Mother’s Day sermons. Memorial Day sermons. Even Thanksgiving sermons. Attend a given evangelical church around one of these holidays and odds are that you’ll hear one of these sermons, or hear a lot about these holidays in the worship service.
Ascension Sunday sermons. Pentecost Sunday sermons. Epiphany sermons. Mention any of those particular Sundays at a given evangelical church, and odds are you’ll receive a blank stare in return.
I’m not about to argue against the apostle Paul by saying we should rigidly observe a specific liturgical calendar (Romans 14:5ff; he’s not referring to the Sabbath, as is sometimes thought). But I think that with the generic evangelical church’s rejection of a liturgical calendar, a certain richness of worship was also rejected. Take, for example, the traditional Advent season in which we are now immersed. The four Sundays in Advent follow beautifully the biblical pattern of longing for the promised Messiah (Sunday of Prophecy), the purification the Messiah would bring (Judgment), the joy the Messiah would bring to His people (Joy), and the goodwill to those with whom He is well-pleased (Peace).
Further, nature abhors a vacuum, and so does the church. With the rejection of liturgical calendars came the vacuum of a calendar-less church. So by rejecting the liturgical calendars of our fathers and grandfathers, we have unwittingly embraced the American liturgical calendar, celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veteran’s Day alongside the secular culture while formerly joyous Christian celebrations like Ascension Sunday, Epiphany, and Pentecost are forgotten. Christians shouldn’t necessarily abstain from celebrating such American holidays, but I question the validity of bringing them into the church’s worship, especially at the expense of such biblically rich “holidays” that are right under our noses.
I think that using church’s liturgical calendar is a beautiful way of enfolding believers into the divine drama of redemption, making the good news of Christ’s birth, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and outpouring of His Spirit even more real throughout the year. They are great ways for Christians to celebrate the glorious work of Christ.