Thursday, 11 August 2011

Newsletter reflection: Seasons of the Church Year

Good morning,

Community Care were looking at Seasons on Tuesday, and it seemed like a good time to have a look at the seasons of the church year.

Advent: The church year begins at the end of November/start of December – four Sundays before Christmas with the season of Advent. Advent looks forward to the coming of Jesus, both as the baby of Bethlehem, and as King of all at the end of time. The colour for Advent is Purple – the colour which signified earthly kings in ancient times. (Purple dye was incredibly expensive.)

Christmas: Christmas runs for 12 days from Christmas Day to Epiphany Day (6th January). The season celebrates the arrival of Jesus, and the events surrounding his birth and infancy. The colour is white – Jesus is revealed as not merely an earthly king, but the “lamb of God”. The season includes the celebration of the Naming of Jesus.

Epiphany: Literally meaning “Opening up” - Epiphany Day is when the church traditionally recalls the visit of the Wise Men to the baby Jesus. The season includes the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus. The colour for Epiphany Day, and for the Baptism of Jesus is white. For the rest of the season, the colour is green, symbolic of life and growth.

Transfiguration: On the Sunday before we begin Lent, we recall the transfiguration. Concluding the season of Ephipany, Jesus is once more shown as the Heavenly ruler, not just an earthly king. The colour is again is white – again the “lamb of God” imagery, and a reflection of Jesus' clothes being changed to dazzling white.

Lent: Lent is the 40 days plus six Sundays leading up to Easter. It begins with Ash Wednesday, a day for repentence. In more recent years, our church has reclaimed the ancient practice of giving something up for Lent (traditionally, fasting; but now a symbolic sacrifice which may or may not be food-related). The last Sunday of Lent is Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday – with a choice of readings for the day either focussing on the entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), or on the events of the final weeks of Jesus' life (Passion Sunday.) The lectionary (the list of readings for days of the church year) gives us readings for every day of Holy Week, from Palm/Passion Sunday throuh to Easter. The colour for all of Lent, up until Maundy Thursday (the Thursday of Holy Week) is purple – the colour for celebrating Jesus as an earthly king. From Good Friday, the colour changes to white – the “lamb of God” - seeing Jesus as both sacrificial lamb and Heavenly King.

Easter: Easter runs from Easter Sunday for seven weeks until Pentecost. The season recalls the resurrection of Jesus, and the colour is white.

Pentecost: Seven weeks after Easter (in the Old Testament “a week of weeks” after Passover), Pentecost in the Christian year celebrates the Holy Spirit. It includes Pentecost Sunday – with the colour red (for flames – the colour for the Holy Spirit, so also used for ordinations and inductions of ministers). The second Sunday of Pentecost is Trinity, which celebrates the nature of God as Trinity, and has the colour white. The season also includes the anniversary of the inauguration of the Uniting Church in Australia, which has the colour red.) The rest of the season is green, for growth. (This is sometimes called the season “after Pentecost” or “ordinary time”.)

Christ the King/Reign of Christ: The last Sunday of the church year celebrates what the whole year has been leading up to: recognising Jesus as ruler and judge of all of creation. The colour is white.

Each year we go through this cycle, following the gospel story through the life of Jesus. Just like the seasons of spring, summer, autumn, winter, help to create a pattern in our lives, so the going through the life of Jesus each year helps to create a pattern for our worship.

Grace and peace

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