The changing of liturgical colors from White to Green signals a change in the seasons in the Church, just as it will in a few months as the snow melts and spring makes its first appearance. Epiphany is a season of new hope and new growth enabled only by the light emanating from the Savior. We can mark the first day of the season by allowing this light to invade our being, revealing that which needs to come to the surface and filling the spaces with illumination that can only come from a personal epiphany. The divine manifestation is more than a historical event for us to mark, it is a complete shift in the relationship between heaven and earth.
Psalm 97 1-9
The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and consumes his foes on every side.
His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory.
All who worship images are put to shame,
those who boast in idols—
worship him, all you gods!
Zion hears and rejoices
and the villages of Judah are glad
because of your judgments, O LORD.
For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
The celebration of Epiphany commemorates two events in the life of the Lord, the recognition by the Magi that the Lord had come and their subsequent worship (Mt 2:9-12) and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the voice of the Father commending Him as His son. In both Christ manifest as humanity is revealed to a world desperately in need of salvation. As this season leads up to Lent and Easter, we shall focus our worship on the incarnation of God as man. Our Savior put aside his crown for our benefit though He would have been justified in allowing us to continue on in our own desires.
The perfect expression of love was manifest.
While many liturgical churches retain the celebration of the various seasons of the historical church calendar, it seems to have lost favor among much of the modern Church. Christmas and Easter are certainly recognized but the preceding weeks of Advent and Lent have fallen from the consciousness of churchgoers and worship leaders. When was the last time your church celebrated Pentecost? The loss of the calendar for our worship serves to ultimately weaken our worship and worse, it allows the events of the world to dictate our schedules.
The idea behind the calendar of church life comes from God in creation. In six days he marked each new aspect of creation and then rested on the seventh showing us the pattern for different times of life having their own purposes. In the Old Testament the Jewish year revolved around three feasts (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles).
“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me.- Exodus 23:14
Christians soon added Easter and the Christmas celebration to the calendar along with the seasons of piety (Lent and Advent) that preceded them. More milestones were added during the passing of year creating what are known as ‘seasons’ within the liturgy. These seasons served a specific purpose that is needed more than ever in our modern worship and that was/is to remind Christians over and over of the major events of God’s story. Be recognizing the period of the calendar in which we live and share life together we gain a greater sense of our place alongside all of the saints who have preceded us in history and those things we all share in common.
Birth of the Savior ~ Christmas
Rebirth and Second Coming of the Savior ~ Advent
Death of the Savior ~ Lent & Holy Week
Resurrection of the Savior ~ Easter
Coming of the Holy Spirit ~ Pentecost
Christians that recognize their own calendar separate themselves from the time keeping of the world. The calendar reminds us that God remains in charge of time and that everything occurs according to His schedule. When we recognize the seasons of worship that we pass through we begin to see and recognize the false idols of the world that attempt to infiltrate our lives for their own selfish purpose. No longer will we be susceptible to the Christmas decorations that begin to appear at the mall before All Saints Day in an attempt to purge our wallets of treasure. We will trust in God to bring the season as He deems appropriate.
Since the Reformation, there have been repeated movements to rid the Protestant church of anything that appears to Roman in its structure and the liturgy and calendar have been victims of these purges. Worship leaders and pastors especially should consider carefully what has risen to replace them in leading of God’s people. We have no reason to fear the calendar and every reason to restore it to its proper place within God’s Church. Pray on it…
[Originally published at Worship Craft]