The observance of Easter in the early church was more than just a one-day annual event. That celebration of the Paschal mystery was set aside not only to remember that Christ was crucified and rose again, but also to remember that He appeared following His resurrection, that He ascended, that the Holy Spirit descended and that Jesus would return again.
Because of their great joy, early Christians began their celebration and remembrance with Easter and continued for fifty days until Pentecost. Revisiting the mystery and expanding the understanding of the resurrection could assist in worship renewal through the theological realization that this celebration of redemption, sanctification, salvation, renewal and victory must not be limited to one day.
Some congregations and even entire denominations have not traditionally embraced the sacred time of the Great Fifty Days of Easter and other dates of the Christian calendar primarily out of a concern of rigidity, conformity, loss of autonomy or fear of appearing too “Catholic.”
The desire for worship creativity has caused some congregations to look elsewhere, believing that annual celebrations promote monotony. But Timothy Carson wrote, “Exactly the opposite may be true. Because it has stood the test of time, it may be sufficiently deep to allow me to swim more deeply in it. Because it is repeated, I have another chance, today, to go where I could not go yesterday.”
Even as many congregations avoid the Christian calendar, they are at the same time affirming the annual observance of cultural and denominational days whose foundations are not always biblically grounded.
Isn’t it ironic that in the development of our denominational and cultural calendars we have in fact created liturgies in response to our desire to be non-liturgical?
To avoid Christian calendar days that are celebrated during the same time of the year as the cultural, denominational and civic days is to ignore the very foundation of the Church. Isn’t it possible to converge holidays significant to our cultural and denominational calendar with the Christian holidays significant to the Kingdom?
Why couldn’t we celebrate Mother’s Day, Graduation Sunday and Memorial Day in the same season as Ascension Day and Pentecost? For this shift to occur, congregations must understand the significance of Easter beyond a one-day celebration. Laurence Hull Stookey wrote, “The explosive force of the resurrection of the Lord is too vast to be contained within a celebration of one day.”
A renewed interest in extending the Easter celebration is based on a deeper understanding of the calendar as an ideal starting point for structuring seasonal worship. The theme of the fifty days of Easter as one single celebration provides a connection with Christians of the past church and unifies Christians of the present church in a continuous ecumenical relationship.
Observing Easter for fifty days could help congregations “recover the transforming news that Jesus’ past resurrection dramatically transforms present and future reality.” Additionally, it will help them delight in the knowledge that Jesus’ death and resurrection is stamped on their spiritual biographies.
Observing elements of the Christian year might be a stretch for your congregation. Make that decision, however, not based solely on the traditionalism of your denomination but instead grounded in a deeper biblical, theological and historical foundation.
 Timothy L. Carson, Transforming Worship, (St. Louis: Chalice, 2003), 57.
 Ibid., 56.
 Laurence Hull Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 53.
 John D. Witvliet, Worship Seeking Understanding: Windows into Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 290.