“This calendar keeps time to remember God’s Salvation Story. The stories of God breaking into our darkness. Stories of God’s work in our lives.”
Time. Time to get up and to go to bed. Time for a sporting event. Time for an exam. Time to begin the school year. Time to say good bye to an old year, and hello to the new.
We all keep time. But not all in the same way. Muslims have a particular calendar based on the lunar month; Jews another – a lunisolar calendar with a month added every one or two years so that the months continue to align with the changing location of the sun.
We Christians too have a calendar – the Liturgical calendar, a sacred and holy calendar of seven seasons – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. This calendar keeps time to remember God’s Salvation Story. The stories of God breaking into our darkness. Stories of God’s work in our lives. Our turning away from God and God’s sacrifice in Jesus that returns us to wholeness. Stories that prompt us to share the Good News of Christ with the world.
Each season has its own colors, which we often mark visibly with church decorations – the frontals of the altar table; the chasuble of the one who celebrates Eucharist; the stoles the clergy wear draped around their necks; the banners with which we process into church.
The blue or purple for Advent reminds us that we are waiting for royalty – Christ our King. It also reminds us that Advent is a time to prepare to receive our King by looking at ways in which our lives are filled with darkness and considering ways to return to God’s loving presence.
Yellow, gold or white for Christmas mark’s the light that has entered the world.
Green during Epiphany reminds us that as we meet Jesus in the gospels we are growing in Christ and hearing the call to spread God’s Word throughout the world.
Purple for Lent, as in Advent, is the color of repenting when we take stock of our lives and seek ways to return to God.
White for Easter is a color of celebration, when we know that Christ has risen. The 50 days of Easter is a time of great joy.
Red for the Day of Pentecost reminds us that God has given us the Holy Spirit. We are on fire ready to go out into the world to tell what we have seen.
The green for the Sundays after Pentecost is the longest season. Green reminds us that it’s time to grow in Christ – to do the hard work of following Jesus.
Printable Liturgical Calendar
Where, however, do we tell people the meaning of those colors? Where do we post the calendar so people who want to know what time it is? We know what November means. Do we know what Advent means? Can we visualize the cycle of our liturgical life, marking time each year as we follow the life of Jesus? The Church gives us that visible calendar in the Liturgical wheel – a circular calendar with days of the year that march us through the seasons.
The Christian year is beginning again soon, on the First Sunday of Advent. I invite you to keep time with children, youth and adults in your church by posting a liturgical calendar in a visible place. “Where can I find one?” you ask.
Here is a link to a liturgical calendar, for the Liturgical Year. It can be duplicated and handed out, pinned to a bulletin board or made into placemats. It can even be enlarged to take a more prominent place in your church’s hallway or entrance. It can be a reminder to all that they are entering a place that marks sacred time.
If you’d like one with your church’s name on it, email email@example.com, putting “Liturgical calendar” followed by your church name in the subject line. You will receive a printable pdf file just for your church!
Jenifer Gamber has been involved in Christian formation since she began teaching Sunday school as a teenager. The author of My Faith, My Life and Your Faith, Your Life for adults, she is a popular speaker on the topics of spirituality, prayer, and teen faith formation. Her website, offers a wealth of resources for adults who work with youth. Her most recent book is Call on Me: A Prayer Book for Young People.
Thank you for the work you are doing. I have been an organist for the Lutheran church my entire life. I use a calendar like the one you produce to give me guidance in my selection of service music. It includes the 3 year cycles of scriptural readings that are read in the service each week. Your explanation for the colors used was very clear also. May our Lord continue to bless you. Janet Moe Lane