Have you ever sat in church and wondered why the altar decorations and colors change off and on during the year? Just so you know, the liturgical year of the church defines that. So what does that mean and why is it? Basically it helps us observe and follow the life of Christ and his teachings.
First let us start with a little background and history. The early Jewish Christians, as early as the 9th century, based their worship on astronomical data and the calendar reflecting their past Jewish faith. As time went on it evolved into a very confusing mess of Catholic saints day, and ethical holidays in different regions of the world where they lived. At the Council of Trent, between 1568-1570, a liturgical calendar was developed and made mandatory for all churches. After the reformation various revisions were made until 1907.
So here we are now. Our Methodist Liturgical year began on December 5, 2017, not January 1, with the celebration of Advent, and ends in 2018 right after Thanksgiving at the end of Ordinary Times . All Protestant and Catholic churches follow a liturgical year using the same calendar with various feast days depending on the denomination. Leave it to the Methodists to streamline it somewhat. Here are our 7 Seasons and what they are all about:
Advent: The color of this season is Blue.
The first season is Advent, which includes the four Sundays before Christmas Day. In Advent, worship centers on preparing to celebrate the comings of Christ — remembering his birth, recognizing his continual presence, and anticipating his final victory. Traditionally, this season, with its emphasis on preparation, culminates in the celebration of Christmas Day. Our secular celebrations ignore the preparatory significance of this time and skip to celebration. This is certainly understandable! Yet, the Church calls us to use this time to reflect on our heart’s yearning for God to break into our lives and our world once again with the surprising / shocking good news of salvation and grace — and once this yearning is recognized, we are more apt to be in a position for genuine celebration and joy. The color used in worship for this season is either Purple or Royal Blue. Here at our Fredericksburg United Methodist, we choose blue the color of the night sky and also the color most used in Mary’s clothing. The banners we display are of the shepherds and wisemen travelling to see the new born king.
Christmas: The color used in worship for this season is White and Gold.
This is the shortest season in the church calendar. It includes Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and continues until the Day of Epiphany (often, the first Sunday in January). It is a season of joy — a time for praise and thanksgiving in worship for the profound (if not familiar) notion of God becoming incarnate in Jesus. Often, there is only one Sunday between Christmas Eve and Epiphany Sunday which, traditionally, includes a Covenant Renewal Service (an opportunity to renew our vows of faithfulness to God through Christ and our commitment to following the ways of Christ in our everyday lives).
Epiphany & Season after Ephiphany: The color of this season is Green.
This year Epiphany is January 6, which remains white Sunday Jan 7th but the day after becomes green. and goes until February 14 this year, Ash Wednesday. It celebrates the coming of the wisemen and their seeing the King who has come to save us. They go back to their tribes and spread the word.
Lent: The color used in worship for this season is Purple.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and that date is determined by “the 1st Sunday after the first full moon after March 21.” So you see it can vary from year to year. Lent began on April 16 in 2017. This year 2018 lent begins on April 4. In our church we hang a purple drape with tears and knot depicting his suffering.
This season of forty days (not including Sundays) is another season of preparation (re: Advent). Lent is a time to prepare for the celebration of Easter and invites us to a more somber time of self-reflection and an honest accounting of the ways we have fallen short in our faithful following of the ways of Jesus. We remember our baptism and our reassurance the grace of salvation. It concludes with Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday) and includes the services of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. For many, Lent and the services of Holy Week are the most profoundly moving services of the Christian year.
Holy Week/Easter: White and Gold are the colors used for Holy Week.
We strip the altar on Good Friday and hang a black drape of mourning. But Easter Morning you come into a beautiful celebration. Easter Sunday begins this most joyous season of the Christian year. The season of Easter lasts from Easter Sunday to the Day of Pentecost, which is called the Great Fifty Days because of its intentional emphasis on joy and celebration of each. The color used in worship for this season is White. We decorate with white lilies and two large banners reading, “He Is Risen”, and “Allelulia!” We also decorate the large wood cross with fresh flowers in celebration of his rising from death.
Pentecost: The color of this season is Red.
In 2018 this is May 20. The Day of Pentecost falls fifty days after Easter and ends the season of Easter. This is the day celebrating the Church’s receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Red is the color of this season depicting the tongue’s of fire and wind in the Upper Room when the disciple’s were visited by the Holy Spirit. And when Moses was first visited by the Holy Spirit in the form of the burning bush.
Kingdomtide / Ordinary Times: This season color is Green.
We have a beautiful dove banner symbolizing the Holy Spirit. Then in October we hang our fall ribbon banner.The season following the Day of Pentecost is known as either KINGDOMTIDE or ORDINARY TIME and it lasts through the summer and fall ending on the first Sunday of Advent. It is the longest season on the Christian calendar. A time to study Jesus’s teachings. We have All Saints Day and Thanksgiving in this time. When it ends the next Liturgical year begins with Advent.
All this is made to happen by your hard working Worship Decorating committee. Who I refer to as the Wonder Women. They change the display case and make each and every seasonal change with something different every year. All to make your worship experience as comfortable and meaningful as possible. This is probably the largest committee in our church and includes: Maryneil Dance- Chairman, Jackie Heupel, Annette Tilley, Kay Telle, Linda Nevels, Kathy Lux, Pat Weeden, Jan Williams, Sherry Cleckler, Nancy Weiting, Pat McConnell, Rhonda Strelke, Alice Hahn, Patty Odom, Nora Dempsey, Beth Hughes, and Terry Hays.