Seasons of the Church Year
All Christians are part of the Christian story. The seasons of the church year help give us a way to experience how this is so. Seasons provide opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals (i.e., feasts, celebrations) and sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.While Jewish celebrations revolve around the Exodus from Egypt, Christians focus on the life and ministry of Jesus.
The sequence of festivals from Advent to Resurrection Sunday becomes an annual spiritual journey for worshippers as they kneel at the manger, listen on a hillside, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hear the roar of the mob, stand beneath the cross, and witness the resurrection!
The rest of the church year provides time to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus and his commission to his people to be a light to the world.
The Church Year is ordered according to six seasons that each celebrate a part of Christian faith and life. You can most easily tell what season we are in by the color of the clergy's vestments and the altar cloth hangings. Some seasons have the same color, so that can be a bit tricky, but if you know what time of year it is that helps match the color with the season. Special services, such as Baptism, can also confuse things as we have paticular colors that may not match the season we are in. Don't worry to much about it, someone can always explain it and after a while you'll figure out (and then can help explain it to others). We also try to do little reminders about the seasons of the church year as we move from season to season.
Right now, we are celebrating Epiphany, the part of the church year that comes after Christmas and before Lent.
We commemorate the visitation of the Magi to the Christ child, that is; his manifestation to the Gentiles, on January 6 (the 12th day of Christmas) each year. Epiphany is the day we celebrate the "shining forth" or revelation of God in human form in the person of Jesus. The word "epiphany" means "making God manifest". It marks the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It reminds us that while Jesus was a Jew and spoke largely to Jewish crowds during his life on Earth, he also spoke to non-Jews. It was made very clear to the Apostles after the crucifixion that they were to spread the Word to all, Jewish or otherwise. The primary theme is Baptism, beginning with the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. This season begins on the Day of the Epiphany and lasts until Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent.
Ephinany is the celebration of Jesus revealing Himself to the whole world. Like the three magi with the Christ child, we too are amazed at what God has done, and we realize it was not just for us, but for all.
The color used for Epiphany liturgies is White on Epiphany and Baptism of our Lord, Green after.
All Liturgical Seasons & Colors
Advent (Blue): The church year begins with the Advent of Our Lord, the four weeks of getting ready for the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem on Christmas Day. Advent is a time of joyful preparation for the wonderful time when the Son of God came to earth to live as a person among regular people.
Christmas (White) is a short season, beginning with Christmas Day, December 25, and continuing through the Name of Jesus until Epiphany. Christmas is a season of thankfulness for the goodness of God. The color of Christmas is white.
Epiphany (White on Epiphany & Baptism of our Lord, Green after) begins on January 6, the day the Wise Men came to Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus. Epiphany is a season of worship, as the whole world follows the Wise Men to find and honor Jesus.
Lent (Purple) begins with Ash Wednesday and is a season of self-examination and quiet contemplation of the mysteries of God. Christians prepare for the death of their sins and worldly selves with the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday as they follow his footsteps through Holy Week (during Holy Week we use Red for Christ's Passion).
Easter (White) begins with Easter Sunday. It is a glorious celebration of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. It is a season of praise, as Christians glorify the risen Christ. There are fifty days of the Easter season that ends on the Day of Pentecost (we use red on Pentecost) when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (the "birthday of the Church").
Season After Pentecost (or Ordinary Time) (Green) lasts for almost half the church year and how long depends on where Easter falls on the calendar. This is a season where we focus on celebrating the Holy Spirit and how that sends us out in mission through evangelism and outreach.