness for His return as Judge and King
Theme:  The two comings of Christ to earth
Duration:  It starts four Sundays prior to Christmas Day on the Sunday nearest November 30th and ends on Christmas Eve.

Major Feasts:
  1. Christmas – Celebration
Color:  White (or Gold) – the purity, holiness, and perfection of Christ
Significance:  Honors the birth of Christ
Theme:  The Incarnation
Duration:  It starts at the first Eucharist on Christmas Eve and ends on Epiphany Eve, January 5th.  It last 12 days (the Twelve Days of  Christmas).

Major Feasts:
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dec. 25th)
The Holy Name (Circumcision and naming of Christ--January 1st)
Day of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th)--an important Feast remembering the children who were slain by Herod/a day to pray for the innocents slain daily by abortion 
  1. Epiphany – A Showing Forth
Color:  Green – representing the Christian life and the renewal that comes from Christ. (Major Feast Days are White)
Significance:  The appearance and revelation of Christ to the world, as see in the visit of The Magi (Gentiles) to the Christ Child
            Theme:  God became flesh and dwelt among us
            Duration:  It lasts from January 6th to Shrove Tuesday.

            Major Feasts:
Feast of Epiphany
(White--Jan 6th)                       

Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ (White--first Sunday after Epiphany)
  1. Lenten – Repentance
Color:  Purple – represents a time of penance, death, and Christ’s forgiveness (During Holy Week the color is Ox Blood Red, denoting the shedding of Christ’s blood.)
Significance:  Introspection for the removal of sin
Theme:  Repentance, forgiveness, and restoration
Duration:  It lasts from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week, a period of 40 Days (excluding Sundays).

Major Feasts:
Ash Wednesday (Dried Palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday Procession are burned and the ashes imposed on the penitent’s forehead.)

Holy Week Services: (Ox Blood Red)
Palm Sunday (“Hosanna!” Processional)
Maundy Thursday
(means “New Commandment”/a day of joy because Christ gave us the Eucharist-Color is White)
Good Friday (Color-Black/Day of Atonement for our sins)
Holy Saturday (lasts until sunset)
The Great Easter Vigil (starts at sunset on Holy Saturday until Easter Sunday)
  1. Easter – Resurrection
Color:  White (or Gold) – represents the purity, holiness, and perfection of Christ
Significance:  The bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, conquering the power of sin and death
Theme:  Joy and renewal through the resurrection power of the living Christ, who has redeemed and brought us eternally home to the Father
Duration:  It starts at Easter Vigil (Easter Eve) and last 50 days until Pentecost.

Major Feasts:
Resurrection Sunday (Easter)
The Feast of Ascension
(Christ returned to sit at the Right Hand of the Father, having finished the work of redemption.He now builds and governs His Church through the Holy Spirit until His bodily return to earth to rule.)
The Feast of Pentecost (The Holy Spirit was given to the Church on the day of Pentecost. It was here Peter “unlocked” the Kingdom with the Keys of Authority.)
  1. After Pentecost – Power
Color:  Red – a reminder that there is “life” in the blood of Christ and a representation of the power that was made available to the Church; also represents the “tongues of fire” that rested upon the heads of those gathered in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost
Significance:  We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit who saves, sanctifies, and empowers for service; the guide, governor, and guardian of the Church
Theme:  The gifts and fruit of the Spirit
Duration:  It starts on the first Sunday after Pentecost and last until the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ in August.

Major Feasts:
Trinity Sunday (White-a time when we celebrate and ponder the majesty and mystery of our one God in Three Persons: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
  1. Kingdomtide – Ordinary Time (Living the Christian Life)
Color:  Green – represents the growing Christian life
Significance:  The Kingdom of God is an everyday reality in our lives and should not be marked by high’s and low’s, but steady progress.
Duration:  It lasts from the first Sunday after the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ until the beginning of Advent.

Major Feasts:
All Saints/All Souls Day (White/Nov. 1--a time to remember and honor all of those who have passed from this earthly existence into the rest of our Lord.
Christ the King (White--Last Sunday before Advent)

source: adapted from
the Student Manual of The Certificate Program at St. Michael’s Seminary, The International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
John 8:32  nkjv

The above verse is often quoted with the word “set”, but notice Jesus “makes” us free. This suggests a period of time--a process similar to peeling or unwrapping. As the Holy Spirit helps us to understand, embrace, and activate truth in our lives it will ultimately, without fail, begin to make us free!

Kingdom truths are like exquisite diamonds with multiple facets. The closer we are to the treasure, the more facets we can clearly locate and examine. Moving around the diamond also gives up perspectives we could not see from a static position. The enemy likes to keep us “stuck in a rut”, but God wants us to go from “glory to glory”.

The Church Calendar keeps up focused on the four major doctrines of Christ as we repeatedly, year after year, move rhythmically through the seven fixed seasons. They, like the diamond, remain unchanged. However, we are the ones changing--growing ever closer, gaining new perspectives as the Holy Spirit removes layers of self and man-centeredness to reveal a Christ consciousness.   

We observe the birthdays of our loved ones every year at the same time. Nevertheless, these celebrations vary in meaning from year to year, becoming more poignant and precious with the passing of time and changing circumstances. So does the passing of holy days during our pilgrimage through time on earth.
We don’t gauge our spiritual growth by reading the latest “end time” book or attending a healing crusade, but by whether or not we know Jesus better--more intimately--than ever before! We compare ourselves…not to each other, but to Christ as He is increasingly revealed through time in these doctrines of the Church.

I must ask myself: Do I have a greater personal revelation of Christ’s Resurrection
this year? Am I walking in a Kingdom reality of Pentecost that I was not able to grasp last year? How have these truths been working progressively, faithfully in my life over the past year to “make” me free in Christ? Can I tell a difference? Can others?

Yes, the Church Year is the same; but am I?

David proclaimed:

“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days,
that I may know how frail I am.

Indeed, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is nothing before You.”
Psalm 39:4-5a  nkjv

After David died the Holy Spirit proclaimed:

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God,
fell asleep…”
  Acts 13:36  nkjv

 May we all be wise redeemers and stewards of the gift of time, so that it may also be said of us that AFTER serving our generation by the will of God, we took off our watches, closed our calendars, and felt the eternal embrace of God!

No comments: