Holidays, Seasons, and Special Worship Services
As a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, St. Luke follows a traditional liturgical calendar throughout the year. St. Luke celebrates church holidays and festivals with prayerful worship, holy Communion, and traditions to commemorate the significance of the seasons.
What are the different church seasons?
The church year begins, with the season of Advent. These are the primary seasons in the Christian tradition, in order:
- Advent: The first season in the church year, comprising the four weeks before Christmas.
- Christmas: The twelve-day period celebrating the Incarnation of Christ, which begins December 24 (Christmas Eve) and ends January 5 (the eve of the Epiphany of Our Lord.
- Epiphany: The Epiphany of Our Lord is celebrated on January 6 each year. The season after the Epiphany is just that, The Season after the Epiphany. It lasts until the season Lent.
- Lent: The forty-day (excluding Sundays) season of penitence and preparation for Easter.
- Easter: The Season of Easter consists of fifty days, a “week of weeks” celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Pentecost: The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples fifty days after Easter. The season after this day until Advent is known as the Season after Pentecost.
Advent is a season of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus and also his second coming. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues until Christmas Eve.
In 2021, St. Luke partnered with Lutheran World Relief through the season of Advent to learn about the global work being done and how everyone, everywhere, can make a difference by leading generously from the heart. The videos and study guides for this series are available on our site.
Christmas is likely the most well-known Christian holiday. CHRIST-mass is much more than a single secular day of gift-giving. Beginning with Christmas Eve, we commemorate the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem — culminating in the birth of Jesus in a manger. The nativity is a widely recognized depiction of baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the heralding angel, and shepherds in this pastoral setting.
Christmas celebrates the arrival of Jesus as one of us. This extraordinary start to his Earth-bound journey calls for reflection on the deep love God has for all people, that he would send his son to the world as its savior. Christmas carols sung through the Christmas holiday celebrate all aspects of Jesus’s birth story, and all the deeper implications of the miracle for Christians.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, forty weekdays before Easter every spring. This season of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection is held as a time for Christians to engage in reflection and go deeper in their faith.
St. Luke hosts an Ash Wednesday service each year, and Pastor Frye also goes into the community on this day to bring ashes to those who can’t make it to the church location. Faith formation opportunities are available to all throughout the season of Lent, and St. Luke partners with other local churches each year to explore themes through the lens of Lent in midweek worship services.
The final week of Lent begins with Palm Sunday, remembering Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem. Special worship services during Holy Week follow the final days leading to His crucifixion, and culminate in the Easter celebration of His resurrection.
“Alleluia! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!” Why is Easter important? As momentous as Jesus’s arrival in the world was, Easter is a time to remember his reappearance after his earthly death.
Easter is recognized as the time to celebrate his resurrection after he gave the ultimate sacrifice to save us all: his life. This is the foundation of all Christian belief.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal lifeJohn 3:16, NRSV
Resurrection is not the only theme prominently visible throughout the Easter season. It is also a time of proclamation, invoking Christians to share the good news of the sacrifice made to atone for all our sins and the promise of grace and redemption through faith.
Other Seasons and Church Holidays
Epiphany is considered “ordinary time,” meaning — not common-place, but rather — numbered. This season of revelation emphasizes a recognition of Jesus as Christ, our savior. Epiphany ends with Shrove Tuesday.
The season of Pentecost is a time to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, and St. Luke plans several Pentecost projects each year to provide the St. Luke community with opportunities to engage in loving, generous acts led by the Holy Spirit.
Many refer to the part of the year encompassing Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter as the “festival half” of the year. The remainder of the year is then referred to as the “non-festival half” of the year. Traditional colors are associated with different church holidays, festival days, and seasons. The ELCA has assembled a great resource for explaining these symbolic practices.
Share the Church Seasons with St. Luke
Whether it’s a widely-recognized season, or just a regular week, St. Luke embraces all for worship and prayer. Our faith community gathers multiple times a week in different fashions — feel welcome to worship with us in-person or online. If you have questions about Christian or Lutheran traditions, please reach out. Someone would be happy to help you grow in your understanding of what it means to be Lutheran!