I was in my twenties, out of college and in seminary, before I learned about the seasons of the “Christian Year.” Like many Protestants, I experienced Sunday as the Bible’s “first day of the week,” the worship anchor for each week of the year. But it was easy to see each Sunday as a one-shot event, subject only to our particular minister developing a sermon series to link them together.

But then I saw a worship color wheel and heard that there were different “seasons” in the Church’s life that celebrate key aspects of the Good News. They form two overarching cycles:
+ From Advent to Christmas to Epiphany, and
+ From Lent to Easter to Pentecost.
These periods correspond with the colors of “paraments” (banners and cloths on the pulpit, lecturn and Communion Table). They move from:
+ Purple (for repentance and preparation) to
+ White (for celebration of God’s transforming presence and action in our lives) to
+ Green (our living out the gospel in ministry with others).

What a difference this flow makes for me! The seasons constantly remind me that when we join in Christian worship, we are not gathering as isolated congregations in individual events. We are joining together as part of the Church Universal across time and space, becoming present to God’s astounding presence with and love for us all!
In the 1960s, at the height of efforts toward one ecumenical Church, several major Protestant denominations became aware of the Christian Year and began using the colors in worship. The Episcopalians and Lutherans have woven it seamlessly into their worship life. But most of the rest of us have been minimally aware of this framework for worship.

These days, when so many in our technologically saturated society can feel estranged from others, the seasons of the Christian Year can remind us that we are based in the life of the gospel, bonded with a centuries-long community of faith, and part of the ongoing life and worship of God’s global people. What a strong connection and rhythm for our life together!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub