"It is a wise person who knows what time it is."
The story of God is told - and lived - in seasons, and the church moves in and out of those seasons together, reminding us of the big themes of God's story: waiting, giving, seeing, turning, dying, rising, and going. At Genesis we love inhabiting the church calendar, because it anchors us in something which can hold us, no matter what life throws our way.
The following is a brief summary of each church season:
Advent begins on the nearest Sunday to November 30 (which happens to be the Feast of St. Andrew, if you're keeping score), and ends at midnight on Christmas Eve. Advent, which means arrival, gives us the opportunity to practice waiting for the light of Christ's coming into the dark places of our world and our lives. During Advent, we are enlarged in the waiting.
Christmastide begins on Christmas Day, and ends on January 5th. So you see, there really are twelve days of Christmas. During Christmastide the waiting is over, so we share our gifts and our lives together and enjoy God's abundance. During Christmastide, we are enriched in the giving.
Epiphany begins on January 6th and ends on Ash Wednesday. Epiphany comes from the Greek word phainein, which means "to cause to appear" or "to bring to light." Epiphany is a season of enlightenment. We focus our attention on the life of Jesus, watching him heal, listening to him teach, and coming to a greater and greater understanding of who he really is. During Epiphany, we are enlightened in the seeing.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday we receive the sign of the cross on our foreheads in ashes, and we are reminded that we are finite beings and sinful persons, destined to die. We begin the long journey of turning from sin and turning towards God, the only one who can redeem us and restore us. During Lent, we are humbled in the turning.
Paschal Tridium is only three days long: Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. The word paschal comes from the Hebrew word pesach, or Passover. Tridium simply means three. The Paschal Tridium are the three days of the Christian Passover which represent the great saving act of God. This is the center of the Christian year, because it represents the heart of Christianity: the death and resurrection of Jesus. During the Paschal Tredium, we are healed in the dying.
Eastertide begins with Easter Sunday and ends with the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter. As with Christmas, Easter is both a day and a season. During Eastertide, we focus on faith, hope, and love. We place our faith in Jesus because of the great victory of God when Jesus overcame sin and death. We put our hope in Jesus for the resurrection of the body. And love is the mark of our transformed hearts. During Eastertide, we are heartened in the rising.
Ordinary Time lasts from Pentecost all the way until the First Sunday of Advent, when the story begins all over again. It's the longest season of the church calendar. In Ordinary Time the incarnate and risen Christ is now present in the world in a different way: the Spirit indwells the believer and empowers the church to engage in God's redemptive mission in the world. We reveal his light, we exhibit his life, and we embody his love. During Ordinary Time, we are empowered in the going.
We highly encourage anyone who wants to learn more about inhabiting the Church Calendar to read Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross. Much of what was written above is taken from this fantastic book.