The Liturgical Year and Lutheran Church Calendar


The Liturgical Year and Lutheran Church Calendar

Introduction to the Liturgical Year

The Liturgical Year is a precious blessing bestowed upon us by the early Christians who came before us. It is important to remember that the Church calendar is distinct from the daily Gregorian calendar. The Church Year or Liturgical Year begins in November or December and centers upon events in the life of our Lord Jesus and His Church.

Two Parts of the Liturgical Year:

Part 1:  The Festival Half of the Church Liturgical Year

We dedicate the first half of the Church Year to the life of Jesus. We relive the most important events of Jesus' life when we pray during this season of the Church Year. Since most popular holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, occur in this period, the Festival Half of the Church Year is called the Festival Half of the Church Year.

Part 2:  The Non-Festival Half or the Church Half-Year

The second half of the Church Year is called the Non-Festival Half or the Church Half Year. It starts in May or June and reflects on our Lord's preaching, which He entrusted us to spread worldwide. This section shows what Jesus' creation, death, and resurrection mean to us.

Each season has its mood, and we use various colors on the altar to help bring out the spirit of the holiday season. Certain customs represent the mood of the season as well. Many of these factors contribute to emphasizing a season's unique message.

The following is a short overview of the Church Year's various seasons, what they are all about, and how we experience them.

 1.  Advent  (November – December)

"Advent" is derived from the Latin Adventus, which means going. Adventus denotes the approach of a person of honor, strength, and glory, someone with authority to bestow favor or inflict punishment. For Christians, Advent is a time of preparing for Christmas, vigilant anticipation for Christ's reappearance and cultivating the gift of patience for everyday life.

Calendar for Advent

Advent starts on the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday of December, depending on the year.

Colors of Advent

Purple or blue are the colors of the season.

Traditions of Advent

Go and light Advent candles at worship and home (four natural beeswax or red candles). Begin singing O Antiphons (which form the base of the hymn, Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel) on December 17, which reflects Israel's longing for the Messiah. Set up a crèche or nativity scene in church (or at home) during Advent.

A few days before Christmas, add figures of Mary and Joseph to the nativity scene. Following the final Advent ceremony, display a Christmas tree in church or at home. The Gospel readings focus on the life of Jesus from Advent to Easter. Every day, read Bible stories to your children.

What is Advent?

2.  Christmas  (December – January)

Christmas starts on December 25. It refers to the liturgy commemorating the day Christ became one of us. Rather than the birthday itself, we honor the mystery of heaven found in Christ's creation. We rejoice in the miracle of God becoming a man in Christ, our King, and Servant.

The Christmas season also emphasizes the name of the Lord our God since Jesus must have received His name eight days after His birth when He was circumcised. When the Lord's angel came to Joseph and informed him that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit, the angel also told Joseph what to call the child: Jesus, which means the LORD saves (Matthew. 1:20-21). When He was circumcised eight days after his birth, Joseph and Mary called Him Jesus, as the angel had told him to do.

Calendar for Christmas

The 12 Days of Christmas occur every year between December 25 and January 5.

Colors of Christmas

The color white represents joy and the motif of light, which is prominent in biblical texts and is synonymous with the season.

Traditions of Christmas

Christmas carols convey the excitement and awe of Christ's birth. Display figures of Jesus, the angel, and the shepherds on Christmas Day at the crèche or nativity scene at church or home, on the Feast of the Three Kings, including the Magi (January 6). The Christmas tree should remain standing for 12 days of Christmas. Take it down on the Feast of the Three Kings. Read about the birth of Jesus with your family as told in Luke Chapter 2.

3.  Epiphany  (January – February)

The presence of a deity among mortals is called epiphaneia in Greek. The same term denotes a king's visit to a favorite city. He was greeted with pomp and circumstance. Days were spent feasting and reveling, all to the detriment of the king.

The Lord's significant presence to His subjects with signs, miracles, and gifts was offered at His own cost. That is known as the Epiphany of Jesus. The magi, or the assembly of the gentiles as God's creatures, are the focus of Epiphany. It is all for our Lord's Baptism, who prepares the waters of Baptism for us. Epiphany commemorates Jesus' first sign or miracle at Cana to bless a marriage.

Calendar for Epiphany

Epiphany begins on January 6. The season's duration is dependent on the date of Easter. We celebrate Transfiguration Sunday on the last Sunday of Epiphany.

Colors of Epiphany

White reflects joy and innocence on Epiphany Day and the first Sunday after Epiphany Day. For the remainder of the Epiphany season [until our Lord's Transfiguration], the color is green, the color of life and development.

Traditions of Ephiphany

Burn Christmas trees in a bonfire on the Feast of the Three Kings. Sing Christmas carols or hymns.

What is Epiphany?

4.  Pre-Lent  (January – February)

Pre-Lent is three weeks before the 40-day season of Lent, a time of self-examination and repentance. The weeks that lead up to Easter act as a countdown. The titles of these Sundays reflect this.

The first Sunday is known as Septuagesima. That is a Latin term that means there are approximately 70 days before Easter. This Sunday, we read about God's grace, lest we be afraid to examine our hearts and lives during Lent. Whatever faults we admit to ourselves cannot distinguish us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus.

Sexagesima is the name given to the second Sunday of the month. This Latin name denotes that there are about 60 days before Easter. On this Sunday, the focus is on God's Word.

The third Sunday is known as Quinquagesima. That is a Latin term that means 50 days before Easter. It is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

Calendar for Epiphany

Pre-lent starts 70 days before Easter.

Colors of Epiphany

The altar colors are green because we focus on faith development before entering Lent's deep penitence.

Traditions of Epiphany

During this Pre-Lent season, we aim to reinforce our faith by anticipating the joy of Easter. God's unfailing love for us in Christ gives us the courage to examine ourselves sincerely. Any mistakes we see in ourselves have been paid for and forgiven by Christ. That is the Easter proclamation and will no longer exclude us from God's love for us in Jesus.

5.  Lent  (February – March)

The term "Lent" derives from the same source as one of the German words, "Lenz," which means spring. When nature awakens from the end of winter, the Christian discovers the newness of life in Christ, emerging from the death of sin. Over the 40 days of Lent, God's baptized people cleanse their souls by the discipline of repentance, prayer, and fasting. Lent is when God's people joyfully prepare for the Paschal feast (Easter). It is when God renews His people's zeal in faith and life. Grant us the fullness of grace that belongs to God's children.

Calendar for Lent

Ash Wednesday could arrive as early as February 6 or as late as March 10. The timing of Lent correlates with the date of Easter. Every year, Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter.

Colors of Lent

Lent colors are typically black or purple.

Traditions of Lent

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, as ashes are applied to the forehead to represent repentance. Lent hymns and services do not contain the joyful expression "Alleluia." Consider fasting throughout the day. Spend your daily mealtimes praying and reading the Bible. If you cannot compromise your diet for health reasons, give up something else (television, hobbies, etc.) Sundays (not part of the 40 days of Lent) are not fast days.

What is Lent?

6.  Holy Week  (March – April)

There is no other week in the Lutheran Church Liturgical Year with such a powerful atmosphere of extraordinary commitment. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, we become immersed in the central mystery of God's mission of redemption through the death and resurrection of the Lord. Holy Week encompasses not only the final days of Lent but also the commemoration of Christ's Passion. Holy Week consists of Palm Sunday, Holy Monday - Wednesday, as well as the daylight hours of Maundy Thursday. These days round out our preparation time.

Maundy Thursday's Holy Communion starts the Three Holy Days, or Triduum, beginning on Thursday and ending with Evening Prayer (Vespers) on Easter Day. These services combine to form a unified celebration of Christ's death and resurrection. Thus, the week looks back to the beginning of Lent. We also look ahead to the 50-day anniversary of Christ's resurrection, culminating on Pentecost.

Calendar for Holy Week

Holy week occurs one week before Easter Sunday.

Traditions of Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, gather children to sing and display palm branches. For many congregations, confirmation occurs on Palm Sunday. Through frequently asked questions (FAQs), communities and individuals may refresh their confirmation pledges. Read the entire Gospel account of Jesus' crucifixion. On Good Friday, observe stillness and introspection.

What Is Holy Week?

7.  Easter  (March – April)

Easter is the primary feast of the Christian liturgical year, even though Christmas may seem to overwhelm it in many cultures and churches. The world finds plenty to rejoice in Christmas, but it is perplexed by the day of our Lord's Resurrection. Lent is our season of preparing. The Triduum is a time of engagement in Pasch [Passover]. Easter is a 50-day celebration of the new life offered by Christ. It starts with the Easter Vigil and concludes on the Day of Pentecost.

Calendar for Easter

We celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the full moon on or after March 21. Easter may occur as early as March 22 or April 25.

Colors of Easter

For Easter, the color white represents joy.

Traditions of Easter

Sing joyful hymns that contain the word Alleluia. Display Easter lilies in worship services and at home. For youngsters, explain that the emergence of a butterfly from its cocoon and chicks from its eggs signify rebirth and new life. Present the baptismal font prominently and describe its function to children. On the 40th day, observe Jesus' ascension to heaven.

What is Easter?

8.  Pentecost  (May – June)

Pentecost is a Greek word that means "50", regarding the Old Testament feast celebrated 50 days after Passover. Pentecost is celebrated by Christians 50 days after Easter. The Lord poured out His Spirit during Pentecost. Once exclusive to a select few, God's blessing extends to everyone. We have access to the love of the Father and Son. We are accepted into the most loving communion with the Father since we are united in Christ. That is a call to repentance due to the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Calendar for Pentecost

Pentecost starts in May or June.

Colors of Pentecost

The color red symbolizes Pentecost. Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost, is colored white. Green is the color of new life and development for the season.

Traditions of Pentecost

During the season of Pentecost, the Gospel readings focus on Jesus' teachings. Recite the Athanasian Creed in unison or sections on Trinity Sunday.

What is Pentecost?

9.  The Final Three Sundays  (November)

The final three Sundays of the Lutheran Church Liturgical Year reflect death and misery in a violent environment. Most important is our hope that Christ will one day deliver us.

Calendar for the End of the Liturgical Year

The very last Sunday of the Church Liturgical Year is always seven Sundays before Christmas.

Traditions for the Finale

Christians should keep the hope of Christ's return in mind and pray fervently for His return. Live in anticipation of His reappearance, avoiding all appearances of evil. Proclaim to others with confidence that Christ is returning as Savior and Judge. Every day, read the Scriptures with your family.

10.  Saints' Days  (Various)

In addition to the various seasons, we celebrate single days and dates throughout our Lutheran Church Liturgical Year. They are known as the Saints' Days. Those days commemorate the life and blessings of certain great Christians from the past. That also teaches us that Christians on Earth and in Heaven form one body of believers in Christ.

Colors of Saints' Days

The color of Saint Day is red, symbolizing the color of blood. Most saints have become martyrs for their faith in Christ. The Lutheran Church does not worship or pray to the saints. Instead, we honor and respect their service to the Lord.

Traditions of Saints' Days

According to our Lutheran Church Confessions, honoring the saints is permissible. And this is a three-fold honor:

1.) The first is the holiday of thanksgiving. We should thank God for showing mercy, demonstrating His desire to save men, and providing teachers or other gifts to believers.

1.) The second service strengthens our faith as we see Peter's rejection. According to Romans, it inspires us to believe evermore that goodness triumphs over sin. 5.20).

3.) The third service is imitation, first by faith, then of the other virtues, which each can emulate following their calling.

Additional Information:

LCMS Lutheran Church Liturgical Year

Colors of Liturgical Seasons

Lutheran Church Calendars:

2022-2023 Three-Year Series (A) – PDF (color-coded)

2022-2023 One-Year Series – PDF (color-coded)