The Church Calendar: Jesus’ Life and Ours


In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that the Church Calendar follows the life of Jesus and tries to cover nearly the full range of human experiences. Today I want to unpack that a little bit.

The Life of Jesus in the Church Calendar

When we say that, we’re not just talking about Jesus’ earthly life. The calendar covers the whole existence of the Son of God all the way from eternity past to his future and eternal rule and reign.

  • We begin the Church Calendar with Advent. We feel the world’s darkness that existed before God ever came among us in Jesus, and we anticipate and cry out for his arrival, preparing for it in hope.
  • In Christmas, we generously celebrate that God did come as a child in Jesus and the time of his work on earth has begun.
  • Epiphany reflects on Jesus’ entire life and ministry and how it revealed the light of God to all people. We meditate on how we might reflect that ministry and light in the world today.
  • Lent focuses on sin and mortality as we follow Jesus to the cross.
  • But in Easter, we feast and sing that Jesus rose and that we live in light of this resurrection today.
  • Pentecost invites us to reflect on the intimacy of Jesus’ own Spirit within us, the gifts in our communities, and the global scope of God’s work in the world through his Spirit in us in the world.
  • That blurs into Ordinary Time, which reminds us that Jesus’ work today is quiet, and how so much of faith is lived in the mundane rhythms of time.
  • And lastly, Kingdomtide has us dwell on Christ’s kingship rule for today and eternity, and its implications for our justice work in this world now.

The Calendar’s Humanity for Our Blind Spots

Anchoring the Church Calendar to the full scope of Christ’s life helps us connect with a fuller range of our humanity and experience a broader spirituality, no matter our personalities or stories.

If you feel like the holiday season is too saccharine and commercial and struggle to really enjoy it, Advent is very dark, quiet, and meditative. Making a point to sit in that for weeks makes Christmas all the more meaningful and joyful.

Christmas season helps us cultivate generosity, gratitude, and joy as a practice over a period of time rather than just one day. It has us try this while it’s still dark and cold so we can navigate the tension between our inner joy and outer darkness.

If your theology focuses too narrowly on Jesus’ death and resurrection (and its implications), then Epiphany reminds you of the rest of his life and ministry. It also brings to light the outsiders and unexpected people whom Jesus drew to himself.

If it’s hard for you to contemplate death, or the harm you’ve done and that’s been done to you–then Lent’s got you. Most of us don’t like letting go of our comforts and distractions. We don’t like slowing down. But Lent is all about these realities.

If you’re cynical about God and faith, Easter shows us its unabashed beauty and joy. What usually may seem over-sentimentalized has more substance after Lent. Easter is a great antidote for getting stuck in your deconstruction or faith frustration.

If you’re too focused on policing theology or doing justice work, Pentecost invites you to contemplate and experience real, intimate Communion with the Triune God right now. We remember the radical wildness and intimacy of God.

If you spend a lot of energy seeking dramatic spiritual experiences, or if you frame Christian life as a high-stakes spiritual war, then Ordinary Time forces you to reckon with a faith that is ultimately “normal” and almost boring in how common, unadorned, and mundane it actually is on a daily basis.

Ordinary Time also helps us solidify, integrate, and put into practice the various dimensions we’ve explored in the rest of the Church Year. And for most Christians, this ends the Church Year, but for many there’s one more season I love.

If you focus too much on politics (or not enough!), Kingdomtide roots us in Jesus’ kingdom and its implications for our civic life. It closes out the Church Year by meditating on Jesus as the king who will come again with justice to make all things new.

Then, after sitting with Jesus’ second coming, Advent rolls around to focus us once more on the first.

So on and so forth we go, year after year, letting the life of Jesus and the fullness of our humanity shape our years and get down into our bones. It changes us, making us more human and, hopefully, more Christian.

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One thought on “The Church Calendar: Jesus’ Life and Ours

  1. Pingback: What’s the Point of the Church Calendar? | the long way home

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