Created to Celebrate
“I am so excited about the birthday today,” my son exclaimed as he was jumping up and down. Another preschool friend of his was having a birthday, and he was so excited to be able to celebrate with him. He wasn’t excited because of the place that they were going; it wasn’t a bouncing or sliding place. The party was a simple old-school party at his house. Just the opportunity to play with his friend and celebrate gave him so much joy.
We were created to celebrate. Celebrations are times for us to set aside our work and to enjoy life. We gather with family and friends. Our work and life can keep us so busy that celebrations give us an excuse to set all that aside and gather together.
Celebrations & Special Memories
Celebrations are for special experiences. It is a time to eat unique foods that are not part of our everyday. We splurge on making something elaborate or eating something with way too many calories. We drape our homes with unique decorations bring color and festivities to our regular daily lives.
Memories are made when we celebrate. I remember cutting our tons of tiny construction paper hearts and taping them to my grandmother’s big picture window in the living room. Her birthday was just a few days off of Valentine’s Day, and she loved to go all out. The fourth of July is not complete for my children if they don’t get an opportunity to set off the all the smoking and popping things that their Dad has splurged on at the fireworks stand.
Sometimes our celebrations are times for us to let our hair down and have fun. Other times our celebrations are somber events to mark significant days to our community. From their earliest of times, people all over the world have had special days and seasons that marked the passage of time and celebrate the values and ideas that were vital to their identity.
Early Church Calendar
God set forth a calendar of celebrations and remembrances for the people of God in the Old Testament. We know that Jesus and his disciples would have celebrated these important times during his life on earth.
The early Jewish Christians added Easter and then what we know now as Lent to those rituals. Lent was the name eventually give for the forty days of preparation leading up to Easter.
Do only certain Christians celebrate the Church Year?
I grew up in a basic Christian church. We didn’t do a lot of church holidays. Other Christians did those things like Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, etc.
In some ways, some of us from simpler traditions have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. In trying to create a distinctively Christian culture in the context of pagan cultures, the church leaders created their own calendars and events. These rituals and celebrations not only provided community and belonging, but they also taught the people that the distinct and competing values of the church.
Celebrate the Church Year: Create a Distinct Culture
I ask you, are we not in a similar situation now? We live in a culture that has its calendar and its rhythms of celebrating and lifts up the values that it views as worthy.
That calendar includes Christian holidays that have been hijacked and their meanings twisted.
- Valentine’s Day is not really about unbridled romantic love but about a martyr who was willing to lay down his life for the gospel.
- St. Patrick’s Day is not about beer and leprechauns. It is to honor a man who returned to the people who had enslaved him to share with them the gospel.
- Christmas is not about excess and consumerism. Christmas is about our need for salvation and that God was willing to become a human to go to a cross and saved us.
- Easter is not about really about bunnies and eggs. It is about Christ crucified and Christ resurrected.
(The Church Year Puzzle is part of a wonderful program called Children Worship & Wonder. You can find out more about the program and materials here.)
Celebrate the Church Year: Three Keys
The big three special days in the Church calendar are Easter, Christmas, and Pentecost. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. On the day in which the Jewish people were celebrating the gift of the Torah, God’s Word. The Holy Spirit was sent to the gathered Disciples. My son loves birthday parties and lots of other folks to do. What an excellent opportunity to throw a party a church and celebrate something that is all ours as people of faith.
Our culture is not Christian. To preserve that Church and the faith of our children, we need to establish thriving patterns of fun and remembrance that can compete with the outside world. Parents and the Church need to use the Church calendar as a way to celebrate the values that are important to us and create the set apart community that we are called to do. This is precisely how God uses celebrations in the Bible. There are times of celebration for harvest, for the Word, for deliverance from slavery. There are times of remembrance, confession of sin, and atonement.
Leading up to Easter our church has several opportunities for worship. The Sunday before our children march down the aisle waving palm branches to remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The following Thursday, we remember the Last Supper and the Crucifixion. We partake of communion each week in our worship services to keep the focus on the cross. Yet, I still need to power of Maundy Thursday to prepare me for the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for me.
Celebrate the Church Year as a Family
I encourage you to consider what faith celebrations you want to add to your family’s calendar. These celebrations create memories and bind us together. You are creating a distinctive culture in your home. Let’s intentionally build a culture and rhythm of life that is joyful and keeps pointing our children and us to the truths of the gospel.
Make sure to check out the growing list of articles that will give you ideas on reclaiming and building your Christian calendar & celebrations for your family.
Posts about the Church Year: