Have you ever thought of how many different calendars influence our lives? What goes on your schedule at any point depends on which type of year you are focused. For instance, the recent changing of the calendar year on January 1 set off an avalanche of New Year’s resolutions. The fiscal calendar brings to mind budgets, bills, and taxes associated with various checkpoints of time (end-of-the-month, quarters and year-end). And for all of us parents, the school calendar dominates many of our plans. In fact, a look at one’s calendar quickly shows where one’s priorities are. Does the calendar framework you use keep the first thing first? What should be our first priority? Well according to Colossians 1:17-18, first place goes to Jesus Christ! And guess what, there is a calendar framework that is ideal for helping us keep Jesus in his rightful place.
But many people are only vaguely aware (or maybe not at all aware) of the Christian calendar. I’ve decided to intentionally structure this year’s ministry calendar on the foundation of the historical Christian year because of the many benefits it provides. If you’d like to reap these same rewards in your life, keep reading and be sure to grab the free calendar I’ve made you!
If you don’t have a background in a liturgical congregation, you might be unfamiliar, and possibly even uncomfortable, with this calendar. You may hear the word “liturgical” and think ridged, monotonous, arcane rituals. Or, you might just scratch your head and wonder, “So what?”
Or, perhaps you are somewhat familiar with the seasons of the church year. The words Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are not total strangers to you, but these seem like islands in an otherwise unconnected tide of days, weeks, and months.
A Proven Method for Building Unity in Diversity
The concept of reverently experiencing and sharing the story of Jesus and the Gospel message through a Christian calendar dates back centuries upon centuries to the time of the early church. Yet, no place in the New Testament do we have God commanding set dates and schedules for observing feasts, fasts, and other sacred days as God did for the Jews in the Old Testament.
Thus, there is not one, uniformly adopted version of the Christian year. There are many variations as to the specific dates, vocabulary, and color-schemes associated with the liturgical calendar across the church universal (and even within some denominations). For example, the pattern and dates used by Eastern Orthodox believers differs from those used by the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Even within denominations, you’ll find variations in how the calendar is observed.
However, as I researched this topic, I discovered that despite the many variations, all versions of the Christian year are anchored by the two high holy days of Christmas and Easter. Whatever the date, color-schemes, or names given, the calender lays out a clear cyclical progression beginning with Advent and concluding with a time of growth in our discipleship as followers of Christ as our sovereign King.
Both from my study and practice, I believe you will experience at least five benefits from making the Christian calendar the foundation on which you build your schedule and through which you evaluate all the other calendars fighting for control of your life.
Five Benefits of Ordering Your Life According to the Christian Calendar
When we familiarize ourselves with the cyclical pattern of the Christian calendar and begin to build all of our others upon this foundational structure, we will experience many benefits. As we observe the different seasons and study their corresponding passages in Scripture, we can expect to:
Recognize the presence of God and the rhythms of our relationship with him in our day-to-day life.
The secular calendar insures we remember to honor our Mother, Father, Sweetheart, Veterans, and so on, but only the Christian calendar keeps Christ front and center. As we purposefully prioritize our relationship with and worship of God, we will more readily be sensitive to his presence and prompting.
The time-tested format provides different perspectives on and opportunities to engage the mysterious yet revealed Emmanuel (God With Us).
Counteract the priorities and values espoused by the world with those espoused by God.
Intentional journeying with Christ through the trials and triumphs of his story disciplines us to avoid the lure of instant gratification, hedonism, and pursuing our own personal agendas at the expense of heeding the call to self-denial, sacrificial service, and the taking up of our cross to follow Jesus.
As one whose been in a life-long (and often losing) battle for self-control, I’m looking forward to the rest of this year-long trek with Christ producing a harvest of that particular fruit of the Spirit. Of course, I realize I’m probably in for a season of pruning before I see that harvest.
Be equipped with both the truth and grace necessary to live victoriously in a fallen world.
As we regularly and deliberately abide with Jesus, we will better recognize our need for him. And in truly experiencing our need, we better appreciate and enthusiastically receive what our Savior provides.
The framework of the liturgical calendar prevents us from skipping over the uncomfortable parts of Christ’s story (and our own) so as to hang out in the less challenging events, Scriptures, and doctrines. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never grown when I was comfortable.
Unite more closely with the Body of Christ as a whole by focusing on what we have in common rather than on the less essential differences.
Instead of seeing our brothers and sisters in other congregations as “the competition” for church attendance and tithes, we will recognize and embrace the reality of our shared head, Christ Jesus.
As we come together across denominational lines to worship, serve, and glorify God we will gain new appreciation and affection for one another. And in the process of doing so, we may find our faith deepened and enriched by taking the time to listen to why and how others do and think differently on the less essential aspects of the Christian faith.
Cultivate our understanding and experience of traditions, rituals, and celebrations.
For example, the Christian calendar provides a lens through which the many and beautiful facets of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism become apparent. Consider how our hearts will be quickened in a slightly different way as we receive the bread and cup during Lent as opposed to during the Christmas season.
We will become more conscious of how the various themes, stories, events, and people of the Bible fit together in one overarching story of the redemptive work of God in Christ.
How I’ll Be Using the Christian Calendar on the Blog
Actually, I’ve already been using the calendar to inform my choice of topics for my blog posts. So you may not notice much of a difference. Since the ministry officially began in late 2013, I’ve struggled to stay ahead of my deadlines. This year, I’m doing more intentional planning for my editorial calendar. It just makes sense to be guided by the traditional liturgical pattern.
By sticking to the historical framework, I will better cover the whole of Scripture. At times, that will no doubt prove more challenging than just writing whatever happens to be on my mind that day. However, I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will reveal new things I need to work on and areas in which he wishes to help me grow. Hopefully, the process will serve you well and we can all grow together as we experience the benefits listed above.
Get A Handy Printable Calendar
I’ve created a calender for you to print out and keep at your desk, on the fridge, or wherever you generally do your scheduling.
On one page, you’ll find the seasons and special days along with their themes explained. On the second page, you’ll find the dates specific for the 2015-2016 Christian year. [FYI, this is now updated to show 2016-2017 dates!] I’m using this as I plan my blog content and classes. I hope you find it helpful as you make your plans, too.
If you’d like me to email you this calendar to print (or to keep on your phone or computer as a PDF), just click on the button below. I’ll email your copy instantly!
And the winner is…
Last week I asked for your help in selecting the cover for my newest resource. I’ve designed a Sermon Notes journal with many helpful features for recording and retrieving key insights and Scripture references. It will be available in both paperback and spiral bound versions and it could also be used to take notes in a Sunday School or Bible study class. I just couldn’t decide on a cover.
So, I asked my readers and social media followers to help me out. The votes are in and the as the chart below shows, Navy/Silver won with 51% of the vote!
FYI, a few people left me notes and even an invitation to coffee but didn’t leave a name in their survey comments. So I don’t have a way of identifying and contacting you. If you left me a note in your survey response, please shoot me an email and I promise to respond!
Thanks for your help! I’ll be sending the book to the publisher later this week. If you’d like to learn more about the book or to be notified when I start taking pre-orders, please just click the following button! I’ll send you a coupon code for a special pre-order discount!