Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Use the Church Year?

The church year has long been a part of most Christian traditions. However, for many mainstream Protestants the church year is a hangover from Roman Catholicism. Thus a vast majority of Protestant churches do not follow the church year, though they still celebrate Christmas and Easter.

The question of whether or not to use the church year is really a question of time and how to use it. Every church has special days. For many churches July 4th, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Thanksgiving all get special attention, often with a sermon. Other churches organize their Sundays around what the pastor is preaching on. For example, if he is preaching on Romans they will have songs and Scripture readings that correspond. Some churches have special events throughout the year, such as dinners, vacation Bible school, youth Sunday or mission Sunday. So the question is never does a church structure time, but rather according to what to they order their time?

What happened over time is that many churches chose to reject the church year feeling that it was unbiblical. But that did not eliminate holy days, rather it allowed civic and personal holy days to intrude into the life of the Church. Thus we have reached a point where everyone knows when it is Mother’s Day, but no one knows when it is Ascension Sunday. It is hard to imagine, even if we love our mothers, that this is a good thing! Slowly we have been taught by these holy days that what really matters is America and our families.

The church year helps us remember the ultimate reality, the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. While civic and personal holidays have their place in the Christian life, they are not primary. We are not primarily citizens of America or even members of our biological family. We are primarily disciples of Christ, members of His Body. The church year helps us to remember the life of Christ and teaches us about who Christ is and what He did. It also helps us order our lives in Christ-like or cruciform manner. Easter is not just about Christ’s resurrection, but points to our future resurrection as well. The Incarnation of Christ, which we celebrate at Christmas, reminds us that we are to empty ourselves for others as Christ did for us. As we go through the various church seasons we are reminded that true life is not found in politicians and country or in mom and dad. True life is found in Christ.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8