THE CHRISTIAN YEAR
By God’s design, we experience life as a series of seasons — fall, winter, spring, and summer. The seasons are cyclical and repetitive, yet we experience the cycle as constant variation. This is also true of the Christian Year, or the liturgical calendar, which is designed to form and shape the Church in accordance with the life of Christ. The Christian Year is a powerful and time-tested tool for discipleship.
We hope this page will serve as a guide and resource as you seek to inhabit the Christian Year. Please scroll down to learn more!
Why observe the Christian Year?
The Gestation of Hope
Inhabiting the Season
In the liturgy: During Advent, Lord's Day worship takes on a distinctive character. The color associated with Advent is purple, which symbolizes preparation, penitence, and royalty (we are preparing to welcome our King). In addition, our songs will express the same preparatory and anticipatory themes. The music will likely feel a bit darker, sometimes even ending on a minor chord (e.g., O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). Click here to access our Advent Spotify playlist. Lastly, each Sunday during Advent, we light candles to symbolizes the light of God coming into the world through Christ. The Advent wreath consists of four candles encircling one larger candle, known as the Christ Candle, which we light on Christmas Eve.
In the home: During Advent, many households will keep an Advent calendar, which counts down the days to Christmas. Some also light their own Advent wreath/candles. Advent is a season for simplifying and creating space in our lives to consciously prepare and wait on the Lord, but this can be very difficult during the holiday season. So it may be worthwhile to practice a "calendar fast," abstaining from certain engagements in order to create more space for worship.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Birth of Hope
Inhabiting the Season
In the liturgy: During Christmastide, the anticipation of Advent gives way to feasting and fulfillment and celebration. We have waited on the Lord, and He has come to us! And so the darker, unresolved music of Advent groaning gives way to shouts of joy – Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, etc. Click here to access our Christmastide Spotify playlist. The color associated with Christmastide is white, which symbolizes purity, holiness, reverence, and joy.
In the home: Despite the commercialization of Christmas, gift giving is a wonderful tradition that ought to be preserved (the same goes for decorating trees and hanging lights). But if we're not careful, gifts can become our primary focus. So on Christmas morning, consider setting aside time to read Scripture and reflect upon the birth of our King. And remember, Christmas is not a 1-day event; it's a 12-day season. So keep your lights on and your tree up! Continue filling your home with songs of joy! You might even save a gift or two for later in the season. (Maybe a few French hens or a couple turtledoves? Just a thought.)
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [on Christmas day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
The Message of Hope
Inhabiting the Season
In the liturgy: During the season of Epiphany, we dwell upon particular manifestations of the glory of Christ – the arrival of the magi, the baptism of Christ, the transfiguration, etc. We also place a special emphasis on bearing witness to the glory of Christ through the mission of the Church. Our songs during Epiphanytide will focus on these same themes. And in the sanctuary on Sunday, you will notice the color green, which symbolizes life and growth – the progress of the gospel.
In the home: There are unending ways to celebrate and enter into the joy of Epiphany. We look for ways to say with the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9). Here are a few ideas: (1) declare the identity of Christ by continuing to pray the O Antiphons, (2) save some gift giving for Epiphany Eve and/or Epiphany, (3) prioritize hospitality toward neighbors, (4) light candles around your table and speak of the Light of the World, (5) talk to your children about evangelism and equip them to bear witness in age-appropriate ways, (6) invite non-Christian friends to church, as the sermons and liturgy will focus particularly on the identity and glory of Christ, (7) if you have a nativity scene, place the magi somewhere else in the house, and draw them near on January 6, (8) search for a "Liturgy of the Magi's Blessing" and pray over your home, (9) hold a Twelfth Night Feast with games, King Cake, and a bonfire.
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
From Dust to Dust
Inhabiting the Season
In the liturgy: The Lenten season is a 40-day fast, during which we engage in prayer and repentance and almsgiving, preparing our hearts to receive the fullness of Easter joy. The season begins on Ash Wednesday, as we mark our foreheads with ash in the shape of a cross – a reminder that our sin has brought death: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The liturgical color is once again purple, which connects the season of Advent (anticipating the birth of Christ) with the season of Lent (anticipating the new birth of Christ). During Lent, our songs will sound heavier (often in a minor key) and gravitate toward penitent themes. In addition, we refrain from speaking or singing the word "alleluia" during Lent. Sometimes called "burying the alleluia," this is simply a way for us to corporately feel the ache and longing of the season. The first word of the Easter Day liturgy is – you guessed it – "alleluia."
In the home: During Lent, it's easy to allow fasting to become the focus, but the true focus is a feast – the feast of Easter. We fast in order to deepen our sense of hunger, and we do so knowing that our hunger will soon be satisfied. So Lent humbles us and brings us back to the foot of the Cross, but it doesn’t condemn us. We repent in order to experience greater joy and life and freedom. Keep these things in mind as you observe the season of Lent. First of all, please prioritize the Ash Wednesday service, even for your children. This is a powerful opportunity to face our sin and mortality, to entrust ourselves to the Lord, and to receive His forgiveness. In addition, we do encourage fasting, prayer, self-examination, and – in the Spirit of Isaiah 58 – care for the poor and marginalized.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.