The Christian Calendar: The United Methodist Church uses the Christian Calendar which is made up of seven seasons. There are special days that occur during the seven seasons. The seasons honor the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the Kingdom of God. The special days within the year remind us of events that are important to Christians.
“The Christian year has two cycles: the Christmas Cycle (Advent-Christmas-Epiphany) and the Easter Cycle (Lent-Easter-Pentecost). Within each cycle are a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white. After each cycle there is an ordinary time of growth symbolized the color green. Thus there is a sequence of seasons using purple, white, and green in that order twice each year. ” (The United Methodist Book of Worship, Copyright © 1992 The United Methodist Publishing House)
Advent: Advent is first of the seven Church seasons and the beginning of the church year. Advent begins on any day between November 27 and December 3 it always contains four Sundays and ends on Christmas Eve. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”. The season proclaims the coming of the Christ child.
The liturgical color for Advent is purple, representing both penitence and royalty. The primary symbols of Advent are the Advent Wreath and the Chrismon Tree.
Advent Wreath: Advent Wreaths are a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passing of the four Sundays in Advent. A horizontal evergreen wreath and four candles are used. Often a fifth candle is placed in the center of the wreath. One new candle in the wreath is lit each Sunday before Christmas. The fifth candle called the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Different congregations use different color candles on the wreath. The Christ Candle is always white. Some congregations use all blue, which represents hope and waiting, or all purple, which represents royalty, candles in their wreaths. In the Western World three purple candles and one rose candle are often used. The rose candle, which represents joy, is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete comes from the Latin and means rejoice and is the reason for the rose candle.
Chrismon Tree: A Chrismon Tree is a Christmas tree decorated with symbols representing Jesus Christ. The first Chrismon Tree was used in 1957 when H. W. Spencer started the first Lutheran Christmas service in Danville, Virginia.
Chrismons: The word Chrismon is an abbreviation of “Christ monogram” a word created my Frances Spencer and the ladies of Ascension Lutheran Church. They created the Chrismons for the church Christmas tree in 1957. The Following are examples of Chrismons and their meanings.
Christmas or Christmanstide: Christmas is the second of the liturgical seasons. Christmas lasts 12 days and runs from Christmas Day to January 6th. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas. The term Christmas comes from the Old English Christes maesse (Christ Mass), meaning “festival of Christ.” Christmas is one of the two main holy days of the year.
The liturgical color for the Christmas season is white, which represents purity and the holiness. The symbol for the Christmas season is the manger.
Epiphany: The third season of the Christian year is Epiphany. January 6th, the first day of Epiphany, is called the Feast of Epiphany. Epiphant celebrates the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The word Epiphany comes from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning “revelation” or “manifestation”. Epiphany begins the first Sunday in January and varies in length depending on the date set for Easter.
The liturgical color, for the first and last Sundays of Epiphany, is white, which stands for purity and holiness. The liturgical color used for the other Sundays during Epiphany is green, to signify the growing church and the spreading of the gospel. Methodists refer to the Sundays after the Feast of the Epiphany and Kingdomtide, when the liturgical color is green, as Ordinary Time. The symbol of the season of Epiphany is the baptismal font, signifying the baptism of new believers in the Gospel.
Lent: The season of Lent (from an Old English word meaning “lengthen”) lasts for forty-six days excluding Sundays. Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until Easter Eve. Lent commemorates the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the Christian, Lent is a somber season and a time of self reflection, penance, and self denial. Since the date of Easter is not fixed, but is instead based on the lunar calendar, the period covered by the Lenten season will vary.
The liturgical color for Lent is purple, to represent the royalty of Christ as King. On Good Friday the liturgical color changes to black.
During the Lenton season we observe these holy days.
Palm Sunday: Palm Sunday begins the last week of Lent and commemorates the spreading of palm leaves and cloaks during Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem.
Holy/Maundy Thursday: Maundy Thursday commemerates Jesus’ last meal, the Passover meal, with his disciples and first communion ritual. The word Maundy comes for the Latin (man datum) which means command. The command Jesus gave to His disciples was to love one another.
Good Friday: Good Friday commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross at Calvary.
Easter: Easter is one of the most holy days of the Church, celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Easter Season runs for fifty days until the Day of Pentecost. It is the most joyous and celebrated season of the Church year. The origin of the English word Easter may have come from the Anglo-Saxon spring goddess “Eastre“. The liturgical color for Easter is white, representing the purity and divinity of our Risen Lord. Flowers, especially lilies, are symbols of Christ’s resurrection.
Pentecost: commemorates the birthday of the Christian Church: Pentecost (from the Greek pentecoste, meaning “fiftieth”) begins the sixth season of the Christian year. The Season commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all people fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pentecost is also the birthday of the New Testament Church. The season of Pentecost continues until the last Sunday in August.
The liturgical color for Pentecost is red, signifying the fire of the Holy Spirit. The symbols for Pentecost include the descending dove and tongues of fire. Some churches use red only on the first Sunday of Pentecost and green for the Sundays following Pentecost Sunday.
Kingdomtide: Kingdomtide is a uniquely United Methodist Christian season. Kingdomtide begins on the last Sunday of August and continues until Advent. Kingdomtide represents the Kingdom of God on earth and our social responsibility as members of the Kingdom.
The liturgical color for Kingdomtide is green, signifying the advancing Kingdom of God among the peoples and nations of the world. The symbol for Kingdomtide is a Triangle, signifying the Trinity (God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
Vestments: Vestments are liturgical garments such as robes, stoles, albs, and cassocks. Vestments are worn to bring reverence and elegance to the celebration of worship.