Resurrection Sunday (Easter) sure was nice. I mean, the sunrise service, the carry-in breakfast, the later service, Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies (or crosses), and marshmallow chicks. But after the Easter candy is gone, what follows this holy day?
The liturgical year has two important holy days in the two months following Resurrection Sunday. The first is Ascension Day and the Second is Pentecost.
Ascension Day occurs 40 days after Resurrection Sunday. Acts 1:1-11 describes Jesus’ ministry after He rose from the dead; He taught His disciples about God’s kingdom and then, after 40 days, was taken up to heaven.
Celebrating the Ascension: prayers are prayed and scriptures are read. This is a time to glorify Christ and celebrate our salvation. Some churches bless the first fruits. Overall, Ascension Day is a day of hope, a day of anticipation of Christ’s return, and a day to remember that we carry God’s Kingdom in our hearts.Meaning of Ascension Day
Ten days after Ascension Day, Pentecost (or Trinity Sunday) is celebrated; Pentecost is 50 days after Resurrection Sunday. Pentecost is promised in Acts 1:8 and occurs in Acts 2:1-41. The colors of Pentecost are white and gold/yellow. This holy day has been regarded as the birthday of the church and the beginning of our mission in the world. Pentecost is closely tied to the Jewish holiday of the Feast of Weeks (roughly 50 days after Passover-with is tied closely to Resurrection Sunday). Common scripture readings on this Sunday are from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, and Acts.
Celebrating Pentecost: some churches have their baptisms on Pentecost. Church decorations include flames, wind, and doves, since the disciples heard a loud wind and tongues of fire fell on them (and the Holy Spirit landed on Jesus in the form of a dove). For believers, this is a time of renewal. This holy day celebrates the resurrection of Christ and His exaltation from servant to Lord/Ruler. Pentecost Sunday focuses on fellowship, intimacy with God, empowerment, evangelism. Pentecost transitions the church year into the season of Ordinary Time (more on this in a later post).
If Pentecost is celebrated as the birthday of the church, why not have a party? After all, it's not every day that your church reaches its 1979th birthday. Why not have a party? Death was overcome, Christ is Lord, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit; these are causes to celebrate. Or for a more intellectual approach, delve into the Old Testament. What was Passover? How was it celebrated? What was the Feast of Weeks? How was it celebrated? How do these holy days interact with Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost? What do they mean to us?