There are two important days in our church calendar just before the first Sunday in Advent. The first is Reformation Sunday, a celebration of the birth of the Protestant faith, which arose during a unique time in history in the mid-1500s. The second is All Saints’ Day, on which we honor our church heritage.
The Church Year
The church year did not suddenly appear in its current form. It’s like a huge oak tree which gradually grew from a small shoot, developing new branches, some of which were pruned, then grew in new directions until finally, centuries later, the liturgical calendar became what it is today.
Pentecost marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples lingering in the Upper Room after the ascension of Jesus, as described in the second chapter of Acts.
Lent—the 40 days leading up to Easter—is typically seen as a “darker” season of the church year. Repentance, fasting, discipline, confession, reminders of our mortality—some Christians may find these concepts rather morbid and even depressing. Can we skip this season and jump right into the excitement of Easter?
The church year is divided into seasons. Some are designated times like Advent and Lent; others are the in-between times, which do not have a special title. Some churches call these undesignated seasons “Ordinary Time.”
For most of my life, I’ve attended evangelical churches that ignored the church year (except for Easter and Christmas). When I began attending UPC 14 years ago, I was vaguely aware of the color changes in the Sanctuary from month to month, but didn’t think about their significance.