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To Everything There is a Season (... Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

When we think of Seasons what usually comes to mind are "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter." In other parts of the world they have "Dry Season and Rainy Season." Avid sports fans mark time by "Baseball, Football, Basketball, or Hockey Season." Each way of reckoning time has its special days ... like First day of Spring, or the Opening Game, or Grey Cup Day. In medieval times, the Christian Church developed its own calendar for the year, and helped people to mark the "seasons" of the "Church Year" by different colours.

 

There are usually seven seasons in the Christian calendar, ... although different churches sometimes adapt the basic seasons to fit with their customs and practices. Here at Wesley we celebrate and mark the passage of the year like this.

Advent Our "Christian Year" begins four Sundays before Christmas with the Season of Advent. ("Advent" literally means "about to come.") Advent invites our anticipation and expectancy around the birth of Jesus and God's promise of a messiah who would bring divine light into a world that feels full of darkness.) The traditional colour for Advent is Blue, signifying Hope; (or, in some traditions, Purple, signifying thoughtful Preparation.)

Christmas The Season of Christmas starts on Christmas Day (December 25th) and lasts for 12 days. (That's where we get the song: "The Twelve Days of Christmas!") The colour for the two Sundays of Christmas is White as a symbol of Divine Light, and the focus is on stories about the birth of Jesus.

Epiphany January 6th is the Day of Epiphany. (It literally means "showing" or "revealing," and often is associated with the arrival of the Wisemen from distant lands who recognized Jesus as God's gift to the world.) The focus during Epiphany season is on events in the life of Jesus where people had a sudden recognition that God was being revealed through him. The colour of Epiphany is Green, signifying Growth in faith and understanding.

Most people are familiar with the events that end this season, commonly known as Carnival or Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday; these are all various forms of the old custom of a feast to eat up all the meat and greasy foods that you weren't allowed to eat during the next season.

Lent The Season of Lent begins forty-six days before Easter (6 Sundays, plus 40 days for fasting!) The colour for Lent is Purple, reflecting Reflection and Preparation. The focus is on the showdown that was brewing as Jesus challenged the "Established Order," ultimately ending with his arrest and execution on Good Friday and resurrection 3 days later.

Easter You may have noticed that Easter happens on different Sundays, depending on the year! That's because the date of Easter is determined, by a complicated calculation, to be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Spring Equinox.

(This year, that meant that Easter came early, since the full moon was only 2 days after March 21st, and so the next Sunday, March 27th, was Easter!)

The next seven Sundays are the Season of Easter, with White as the colour, symbolizing Divine Light and Presence in our world, and the focus is on accounts of the Risen Christ as experienced by Jesus' followers and friends.

Pentecost Traditionally, Pentecost (it means 50 days) was a single Sunday commemorating the birth of the Christian Church, energized by the Holy Spirit -- an inner "Force." Some traditions, including ours at Wesley, extend this theme into a Season of Pentecost that lasts until the Sunday before Labour Day. The focus is on awareness of the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit that was central to the teachings of Jesus. When celebrated as the Season of Pentecost, the colour for this season is Red to remind us of passion and courage. Otherwise, the traditional colour is Green (Spiritual Growth) for "Ordinary Time" which explores teaching stories from Jesus.

Creation Very recently, some Christian churches have begun to celebrate the Season of Creation during the autumn period of harvest festivals and Thanksgiving. At Wesley we observe the Season of Creation from the first Sunday after Labour Day until the beginning of Advent (and a new cycle of the calendar!) The colour for Creation is Orange, and the focus is on the ever-present and ongoing creative activity of God in our world.

One of the questions that modern congregations must address is how to adjust and adapt the "Church year" to more appropriately reflect the rhythms of contemporary people. We don't live in a "Church culture" anymore, and there are all kinds of other events and calendar markers that often determine people's observances of the passing year. Perhaps we should be inventing another calendar, or finding other ways to observe the passing of the seasons. But what would those "seasons" be? Would they be birthdays? Opening and closing the cottage days?  The migration of "snowbirds" south and north? Sports seasons?

For now, we have the "Church Year" and its "seasons," each with their unique colours.

In another article, I'll try to explain how this Church year  and the cycle of years guides what Bible readings and hymns we might use on any given Sunday.        

-- Rev. John Anderson  

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Wesley is situated in the historic civic square in downtown Galt, adjacent to the Cambridge Farmer’s Market, the historic City Hall, and the new City Administration building.
Wesley is part of the United Church of Canada, the largest Protestant denomination in our country. The United Church of Canada prides itself on welcoming everyone the way Jesus did, regardless of age, race, class, gender, orientation, or physical ability.

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Wesley United Church

6 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, ON
N1R 3R6

Office Hours
Tuesday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Phone

519-621-6060

Sunday Services

Beginning at 10:30am

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