Friday, February 22, 2013

Lutheran Look: How does the church year work?

Great question!  The church year has several "seasons", just like the calendar year has spring, summer, autumn and winter.  They come in an order, they acknowledge and celebrate different things, and they even have their own colors!  Lutherans are pretty enthusiastic about following the church year, but there are also plenty of Christian traditions that aren't so big on it.  Personally, I appreciate that the seasons help us to focus on different things and appreciate the variety of the faith.

So, here's a basic rundown for you.  The church year starts in Advent (generally just after Thanksgiving).  There are also a bunch of holidays throughout the year that I'll do separate posts on one day, so I won't be focusing on those so much.

Time: 1st Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve
Themes: Waiting for the Incarnation- we wait for God to come to us, we are expecting celebration, this is also the traditional time to examine Mary and Joseph's lives (blue is traditionally Mary's color)
Color: Blue (or Purple, if you don't have blue)

Time: Christmas Day until the Sunday before Epiphany
Themes: Celebration of the Incarnation- God has come to us, and we celebrate that God has so loved the world as to give God's only Son, Jesus Christ
Color: White and Gold/Yellow

Time: Epiphany through Transfiguration
Themes: Epiphany of the Incarnation- we come to terms with what it means that God loves us so much to have become incarnate, we are enlightened (light is a major theme)- this is the most forgotten season, and is the only one named after something we, the people of God, are doing
Color: White/Gold on Epiphany, Green during the season, White/Gold on Transfiguration

Time: Ash Wednesday (just after Transfiguration) through Easter Vigil/Holy Saturday
Themes: Waiting for the Crucifixion- Jesus Christ is going to die for our sins, this is a time of penitence and repentance (two very different things), of self-sacrifice and self-examination, suffering for the faith and death are also examined- we put away celebration and Alleluias for this time (though Sundays are not technically part of Lent)
Color: Purple through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday does not technically have a color and that tends to extend to Holy Saturday

Time: Easter Sunday until the Sunday before Pentecost
Themes: Joyous Celebration of the Resurrection- this is a time of celebration of new life, victory over the grave, unexpected reversal and forgiveness- the happiest time of the church year, everyone is encouraged to wear bright colors to church during this season especially in celebration
Color: White/Gold

Ordinary Time
Time: (Pentecost Sunday) through Christ the King Sunday before Advent starts
Themes: Various- often focuses on the earth and harvest because it takes place during summer and autumn, but the varied readings and sprinkling of holidays throughout make this the "catch all" season of the church- the first Sunday is Pentecost and is it's own thing, very nearly a one-day season, a celebration of the Holy Spirit, and often involves images of fire, doves, and wind
Color: Red on Pentecost, Green during most of Ordinary Time, aside from various special days, White/Gold on Christ the King

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