The Church Year
First Baptist is a liturgical congregation, and we worship using the liturgical calendar. While we believe that every Sunday is a ‘little Easter,’ which by its very nature commemorates the resurrection, we go through the year viewing corporate worship through the ‘lenses’ of the various seasons and celebrations.
Advent – The first season of the church year, Advent is a season of preparation. It begins four Sundays before Christmas, and the theme is one of waiting and watching. The lectionary scriptures are about the ‘comings of Christ’ – his birth and his eventual return. The color of the season is blue, the color of anticipation.
The Advent wreath is a small ritual through which we pay attention to the Advent theme. There are four outer candles, usually three purple and one pink with a larger, white Christ candle in the center. The outer candles are lit, one by one, on each Sunday of Advent and are often assigned meanings or themes of hope, love, peace and joy. On Christmas Eve or Christmas morning the final Christ candle is lit, symbolizing the coming of Christ’s light into the world.
Christmastide – Just as the traditional song tells us, Christmas actually lasts for twelve days. Celebration is the theme of the season as we commemorate Christ’s birth; the color of celebration is white.
Epiphany – This little understood time in the church year is simply about God making himself known, or manifest, to all humankind. The word epiphany means a sudden understanding, and the lectionary scriptures reflect that… telling the stories of the coming of the wise men, Jesus in the temple at age twelve, his baptism and first miracle; all ways in which God made known that this was his Son. The color for Epiphany is green, the color of new life.
Lent – Probably the first of the seasons to develop in the early church, Lent is a season of preparation that begins forty days before Easter, not including the Sundays. It was originally a time when new converts to the faith were put through a final examination before their baptism at dawn on Easter morning. This is a very important time in the worship life of the church and begins with Ash Wednesday and includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Being a time of penitence, the color is purple.
Eastertide – What some consider the highest point of the Christian calendar, as the gospel story culminates in the resurrection of our Lord, Eastertide is a season of great celebration, and the color is white. The date itself is called a ‘moveable feast’ and is determined in the following manner: Easter will always be the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, hence Easter falls in different places during the spring. The Season of Easter lasts for fifty days.
Pentecost – Sometimes thought of as a ‘season,’ Pentecost is actually one Sunday and comes fifty days after Easter. It is the commemoration of the day when the Holy Spirit was sent to the disciples and the gospel was preached in the languages of all present. It is often called the birthday of the church, and since the scripture tells us that the Spirit descended like tongues of flame, the color of Pentecost is red.
Ordinary Time – The time between Pentecost and Advent is referred to as Ordinary Time. The word ‘ordinary’ does not infer Sundays of lesser importance, rather that those Sundays can be ordained for special emphasis. Colors will vary from church to church, but the traditional color is green.
We encourage you to celebrate our church year with us!