As the church is out of step with the world, so is the church’s calendar. Tradition has passed on to us a series of readings summarizing the Bible. Originally, the same readings would occur every year. More recently, a three-year series has also been developed. The readings are meant to guide us especially through the life of Jesus. The major times of the church calendar include Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
The season of Advent begins this year on November 29. It is a time of preparation for Christmas. While the world likes to bring Christmas early through sales, decorations, and parties, the church prepares for Christ’s coming. The real celebration begins on Christmas Day and extends 12 days. On December 26, the world can already begin preparing for the next holiday (namely New Year’s Eve), but the church extends Christmas till January 6 when Epiphany begins.
The season of Epiphany focuses on Jesus manifesting Himself to the world. It begins with the coming of the Magi who were outsiders and yet were welcomed into the family of faith. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Lent begins in the winter months and is a time of preparation for Easter. The Resurrection of our Lord is the biggest celebration showing Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil. Lent prepares us for Easter by offering a time of reflection and self-examination. Dust we are and to dust we shall return. This time is not a history lesson showing what Jesus did. Rather, we mourn the results of sin in our own lives and turn in repentance and faith to Jesus.
The longest season of the church year includes the Sundays after Pentecost. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, He sent His Holy Spirit to His disciples in a new way on the first Pentecost. They became emboldened to speak and share the message of Christ and the cross to the world. The Sundays after Pentecost then focus on Jesus’ miracles and ministry.
Christians are in this world but not of this world. Our lives in Christ should be out of step with the world because Jesus Himself walked a different path. His was not a path of conformity but a path of service and love to others. Through the same Spirit given to His disciples, we trust in Jesus for our life now and in eternity!
Mark Maunula is pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Isle.