For six months the Church Calendar rolls steadily on remembering the events of Jesus’ earthly life. Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ascension (and Pentecost). Then suddenly it all seems to come to a halt and there is nothing for the next six months until Advent rolls round again. Of course this is really only a matter of perception. There are many other events in the Church Calendar: some such as Patronal Festivals and Anniversaries being spread through the year; and others like Harvest and Remembrance filling in the gap. But if we restrict ourselves just to those festivals which commemorate the main events in the life of Jesus then the six month rule applies very well indeed.
Personally I find this fact quite challenging. It is a reminder that with Jesus’ departure at Ascension and with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to empower the Church, God in effect says “It’s over to you now; get out there and spread the Good News.”
With all the busy-ness of making sure that we get our celebrations right we can forget that the essential function of the Church does not change in those empty six months – nor has it in the past two thousand years.
We might do well to ask who the celebrations of the Church Calendar are for?Surely it is not those in the Church who need reminding of the events of the life of Jesus! It is true that every effort is made to encourage those who do not usually attend services to come along for the big festivals – with varying degrees of success. The major festivals of the Church are rightful celebrations of the good things that God has done for us in Jesus, and so have value in their own right, but wouldn’t they be better if there were more people there to join in!
Perhaps these celebrations should be taken outside the Church buildings and into the community. There was an Easter trail around Trebullett this year which sought to do just that with quite some success.
How best should the Church be using these quiet six months in its Calendar.
The temptation might be to take a break from ‘religion’ and concentrate on the rest of life. But the New Testament teaches us quite the opposite. It was when Jesus had gone, when the joy of his physical presence was over, that the early believers had to step up to the mark and continue His mission. Believers today similarly need to share Jesus with their families, friends and neighbours, so that when the celebrations begin again there will be more there to join in.
If the Churches hope for visitors on the big occasions – and are often disappointed – how much more surprised they might be if members of the community visited on an ordinary Sunday. So, on behalf of the Churches, may I extend an invitation to you all to come and surprise us – visit now and don’t wait for the next big calendar event!
And to those in the Churches – keep getting out there with the Good News; this is not the time to relax this is the time for action!