Advent Season is an important event for the Church-at-large. It directly points towards the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the unfolding of God’s plan regarding the history of salvation of humankind. In other words, it talks about the event of Jesus’ birth, commonly known as Christmas.
The word ‘advent’ comes from a Latin word which means ‘a coming or arrival’. It conveys the message that God came to an earthly life and lived among us. It is something to celebrate and rejoice since it signifies the supreme gift of God the Father to His created world by sending His Son into the world.
Advent Season begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. Thus, Advent 1 is on December 2, Advent 2 is on December 9, Advent 3 is on December 16 and Advent 4 is on December 23.
Advent Season is a time to remember God’s gracious act for humankind in the incarnation of Christ and to thank Him for making our salvation possible, which is his first coming into this world, preparing us for His second coming at the end of time, and celebrate Christ’s presence among us today through the Holy Spirit. The Advent of Jesus Christ signifies the arrival of God’s Kingdom and rule among His people as Jesus announced “Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age,” in Matthew 28:20.
Advent Season Observances
Evening Service: The church shall have evening services with songs of praise and thanksgiving prayers on all Wednesdays during this season. The people of God should be invited for a time of repentance and confession of their sins, celebrate the victory over sin, and join in groups for prayer.
Bible Reading: During this season, for each day, there shall be prescribed Bible readings for individuals and for family prayer. The head of the family can read and exhort from these passages. The local church should organize systematic Bible readings on each day of the season from the pulpit of the church.
Christmas Caroling: Christmas carols are sung during Christmas week. Caroling mainly involves singing hymns remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Caroling also includes greeting each other while meeting and sharing the joy of the Saviour coming into the world and into the life of each person. This will help us get to know each other, learn our neighborhood, and create opportunities to share joy and blessings with others in the community.
Christmas Eve Service: The Christmas Eve service takes place on the evening of the 24th of December. Special services should be organized in all our local churches on this day. Normally it should begin in the evening from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, or as convenient for different areas and contexts. This service must be comprised mainly of singing joyful songs, hymns, reading of Scriptural passages in between songs which talk about the coming of Jesus, and praising God for sending His Son to the earth (John 3:16).
Christmas Day: This day is set apart in the yearly calendar for the church to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Saviour of the world coming into this world just as in the form of any human being and to dwell among us.
Christmas Day is observed on the 25th of December and church shall organize a special service in the morning. Since Jesus is the central figure of Christian faith and practice, we celebrate Christmas remembering and sharing of the joy, love, peace and forgiveness available in and through Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.
Practical Ways to Celebrate Advent Season and Christmas Day
- Christmas decorations: Churches and homes can be decorated
with stars, bells, lights, Christmas tree, etc.
- Lighting candles and hanging stars is a ceremonial way of marking
the coming of Jesus into the World. Lighting a candle reminds us
that Christ is the light of the world.
- Decorate a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree is made of evergreen
branches with candleholders and candles, and is covers with decorations
which include colored lights, glitter and on top, a star.
- Make a creche or manger. The manger is made of straw.
- Hang a Advent star on the inside or outside of your home. It symbolizes
the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus, who is “the bright and shining
morning star” (Revelation 22:16).
- Music and carols are played in homes and churches.
- Exchange Christmas cards between friends and family members.
- The church can also organize an exchange of gifts, especially among family
members, friends and the people from neighbourhood.
- Invite neighbors and friends to homes and use the opportunity to share the
love of Jesus and the reason for His coming into the World and have
fellowship with them.
- Organize public functions as fitting to the particular area and context as a
witness to society.
- Organize community development programs that are managed by each
local church and the Diocese; even if it is in a small way.
- Lighting candles and hanging stars is a ceremonial way of marking the coming of Jesus into the World. Lighting a candle reminds us that Christ is the light of the world.
- Decorate a Christmas tree. A Christmas tree is made of evergreen branches with candleholders and candles, and is covers with decorations which include colored lights, glitter and on top, a star.
- Make a creche or manger. The manger is made of straw.
- Hang a Advent star on the inside or outside of your home. It symbolizes the star that led the Wise Men to Jesus, who is “the bright and shining morning star” (Revelation 22:16).
The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” It is observed on the 6th of January. The celebrations of Epiphany Season point toward and remember the three events of Christ’s life which manifest His divinity; the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to our understanding of Epiphany, and these occurrences give us the Biblical meaning of this season.
Epiphany Season Observances
The significance behind the visit of the Magi is the revelation of Christ as “Lord and King.” The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognize the divinity of Jesus through their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh [Mat 2:11].
The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River revealed his divinity as the Son of God. John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:16-17, testifies of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Churches also focus on the wedding miracle at Cana as part of the Epiphany celebration observance.
The Epiphany represents a responsibility and vocation of the Church to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of humankind. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where the Church comes together in the covenant of brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded.
Lent Season is a duration of 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing on Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) during Holy Week, before Good Friday, and preceding Holy Saturday and Easter.
The purpose of Lent is to set aside a time for reflection on Jesus – His suffering, sacrifice, life, death, burial and resurrection. It has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Observe a schedule of 40 days of fasting and humbling of our lives before God. Choose to take only one or two meals a day during this season of fasting. This denotes simple living by saying ‘NO’ to certain kinds of food and by making a choice to embrace a sacrificial life style. It can vary from nation, culture and contexts. Observing a prayer cycle, such as, praying in the morning, noon, and evening is desirable. Take time to repent for failures and sins as a way of focusing on the need for God’s grace. Use this season to focus on generous and kind deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing and doing any such act of kindness which demonstrates the love of God to others. This truly becomes a practical way celebrating God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians.
Special Days in Lent Season
Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter Sunday, is the first day of the Season of Lent. It places the worshipper in a position to realize the consequences of sin. This is a solemn day of reflection into our personal and community life, looking into areas which need a change and transformation in order to sincerely follow Christ.
On Ash Wednesday, as believers go to church, they receive ash on their foreheads. This day is mostly practiced as a day of fasting. The receiving of ashes has long been a tradition in the Church. Ashes are a symbol of penance and contrition, which is why believers are told, “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return” while receiving the ashes. The ashes are applied to the forehead in the sign of the cross by the minister.
The Church shall have a special service in the evening for the repentance and confession of our sins.
The sixth Sunday in Lent Season observes the triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. The triumphal entry was marked by crowds who were in Jerusalem for Passover waving palm branches and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah – the King. The Gospels tell us that Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, enacting and fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. This emphasized the humility that was to characterize the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed and the life the King lived.
- On this day, the people of God shall come to the church and enact/relive the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem by waving palm branches and singing songs of celebration followed by a procession into the church.
- Children must become an integral part of this service as this provides a good opportunity to involve them in the worship and life of the community of faithful.
- Follow the order of service and liturgy of the word to make the worship and meditation meaningful.
Maundy Thursday is observed during Holy Week on Thursday before the day of Easter. This day is also known as “Holy Thursday” or “Great Thursday.” Maundy Thursday is for remembering the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. Maundy Thursday services are typically solemn occasions, marked by the shadow of Jesus’ betrayal and the path he was led to the cross.
Two important Biblical events are the primary focus of Maundy Thursday solemnizations:
Washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus: We read in the Gospels that before the Passover meal, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By performing this lowly and most humble act of service, the Bible says in John 13:1 that Jesus “showed them the full extent of his love.” By this example, Jesus himself demonstrated how Christians are to love one another through humble service. For this reason, practice of foot-washing ceremony is a part of Maundy Thursday services.
The Last Supper: During the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine and asked his Father to bless it. Then, He broke the bread into pieces, giving it to his disciples and said, “This is my body, given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” He then took the cup of wine and blessed it, shared it with his disciples, and said, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you – an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.” These events recorded in Luke 22:19-20 describe the Last Supper and form the Biblical basis for the practice of Communion. For this reason, the church shall hold special Communion services as a part of their Maundy Thursday celebrations. Likewise, many congregations observe a traditional Passover Seder meal.
“Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment”. Maundy refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another and to remember his sacrifice.
The Friday of Holy Week has traditionally been called Good Friday or Holy Friday. On this day, the church commemorates Jesus’ arrest, his trial, the way of the Cross, suffering, crucifixion, death, and burial.
The worship service on this day mainly focuses on meditating on the pain and suffering of our Lord Jesus as He journeyed from the garden of Gethsemane to the cross of Calvary.
Good Friday service is a series of Scripture readings, a short homily – a short meditation, and a time of personal introspection and prayer. The base of the homily or devotional speech is the Seven Last Words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. They are:
- Father, forgive them . . . (Luke 23:34)
- This day you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)
- Woman, behold your son . . .(John 19:26-27)
- My God, my God . . . (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
- I thirst. (John 19:28)
- It is finished! (John 19:30)
- Father into your hands . . . (Luke 23:46)
This day is mostly used for quiet and private meditation as believers contemplate the darkness of a world without Jesus, filled with lost souls heading towards hell and having no hope for the future. Their only hope is in Jesus the Saviour and our Lord. The people of God, on this occasion, must find a deep sense of burden and passion to pray for those without Jesus in our world.
Easter is the day of sacred celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
Churches should organize a special Sunday service remembering the resurrection of Christ. The worship Service should include joyful songs, expressions of joy and praise and the teaching of God’s word. The teaching should motivate and invite the people of God to experience and live the power of Jesus’ resurrection in their personal walk as believers while giving practical examples on how to demonstrate this in a world with hopelessness and dismay.
Pentecost means the Fiftieth and is one of the major festivals of the people of God in the Old Testament. On this day, the fiftieth day after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus our Lord, the disciples were waiting upon the Lord as He has commanded them. And, the Holy Spirit was sent upon them on this day just as Jesus has promised. Thus, this season is called the season of the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as the “birthday of the church.” It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles as a visible and powerful display of the active presence of God. It is significant both as a historical event and a present day reality for the church and the people of God. Thus, it is connected to Christianity’s central teaching and image of God as one Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit represents God as living and active in the world today. It signifies the fact that the Christian faith is not just about events that happened in the past rather, it also concerns the present and the future. The Holy Spirit is God’s active presence in the church and in life itself. Hence, without the Holy Spirit, the church is dead, and without the Holy Spirit, all that is creative and wonderful in life ceases to exist.
Trinity Sunday, also known as Holy Trinity Sunday, is celebrated a week after Pentecost Sunday in honor of the most fundamental Christian belief – belief in the Holy Trinity. We can never fully understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. However, we can sum it up using the following formula – God in three Persons, Blessed Trinity. God is three Persons but one in Nature. The three Persons of God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – are all equally God.
The Ordinary Season begins after Pentecost and continues till Advent. Trinity Sunday is the first Sunday of this period and reflects on the mystery and selfrevelation of God. The Ordinary Season is a time for reflecting on Christian life and witness. It is a time of teaching and enlightenment on appropriate Biblical subjects and themes that relate to the mission, life and ministry of the Church as the people of God.
The Lectionary provides directives which emphasize a time of celebration of life in Christ by the people of God during the Ordinary Season. It calls for the observance of fourteen special Sundays as an exhortation and challenge to local congregations to celebrate the varied and manifold gifts, vocations and identities of its members in contributing to the biblical values in unity of the universal Church.
Other Special Days
On this day, our honourable and beloved Metropolitan and spiritual father was consecrated as Bishop to provide us the Episcopal church life and governance. Dr. K.P. Yohannan, Metropolitan was historically and traditionally consecrated as the first Bishop and installed as the Metropolitan of the Believers Church on this day. We as a church remember this day by celebrating the goodness of our Lord upon the church and the life of our Metropolitan. In doing so, the Church should organize a special thanksgiving service with Holy Communion on the morning of this particular day. In the service, we should set apart time for thanksgiving and intercessory prayer, especially praying for the Metropolitan and the Bishops of the Church.
The World Day of Prayer is an initiative to come together to observe a common day of prayer each year. It is a day on which all people are welcome. Through World Day of Prayer, it is affirmed that prayer and action are inseparable and that both have immeasurable influence in the world. On this day, the Church shall organize a special prayer service in the morning or evening in every local church. During this service, prayer can be initiated for various mission works and services rendered to humanity in the love of God.
This is the Birthday of our Metropolitan. On this day, the Church shall organize compassion ministries such as providing food for the poor and beggars, social work, gift distribution to the poor and downtrodden, etc. These activities fulfill the dream of our Metropolitan to love others as Jesus loved us.
All Christian churches and groups celebrate Christian Unity Week, praying that Jesus’ desire for unity among His followers may be fulfilled [John 17:11]. During this week, prayer enters into congregations and parishes all over the world. Pulpits are exchanged, and special ecumenical worship services are arranged. In our church we can organize special meetings jointly amongst our churches and pray for the unity of Churches especially on Unity Sunday.
St. Thomas, one of the disciples of our Lord Jesus, is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in 52 AD to propagate the Christian faith among the Jews, the Jewish Diaspora present in Kerala at that time. Historical traditions claim that he landed at the ancient port of Muziris (which became extinct in 1341 AD due to a massive flood which realigned the coast) near Kodungalloor. He then went to Palayoor (near present-day Guruvayoor). He left Palayoor in AD 52 for the southern part of what is now Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or “Seven and Half Churches”. These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam , Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangar) and Thiruvithancode Arappally – the half church.
The church today must commemorate the life of and the contributions made by St. Thomas in establishing the Church in India. In order to do so, we shall organize special service on this day with Holy Communion. In the service the priest should give an invitation to the congregation to make a commitment to follow the great example of the sacrificial life set forth by the great Apostle of the Gospel.
A watch night service is a late-night Church service. A watch night service is held late on New Year’s Eve, and ends after midnight. Each local church/Diocese can decide on timings which are appropriate for local situations and contexts. The service provides an opportunity for believers to review the year that has passed and make confessions. They then prepare for the year ahead by praying, resolving and leading a fresh commitment to the Lord. The service should include singing, praying, exhorting, testifying, and teaching of God’s Word.
Days of Special Offering
|Women’s Sunday||February 17|
|A.Y. Radio/TV Sunday||April 7|
|Seminary Sunday||June 2|
|Bible Sunday||July 21|
|Missions Sunday||September 8|
|Children Sunday||November 3|
In Malachi 3:10, we read “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house,” says the LORD Almighty. Women’s Fellowship, Athmeeya Yatra Radio and TV Ministry, Literature Ministry, Sunday School and Youth Ministry, Mission Activities and Seminary are an integral part of the life and mission of our Church. God desires that His people will give their best so that the mission will proceed unhindered in the world
Things to do on these days:
- Local parishes/churches will take a special offering on the assigned day.
- The Parish Priest is responsible for informing the members well in advance (at least 3 weeks prior to the said date), so that they can come prepared with their offerings.
- The Parish priest will also share with the members about the significance of collecting the special offering, and will encourage them to give sacrificially.
- Envelopes should be issued to all members for the collection purpose.
- All collections of this said Sunday should be forwarded to the Synod through the Diocesan Office.
- Record each collection in the account book at the local parish as well in the Diocesan office.