the christian calendar for modern worship?

Zac HicksConvergence of Old and New in Worship, Worship Theology & Thought5 Comments

Let me talk about the Christian calendar, and then discuss how worship leaders in modern settings can utilize it without compromising what makes modern worship so beautiful.

Why use it
Not every church follows the church year, also called the “liturgical cycle.”  Why does our church spend time doing so, observing seasons such as Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost?  For one thing, it links us to practices of Christ’s church which are very ancient.  We know that primitive forms of the church calendar were emerging as early as A.D. 57.  Secondly, observing a uniquely Christian calendar reminds us that we are a peculiar people set against a world that doesn’t necessarily follow “God’s time.”  The January-December / Sunday-Saturday calendar we follow ultimately has roots in the pagan Roman empire, and the use of a Christian calendar within the church reminds us that all our time and living revolves not around what the larger world has to offer, but around Christ Himself.  Notice that all the seasons symbolically center around Christ.  Advent refers to Christ’s advent on earth.  Lent refers to Christ’s time of fasting and humiliation.  Pentecost refers to the outpouring of Christ’s Spirit on all kinds of people.  In Christ spin all the gears of time, and we acknowledge that when we worship through a Christian calendar.

How it can be used in modern worship
You don’t have to be a “liturgical” church to incorporate and observe the Christian calendar.  You don’t have to change your service’s structure to walk through the church seasons (though some change might help!).  First, I’d suggest just becoming educated about the Christian calendar.  The least expensive, most accessible, and generally reliable way to start is wikipedia.  They have a decent article on the liturgical year which will branch you to other articles that help you understand the big picture and the smaller aspects of each season.  Second, once you become aware of the year, cater your song selections (or at least some of them) to the season.  Songs on the Spirit during Pentecost.  Songs of repentance during Lent.  Eschatological songs during Advent or Epiphany.  Third, use your technology to color the ambience of that season.  Each liturgical season has its color.  Maybe you can have a graphic designer create slide backdrops with those colors and dream up icons or thematic symbols to accompany those visuals.  

Hopefully some of these suggestions can break the ice.  But sky’s the limit when it comes to creative ways to help your people–even in modern worship settings–embrace the church year.  And trust me, when modern worshipers with very little liturgical roots grab onto the church year, they CAN’T GET ENOUGH.  It’s balm for the soul (only a slight exaggeration).  Our postmodern milieu cries out for roots.  The Christian calendar can be a start at providing that.

5 Comments on “the christian calendar for modern worship?”

  1. Great post Zac.

    “Third, use your technology to color the ambiance of that season.”

    Technology is a good servant. Too often we allow it to become a tyrannical master.

  2. Dude, “balm for the soul”? Nice. Thanks for posting this. It is a great reminder to keep the emphasis on these ancient events.

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