Advent is the beginning of the Church Calendar. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday closest to November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” This is the focus of the entire season, the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ. Advent is a season of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, and longing. It is hope that God brings to the world a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.
The Christmas season is twelve days long, beginning with Christmas Eve on December 24. The season is marked with celebration of the birth of Jesus through traditions such as the building of nativity scenes and the singing of Christmas hymns. Depending on the day of the week on which Christmas falls, there may be two Sundays after Christmas. In most years, however, there is only one. The Christmas season ends on January 5.
The color WHITE is associated with Christmas, as it represents light and joy. It is the color of purity and eternity.
The Epiphany of Our Lord falls on January 6 and commemorates the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus. The first Sunday after Epiphany marks the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, while the last Sunday after Epiphany marks the Transfiguration of our Lord. The emphasis of the Epiphany season is on the self–revelation of God to the world. Beginning with the Epiphany, when Christ revealed himself to the Gentile Wise Men as a “Light to lighten the Gentiles,” this revelation emphasis continues, as the Gospel readings depict how Jesus revealed himself in word and deed as true God, Messiah, and Savior of the world. Depending on the date of Ash Wednesday, there may be as many as eight Sundays after the Epiphany.
The color WHITE is associated with the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Jesus.
The color GREEN is associated with the other Sundays in this period, as it represents spiritual growth and life.
Lent includes the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, excluding Sundays. During the Lenten season, Sundays are excluded from the 40 days, as they are celebrations of Jesus’ resurrection. The date of Ash Wednesday depends on the date of Easter. The name “Ash Wednesday” comes from a practice originating in the Middle Ages of ashes being sprinkled over the heads of those who came to church and went to confession. Today ashes are applied to the forehead in the shape of a cross. Ash Wednesday is a day for repentance and a reminder of one’s mortality. It is also an opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death, which provided salvation to all Christians.
The 40 days in lent reflects the length of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and overcoming Satan’s temptations. There are five Sundays in Lent. The season of Lent continues until the eve of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday, or the Sunday of the Passion commemorates the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem in the name of the Lord, and the laying of palm leaves by in front of him by those who witnessed his arrival. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.
The color PURPLE is associated with the Lenten season, as is suggests somberness and solemnity. It is the color or royalty.
The color for Palm Sunday is RED.
The following days, Monday of Holy Week, Tuesday of Holy Week, and Wednesday of Holy Week, look at the events that led up to the crucifixion. The combination of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter are together referred to as The Three Days. Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday before Easter, commemorates the Last Supper with Jesus and his apostles. The next day, Good Friday, is a remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death. The Vigil of Easter is held in the early morning hours on Easter Sunday. During Holy Week the focus is on the suffering and death of our Savior and the importance that it has for us and for our salvation.
During Holy Week, the color RED is often used to symbolize the deep color of blood.
On Good Friday, no colors are used.
Easter is the high point of the church year. The Easter season, or Eastertide, is a 50-day period from Easter to Pentecost. Easter was the first festival to be observed annually by Christians. Easter Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ from the dead and ascent to Heaven. By the his resurrection, Jesus proved that he is the victor over sin, death, and the grave. The Easter season ends with Pentecost, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles other followers of Christ. Easter is followed by six Sundays. The first Sunday following is designated the Second Sunday of Easter and the last is called the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Between the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter is Ascension Day. Ascension Day falls on the 40th day after Easter and commemorates when the risen Lord ascended into heaven. It is always on a Thursday.
Pentecost (from a Greek word meaning “fifty”), the 50th day after Easter, concludes the Easter season. On Pentecost we commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, to the disciples who were waiting in Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus. Because it is through the work of the Spirit that we receive the benefits of Christ’s work for us, Pentecost is also a time of great celebration and joy.
The date of Easter changes from year to year. This fluctuation is because the date of Easter was originally set according to a lunar (moon) calendar. The moon is still used to set the date of Easter. The formula is as follows: Easter is the Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. The spring equinox falls on March 21. This means that the earliest date Easter can be is March 22, while the latest is April 25.
The color WHITE is associated with the Easter season, as it reflects joy. On Easter Sunday, GOLD may be used.
Pentecost is often called the birthday of the church because it is the day that the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in the upper room and they were empowered to go out to preach the Good News of Salvation. The word “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word for “fifty.” The Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, occurred 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection and 10 days after His ascension. The day celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit to the disciples following Jesus’ ascension.
Because Pentecost is the day that God poured out His Holy Spirit on Christ’s disciples, the Season after Pentecost is centered on sanctification, the work of the Holy Spirit in the day to day life of the Christian. Through the gift of faith that comes only from the Holy Spirit, Christians are enabled to trust in Christ and proclaim Him in their daily lives by service to their neighbors. The Season after Pentecost is the longest season of the church year, it lasts from Trinity Sunday until the first Sunday of Advent. This is the non-festival portion of the liturgical calendar during which the church stresses vocation, evangelism, missions, stewardship, almsgiving, and other works of mercy and charity as ways in which Christ empowers us by His grace to share the Gospel with others.