Over the centuries the Christian Church has set aside days and times of the year to mark special occasions during the life of Jesus and the early Church. These commemorations were organized into what we call the Church Year. For the most part, the Church Year highlights the life of Jesus in the first half of the year, and the teachings of Jesus in the second half of the year. It is broadly organized into the Time of Christmas, the Time of Easter, and the Time of the Church.
The Time of Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and contains the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Advent, which in Latin means “coming”, is the first season in the Time of Christmas and marks the coming of the Lord. The Church Year begins with Advent and the Time of Christmas because it marks the beginning of the life of Jesus.
The season of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, born to the virgin Mary in a manger in the town of Bethlehem. The miraculous virgin birth was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that “… Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) In Hebrew Immanuel means “God with us.”
The Time of Christmas ends with the season of Epiphany, which in Greek means to “reveal” or “make manifest.” The season of Epiphany commemorates the revelation of Jesus nature, both true God and man. During Epiphany the focus is on the early signs of Jesus nature revealed in the beginning of his ministry: His baptism in the Jordan River when God the Father declares that He is His son (for more information on the Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit see our What We Believe page), and Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana.
The Time of Easter is when we celebrate the ministry, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His resurrection is one of the foundations of the Christian faith. As the apostle Paul wrote in his New Testament letter to the church in Corinth “… if Christ has not be raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) Indeed, without Jesus’ victory over death on the cross we would be lost in our sins with no way out. Thanks be to God that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, so that we can be forgiven for our sins and be reconciled with God.
The time of Easter contains the season of Lent, Holy Week, and the season of Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent, a 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The Lent season symbolizes Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism. It is celebrated by some Christians in the form of fasting or other daily sacrifice to honor the fasting Jesus went through in the wilderness.
Holy week begins on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, mounted on a donkey, as crowds spread cloaks and palm branches on the road for him, shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 20:8-9) Holy week continues with Maundy Thursday, which celebrates the last supper and institution of Holy Communion, and Good Friday, which celebrates the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Holy week concludes with Easter Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord!
The Time of Easter concludes with Pentecost, which commemorates the descending of the Holy Spirit onto the Apostles after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. It was after this event that God’s Church began to grow and spread rapidly in the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Time of the Church contains the Season after Pentecost. This season begins with Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost and honors the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. For more information on the Holy Trinity see our What We Believe page), and covers the time between the season of Easter and the season of Advent.