Marking seasons and holidays can be a meaningful spiritual exercise in the life of a church. Some of the holy days on the traditional church calendar are familiar to us, like Christmas and Easter, but some of the lesser-known seasons can be just as meaningful. Here are three church holidays you might be missing, and how you can celebrate them with your church.
Advent | a season of hopeful waiting
The four Sundays prior to Christmas are traditionally carved out as a season of preparation and patience called Advent. Scripture has much to say about the discipline of waiting. Taken from the Latin word for “coming,” Advent celebrates both of the comings of Christ, looking back on the first and forward to the second. Christmas celebrations are regularly full of hope, but they usually focus on the hope of the characters in the nativity story, rather than our own hope of Christ’s return. Use Advent to underscore the trustworthiness of God’s promises. He promised to return, and we can trust him because he kept his promise to come through a virgin in Bethlehem.
Epiphany | a celebration of Incarnation
There is some debate about where exactly it falls (somewhere in early January) because of the differences between the Gregorian and Julian calendars, but Epiphany is a feast day that celebrates the revelation of God’s Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi, but most evangelicals miss it all together because Christmas has grown to include many of the surrounding events. January 6 is called “little Christmas” and celebrated as the true birthday of Christ in many places around the world. Without abandoning Christmas, Epiphany could be a great time to celebrate some of the theological nuance that gets neglected in the shuffle of December.
Lent | a season of repentance
Much like Advent, Lent is a season of preparation for a major Church holiday: Easter. Unlike Advent, the Lenten season is not hopeful. It is a solemn time of confession and repentance. Many churches remove decorations from their sanctuary to signify a return to the basics. Sometimes avoided because of its Catholic undertones, Lent has tremendous spiritual value.
These holidays are celebrated by some and ignored by others (Colossians 2:16–17). Even if your church has never marked these lost church holidays, consider adding them to the calendar next year and see what happens. After all, “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” —Frank Zappa
To get you started, may we suggest a two-volume collection of meditations for Lent and Advent? Pick it up today and start planning something unexpected for your church next year.