Category Archives: Christian calendar

The Christian calendar is growing on me

christian-calendarI’m getting more used to the Christian calendar. I’ve questioned the need for it in the past, but as someone pointed out, we’re going to follow some calendar; why not follow one structured around Christian events? Why is a calendar based on what the Romans did inherently better than one based on what early Christians did? Why is observing holidays promoted by Hallmark somehow holier than following the seasons marked for centuries by believers in Christ?

I’m not willing to name some days as holier than others. That doesn’t fit what I see in the New Testament. I still observe Sunday as the Lord’s day, and every other day as holy. But I’d rather spend this season focused on the need for a Messiah than spend it bowing to whatever days merchants want to create, be it Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Shop-Til-You-Drop Saturday.

I’m not lighting candles nor do I even know what the order of such is supposed to be. I have been using the Lectionary for my preaching for over a year now; I’m always in favor of text-based preaching that isn’t subject to the whims of what I perceive to be the most pressing need.

I’m still more aware of the sports seasons than I am the seasons of the Christian calendar. But it’s growing on me.

What do you think? What problems do you see with following the Christian calendar? What advantages do you see?

Lent vs Resurrection Day

tombSorry, no clever April Fool’s post this year. If you can’t find anything else, Google always has some interesting offerings.

I did want to comment on one of the articles in today’s “Links To Go.” The ever-insightful N.T. Wright asks why we emphasize Lent over Resurrection Day, why suffering seems to find a better place in our churches than celebration does.

It’s a good question. To my mind, the Bible emphasizes Christians celebrating what Christ has done much more than it does “afflicting our souls” (to use the Old Testament term).

I would add that our celebration often picks up much from the secular celebrations of Spring. It’s easier to celebrate Easter than it is to celebrate the Resurrection.

What do you think? Are we too much into fasting and not enough into feasting?

photo courtesy of

Celebrating the Christian calendar

Thanks to all who commented on yesterday’s post, especially to those who pointed me to other articles. Looking at all that’s been said (I’d encourage you to read Jay Guin’s post “Regarding Christmas,” then look through some of the links in the comments section as well), I hesitate to add much more.

But of course I will. :-)

Over at Brian Nicklaus’ blog, I left a comment stating that I’m more comfortable with Charles Dickens’ Christmas than I am the pope’s. I’m glad the world is thinking about Christ in even the tiniest way. I worry about what Christians are doing about it.

The question bears asking “Why December 25?” The answer that it’s an ancient tradition doesn’t fly with me. The earliest references to Christians celebrating Jesus’ birth refer to it as an oddity, not as general practice. Early Reformers saw it as a Catholic tradition, not one pertaining to general Christianity.

There is an ancient tradition of celebrating tomorrow, December 8, as the day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The same groups kept that alive all these years that preserved the December 25 date. Why has Protestantism in general accepted their testimony on one celebration and not on the other? [For those wanting to return the U.S. to her Christian roots, remember that this is the patronal saint day of the United States]

Many have celebrated Mary’s ascension to heaven on August 15, with traces back to the fourth century. It’s a public holiday in over a dozen countries. Why not hold onto that ancient tradition as well?

And why is so little attention given to Epiphany? Whether you follow the Western churches (celebrating the visit of the Magi) or the Eastern churches (celebrating Jesus’ baptism), this feast is connected with an actual event that we can read about in the Bible, unlike the previous two that I mentioned. (Though some argue that the ascension of Mary is seen in Revelation 12) And if we’re going to sing about the 12 days of Christmas, why do we stop the celebration on the first day and not go through Epiphany, the 12th day?

It’s cool today to say “Let’s connect with historic Christianity by celebrating the Christian calendar.” If we’re really going to do that, we’ve got a lot more dates to add. Why one feast (or two, if you count Easter) and not the others? For more years than not, the bulk of Christendom celebrated these days.

There’s no good answer as to why we would set aside December 25 as the time to commemorate Jesus’ birth. And it doesn’t take much to see that focusing on Jesus’ birth at this one time of year pretty much eliminates any awareness of that event at other times.

I’m convinced of the value of promoting an awareness of Christ at this time and supporting the idea of the “Christmas spirit” in general society. I’m still not convinced of the value of imitating other Christians just for the sake of imitating them. I’m not big on “slippery slope” arguments (as they say, if you accept one of them, you have to accept them all), but this seems to be a step in a dangerous direction. Maybe not the action itself, but the line of reasoning (or lack of reasoning).

So who’ll join me in July to celebrate the coming of Christ?

Additional thoughts on Lent

Like most things in life, there seem to be two extreme positions concerning Lent. On the one hand, some see it as a sinful manmade innovation that should be avoided by all true Christians. Others see it as an essential part of Christian life.

And, like most things in life, I think the correct answer lies somewhere between the extremes. Romans 14 clearly states that observing special days is a matter of conscience, with room for diversity in the body of Christ. As far as the general concept of fasting, I’m all in favor of it. Admittedly, my beliefs outpace my practice in this area. I think fasting should be a normal part of Christian life. (I did a week-long series on fasting last May)

As far as the Christian calendar, I personally feel that the Christian calendar is a bit contrived, forcing special days to fall on certain days of the week to fit church tradition. I would be more comfortable with some form of the Jewish calendar, working Christian observances into the seasons as seen fit. Easter would be naturally linked to Passover, for example. Why not follow a biblically-based calendar rather than one based on a pagan calendar? Admittedly, the modern Jewish calendar is not exactly the same as that in the Bible, but a lunar-based calendar would bring us closer to the rhythms of the first century, should we wish to approach that.

I have nothing against the observation of Lent, if you choose to go that route, but I’ve seen nothing in that particular observance that leads me to want to practice it.

Questions About Lent

I’d like to hear some thoughts on Lent. Growing up, Lent was something I was only vaguely aware of. I had an Episcopalian friend in grade school that I remember mentioning it once; that was about the only conscious contact I had with someone who observed Lent.

Lent used to be pretty unheard of in Churches of Christ, but now it’s coming into fashion, especially among younger generations. John Mark Hicks has written a post in favor of observing the Christian calendar. Todd Bouldin has written a whole series: Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3, Pt. 4, Pt. 5.

Richard Beck wrote an interesting post which comes closer to reflecting my feelings, entitled Ambivalence About Lent.

I’m still not in. Tell me what you think.