Why Christian Seasons

Protestant Christians, until the late 20th century did not follow the classical Christian seasons, although almost all did observe Christmas Day and Easter Day.  In order to improve congregational understanding of scripture, more and more preachers began following the Revised Common Lectionary which follows the Roman pattern of breaking up the year into the Christian seasons.

I suspect that prior to the 20th century, Protestants were still defining themselves over and against Roman Catholics, so perhaps the Christian seasons were seen as too Romanish. Roman itself was changing in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council, and perhaps with the changes in worship form and Rome’s relationship with modernity changing Protestants saw Rome as being less alien. Lastly, perhaps as secular hostility to Christianity in general grew, Protestants and Rome, began less to see each other as “the competition” but rather as “seperated brothers and sisters”. Other’s more scholarly than I perhaps have a better explaination, however it is clear that most Protestants are far less reactive than they were prior to the Protestant Reformation

Protestants were correct in jettissoning the burden of a bloated calendar which included a plethora of feast days to the various Saints. As Jesus said of the Pharisees, in Mark 7:8 “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Indeed, as is still often the case, Christian communities create traditions which come to serve as a replacement for the simple but challenging way of Christ. I recall a discussion in one congregation where changing the worship time by 1/2 hour was for some on the level of altering the very structure of Heaven and Earth. I exadurate of course, but not by much I am sad to say. Human sin causes us to focus on the things that do not matter at the expense of things that do.

Reflecting some 500 years later, it seems apparent that the Protestand Reformation threw more than a few “babies out with the bath water” in order to focus the people on the centrality of Scripture and faith in Jesus Christ.  Stain glass and the use of images to convey Bibilical stories to children and the simple come to mind. After leaving the United Church of Canada, I worshipped for a while in an Anglican Church until observing the same doctrinal decline that destroyed the United Church of Canada. I now often worship in an Evangelical Church, who while faithful to the Gospel miss much of the richness of Anglican/Roman worship.  The preaching is exceptional, however the four praise songs, prayer, sermon, praise song, blessing liturgy is so lacking in all the biblical references and richness I feel a sense of sadness for the people.

Most Protestants no longer just sing the psalms, and in many Evangelical Protestant Churches you will now see various images of the stories of the Bible on posters and paintings. Several years ago, when my wife’s congregation created the Christian Season’s calendar, I was suprised to see how mang Baptists had purchased it. While some of the ridgid will just call this backsliding into Romanish ways, I would take a Methodist approach to the return of the Christian Seasons.

The Methodist stream of Christianity sees value in simple communal “methods” which lead to sanctification. I tend to describe sanctification as increasing in holiness which is the expression of love as ultimately defined through the life of Jesus Christ. All Christian communities have methods  which they use to help eachother and new Christians grow in faith. In early Methodism, there were class meetings where the member’s helped eachother grow in faith through encouragement, admonishment, and mutual learning.  Class meetings still occur in some Methodist communities however this model is mostly used in AA meetings.

The Christian Seasons is just another method whereby disciples of Christ grow together in their understanding of salvation history.  If the method focuses us on the life of God as expressed in the Trinity; If the method is Christ centered, rather than human centered; If the method yeild the fruit of the Spirit through the increased expression of the fruits of the Spirit, then it likely is going to be something that benefits the life of the community. This is why Protestant communities are adopting this method.

…. more coming.

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