Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Rhythm of the Church Year

Pastor’s Window for January 2009

The Rhythm of the Church Year

Merry Christmas! Yes, the world has already put away the Christmas decorations. The all-Christmas music station is back to playing regular top 40 hits. The stores are liquidating the Christmas merchandise and already pushing Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. The world has moved on. For the world, Christmas is over. But as of this writing, for Christians, Christmas has just begun. If you are reading this before January 6th, it’s still Christmas! For Christians do not let the media or commerce determine when Christmas ends. We operate under a calendar all our own, the Church Year calendar.

The Church Year gives rhythm and meaning to our life of worship together. The Church Year begins with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas. Though the world began to celebrate Christmas back in October (it gets earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it?), the Church doesn’t begin her Christmas celebration until the evening of December 24th (Christmas Eve). Why? Because we believe Christmas is important enough that we should spend some time preparing. Advent, which means “coming,” is a season of repentant preparation for the coming of Christ in the flesh at Christmas, His coming to us in Word and Sacrament, and His coming again to judge. Christmas begins for the Church with Christmas Eve (actually in the evening… the Church counts her days like the believers in the Old Testament, the new day beginning at sundown) and continues until January 6th. This is the 12 Days of Christmas!

January 6th is the celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord. Epiphany means “manifestation,” or “revelation.” It celebrates the revelation of our Lord as God in the flesh and as Savior of the Gentiles. For that reason, the Day of Epiphany is often called the Gentile Christmas. So even after Christmas, we Christians tenaciously continue to celebrate Christmas! As a matter of fact, Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are collectively called “The Time of Christmas.”

Lent begins “The Time of Easter.” Lent is another season of repentance and preparation, forty days (not counting Sundays) before Easter, this time in preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection. And once again, though the world moves on to the next holiday the day after Easter, the Church continues to celebrate Easter for another 7 weeks, until the Day of Pentecost. In fact, Easter is so important, the Church celebrates Easter every Sunday, including the Sundays in Lent. The very reason we worship on Sundays is because our Lord rose from the dead on that day. Though the world considers Christmas to be the most important holiday (and don’t get me wrong, it IS very important), the Church gives even more weight to Easter. For Christmas finds its significance in Good Friday and Easter. The time of Christmas and the Time of Easter combine to make the first half of the Church Year “The Time of Jesus,” as the readings and hymns concentrate on the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

“The Time of the Church” starts with Pentecost Sunday, eight Sundays after Easter. This day is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples with tongues of fire and the miraculous speaking of tongues in Jerusalem. The next Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday, celebrating the mystery of God as Three Persons in One God. The Pentecost and Trinity Seasons, which run parallel to each other, make up the longest season of the Church Year and continue until Advent begins another year. The Pentecost Season is called “The Time of the Church,” because it is during this season that our readings and hymns concentrate on growth in faith, growth in our understanding of God’s Word, and growth in our Christian life.

As you can see, we Christians live our life together according to a unique rhythm. Of course, the Bible doesn’t command that we observe the Church Year. But it is a good practice that serves the Gospel and gives order to the life of the Church. It also sets the Christian Church apart from the world. It is a confession that our Lord, not the secular calendar, determines the order of our days. So until January 6th, make a point of continuing to wish each other a Merry Christmas. Keep those Christmas trees up and light those Christmas lights. When others ask you why you do these things, you have the perfect opportunity to confess our Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, our Savior from sin.

Pastor Krenz

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