The Church Year
The Church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a season of four weeks, including four Sundays. We celebrate the coming of Christ. Advent calls the Christian community to prepare for the coming of Jesus through the remembrance of His birth, through the Word and Holy Spirit, and in anticipation of His return in victory. Each Sunday of Advent has a theme: the first Sunday is Christ's coming in final victory, the second and third, John the Baptist, and the events immediately preceding the birth of Jesus. The colors are either purple or blue, which represent royalty. Many churches have an Advent Wreath with four candles. The first Sunday's candle represents Hope; the second Love; the third Joy; the fourth Peace. On Christmas Eve, a final fifth candle is lit to represent the birth of Christ.
The Christmas Season
Christmas is a season of praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, which begins with Christmas Eve or Day and continues through the Day of Epiphany. On the Day of Epiphany, we celebrate the manifestation of Jesus. The colors of white and gold, which represent purity and joy, are predominant. Signs of the season include a nativity scene (especially the Magi on the Day of Epiphany),
a Christmas tree, angels, poinsettias, and roses.
The Season after Epiphany
This is also Ordinary Time, which is four to nine Sundays depending on the date of Easter. The first Sunday focuses on the Baptism of Christ and the Last Sunday on the Transfiguration. The Gospel readings center on stories from the early ministry of Jesus. The color used for the first and last Sundays is white. The other Sundays use green, which represents life.
Lent lasts forty days, not counting Sundays. The word Lent means spring and is a preparation for Easter. It is a period of fasting,
penance, contemplation, and introspection. Ash Wednesday is a time when we confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God.
Many churches have attendees write their sin on a slip of paper. All the slips are burned and at the end of the service, the ashes are imposed on the forehead or hand as a sign of our confession. The first Sunday describes Jesus' temptation by Satan and the last Sunday (Palm = Passion) commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his passion and death. Each Sunday represents little Easters. There are three Great Days: Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, the night before Christ was crucified, Good Friday,
the day of His death, and Holy Saturday.
The Easter Season, also known as the Great Fifty Days, begins at sunset Easter Eve and continues through the Day of Pentecost. This is the most joyous and celebratory time of the Christian year. That is because we focus on Christ's resurrection and ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit on both the first Easter and the Day of Pentecost. There is a concentration on the book of Acts since the witness of the early church to the power of Holy Spirit and the resurrection. Easter falls during Passover and is thus linked with Exodus of the Old Testament. The English word Easter is also linked with an Anglo-Saxon festival celebrating the arrival of spring. Pentecost comes from the Greek word meaning fiftieth and it is also related to the Jewish Feast of Weeks. The Day of Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus to give power to their ministry. Up until the Day of Pentecost, the colors are white and gold. However, on Pentecost the color is red.
Season after Pentecost
This season is also known as Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide. It begins the day after Pentecost and ends the day before the first Sunday of Advent. Kingdomtide lasts for a period of between twenty-three to twenty-eight Sundays. The first Sunday is Trinity Sunday celebrating the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The last Sunday is the Reign of Christ or Christ the King.
Also included are All Saints and Thanksgiving. The United Methodist is the only denomination using the term Kingdomtide.
The gospel scriptures emphasize the teachings of Jesus and center on the kingdom and reign of God. The colors used are varied but the main color is green, which symbolizes growth and life in Christ.
The material on the Church Year comes from The United Methodist Book of Worship.
Copyright © 1992 by The United Methodist Publishing House.