The Lutheran Church Year

The Seasons
Season Description When Celebrated
Advent Though it comes nearly at the end of the calendar year, Advent is the first season of the church year. It is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ. This means not only the remembrance of his first coming (his incarnation and his birth in Bethlehem) but also the anticipation of his second coming at the end of time. Since four Sundays of Advent are celebrated before Christmas, the Advent season always begins on the Sunday nearest the end of November. So depending on which day Christmas occurs in any given year, the possible dates for the first Sunday of Advent range from November 27 to December 3.
Christmas Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s incarnation and birth. The significance of the celebration is not tied so much to December 25 as being the actual date of Christ’s birth as it is to the truth that the divine Son of God, the Savior of the world, came into the world and into human history, bringing light and salvation for all. Begins on Christmas Eve, December 24, and lasts until the Day of Epiphany. Depending on the day of the week on which Christmas day falls, there may be one or two Sundays following Christmas day in the Christmas season.
Epiphany The name of this season comes from a Greek word used in ancient times to mean the manifestation of a divine being. The season celebrates the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world as the divine Son of God. It begins with the Day of Epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Magi to the infant Christ, and includes the Day of the Baptism of our Lord (always the First Sunday in the season) and Transfiguration Sunday (always the last Sunday in the season). Both commemorate events at which the Father proclaims “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17 and 17:5). Begins on the Day of Epiphany, which is on January 6 every year, and lasts until Ash Wednesday, the date of which varies because it is based on the date of Easter, which varies. So there are a variable number of Sundays in the season of Epiphany, depending on the date of Easter.
Lent Lent is the season of solemn preparation for Easter, the joyous central event of the church year which celebrates the resurrection of Christ. But Lent is solemn because before the resurrection came the crucifixion and death of Jesus, and we must remember what put him on the cross—our sins. Lent is therefore defined as a “penitential” season. Early on, Lent was a 40-day fast, but fasting is not as emphasized in Lutheran churches today as it is in some of the other churches which observe the liturgical church year. Lent culminates in Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then his trial, crucifixion, death, and burial. The Lenten season starts on Ash Wednesday and includes 6 Sundays before Easter Sunday. The season is defined as being 40 days long, not counting the Sundays, so 46 days total must separate Ash Wednesday from Easter Day. That means the start of Lent can be as early as February 4 or as late as March 10.
Easter Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which is the historical event which gives the Christian life and message its meaning, for it means that he has overcome sin, death, and Satan for us and therefore, through faith in him, we have eternal life now and forever. Easter is observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (March 21). If that first full moon occurs on a Sunday, then Easter will be observed on the following Sunday. This gives a range of dates from March 22 through April 25 on which Easter can occur. (This dating is related to the way the date of the Jewish festival of Passover is determined every year because Christians view the death of Jesus to be the fulfillment of the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb offered in the Old Testament.) The Easter season lasts 49 days, a “week of weeks,” and includes the celebration of the Ascension of Christ, which occurs on the 40th day after Easter Sunday and is therefore always on a Thursday.
Pentecost In the Old Testament, the festival of Pentecost (Greek for “fiftieth”) was a harvest festival held fifty days after Passover. Early Christians adapted this festival to commemorate the first great harvest of souls for Christ, which occurred on the Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection when Jews from all nations were gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. On that day the Holy Spirit was first poured out on the first Christians and, through the apostles’ preaching, about three thousand people believed on Christ and were baptized (Acts 2). Pentecost Sunday occurs on the 50th day after Easter. The season which follows is known as the “Season of Pentecost,” though technically Pentecost is a day and not a season. The Sundays are therefore identified as Sundays after (not “in”) Pentecost. The time after Pentecost until the first Sunday in Advent, which starts a new church year, is known as “ordinary” time while the time from Advent through Pentecost is known as the “time of the Church.”