At Grace Mosaic, we practice the Christian Year (or liturgical calendar) as a communal pattern that forms us, year after year, to be a people of The Story of our faith. James K.A. Smith has written that in Christian worship we gradually replace the “story of our bones” with “God’s story, the story of his redemption.” Human beings are creatures profoundly and fundamentally shaped by stories. Our conviction is that each of our lives will always be following someone's calendar and story, it is just a question of whose story it is and what kind of narrative it is telling.
In America, for instance, we have a regular, national, “liturgical” calendar of "holy days": Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, election days, etc. These days are to meant to tell a story to the collective of citizens about the identity, history, values, and goals of the United States. Pressing further, some of these days become whole seasons of colors, music, patterns, and practices. The American Christmas season, for example, begins in November (or October!) and contains a whole set of practices that come along with it: shopping, gifts, songs, rituals, food, etc. We could examine similar realities around other seasons and days as well. These cultural stories form us to desire certain things and to have a certain vision of what human flourishing looks like.
In a similar and yet utterly distinct way, the People of God have always been marked by a calendar and a story. In the Old Testament, this was designed and mandated by God himself! After the Passover night took place before the Exodus from Egypt, Moses spoke these words to the Israelites:
"You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses,’” (Ex. 12:24-28).
So when a young Israelite girl living after the Exodus, say three thousand years ago, would celebrate the Passover meal with her family, she would naturally and inquisitively ask them, “What is this ritual all about?” Her family was supposed to form her little faith by telling her God's great Story of redemption that was rehashed and played out in the meal she was participating in. Beautiful and natural, isn't it? This is the kind of formative replaying that we seek to live out at Grace Mosaic every single Sunday throughout the Christian Year.
Even though the Old Testament calendar was intricately intertwined with the sacrificial system and is not binding in the New Covenant in Christ, ancient Christians quite naturally grabbed hold of this same concept to design a Christian calendar that would tell The Story of God's great and final redemption in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This happened organically and gradually over time, taking different forms in different places. Even today, the Western and Eastern Church follow different calendars and celebrate different things at different times. Beyond that, even within the Western Church, there is quite a lot of variance from denomination to denomination around peripheral days and events within the Christian Year. There is no “one, right way” of liturgical time. Still, if you reduce it down to the core, you can see a common story that spans roughly six months from Advent to Pentecost and then another six months of the season after Pentecost (or Ordinary Time).
The first ~six months tell the story of Jesus Christ:
- Advent: his second coming and the prophetic anticipation of his birth
- Christmas: his incarnation and birth
- Epiphany: the revelation of himself throughout his early life and ministry
- Lent and Holy Week: his journey towards the cross
- Easter: his victorious resurrection from the dead
- Ascension Day: his ascension into heaven
- Pentecost: his promised sending of the Holy Spirit
The second ~six months tell the story of the Church, the People of God during what we call the Season After Pentecost.
This is the Story that we tell at Grace Mosaic because we want this greater Story to be formed so deep inside of us so that we wake up, go to sleep, and live our days as those whose lives proclaim this Story in thought, word, and deed. We want this to “get into our bones.”
The liturgical calendar is an area of both liberty and unity in the Church. Meaning that there is no law that says that a congregation or worshipper must observe certain days (besides the Lord's Day!) to worship rightly. In fact, the New Testament explicitly warns against this! (e.g., Rom. 14:5-6; Gal 4:10; Col 2:16). That being said, the liturgical calendar, beyond being a beautiful tool of formation, is a way for us to express our unity with other Christians around the globe who celebrate many of the same seasons and days in order that we all, together, might remember and enact the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is a layout of our liturgical calendar at Mosaic: