Why would, say, a Southern Baptist church follow the Christian Year—especially a Baptist Church that has more 20-something members than members in any other age group? Isn’t the liturgical calendar just for Catholics? Or isn’t it an out-of-date, awkward intrusion on our modern sensibilities?
Our young, Baptist church doesn’t think so, which is why we are always moving in the rhythms of this calendar, from Advent to Pentecost. More and more Christians are rediscovering this historic practice, and growing in the truth and knowledge of Christ. As author Lauren Winner has said:
“I want the Christian story to shape everything I do, even how I reckon time. I want it to be truer and more essential to me than school’s calendar, or Hallmark’s calendar, or the calendar set by the IRS. I want the rhythms of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost to be more basic to my life than the days on which my quarterly estimated taxes are due.”
We shouldn’t treat the church calendar as if it were commanded in Scripture, like baptism and communion are commanded. It is simply a practice of historic Christianity that continuously stirs reflection, anticipation and action in the hearts of God’s people for the whole, big story of the gospel.
How to Observe the Christian Year
Here are three resources to introduce you to the Christian Year. The first two will help you plan corporate worship services during each season of the year. The third will help you prepare your church members for moving in the rhythms of the Christian Year during the week:
- The Worship Sourcebook, by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (ed. John Witvliet)
- The Services of the Christian Year, by Robert E. Webber
- Living The Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, by Bobby Gross (preface by Lauren Winner, from whence comes the quote by Winner in this blog post, above)
We encourage ministry leaders and all of our community group leaders to lead their people in the rhythms of the Christian Year as well. Many of our community groups have done things like Epiphany Feasts, Easter cookouts and group Advent calendars. Teach your people about the themes of each season. Then let them dream up ways to commemorate these seasons in their groups and families.