They seem to come earlier, faster, and busier every year.
For most Americans, the holidays kick off with Thanksgiving in late November, ramp up for Christmas, and culminate with new year’s celebrations on January 1.
Christmas dominates this season, fueled by the insatiable economics of consumption. Holiday ad blitzes. Black Friday deals. Overcrowded malls.
There are the traditions to keep, too. The tree needs putting up. The house needs decorating. There are parties to throw, treats to bake, carols to practice. Add in the stresses of family, especially extended family, and it’s no wonder many feel overwhelmed at this time of year.
As Christians, we aren’t immune to the rampant commercialism and busied distractions of the season. But Christmas should hold much deeper meaning for us. We celebrate the coming of a Savior and the promise that He will someday return, redeem His people, and repair the brokenness of our world.
For Christians the holidays are truly holy days. Yet how quickly we lose sight of this. How easily we are drawn away by the secular glitz and glamour of the season.
It shouldn't be this way.
The Church Calendar
For hundreds of years, Christians have marked time intentionally — not by whatever happens to be going on around them, but by centering their calendar on Christ. Through time, the church has observed an annual cycle called the Church Calendar or Christian Year. The seasons of the Calendar correspond to key events in the life of Christ: His birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming. (Learn more at our Church Calendar page.)
The Church Calendar was developed as a way to aid the spiritual formation of believers, imparting a sacred rhythm to our time and activities. As the seasons of the Christian Year orient our hearts toward Christ, we're reminded that we live in what Dallas Willard called a "God-bathed world." The whole earth is full of God's glory. Even our Calendar is holy.
We often call the late-November-to-early-January time period simply “the holidays.” But the church for centuries has observed two distinct holy seasons during this time: Advent and Christmas.