The celebration of Easter 2012 is less than two months away. Churches are formulating plans for a meaningful day of worship and ministry knowing they will potentially reach more attendees than any other Sunday of the year. If those congregations and yours affirm Easter as the most important celebration of the church year and the basis for our hope, why limit its observance to one Sunday a year? Has our concern with appearing too liturgical caused us to miss an entire season of remembrance, celebration, and worship?
The observance of Easter in the early church was more than just a one-day historical remembrance. The celebration of the Paschal mystery was set aside not only to remember that Christ was crucified and rose again, but also to celebrate His appearance following His resurrection, His ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and His ultimate return. Because of their great joy, early Christians began this celebration with Easter and continued for fifty days until Pentecost. Revisiting the mystery of the resurrection through an expanded celebration could assist in worship renewal through the theological realization that this commemoration 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 Great Fifty Days and other elements of the Christian calendar primarily out of a concern of rigidity, conformity, loss of autonomy, or fear of appearing too “Catholic.” Additional desire for worship creativity has caused congregations to look elsewhere out of concern that annual celebrations promote monotony. Timothy Carson states that, “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 congregations avoid the Christian calendar, they affirm the annual observance of cultural and denominational days of celebration whose foundations are not always biblically grounded. The irony is found in the realization that in the development of these denominational and cultural calendars we have created denominational 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. Is it possible to converge holidays significant to our cultural and denominational calendar with the Christian holidays significant to the Kingdom? Is there any reason why Mother’s Day, Graduation Sunday, and Memorial Day could not be celebrated in the same season as Ascension Day and Pentecost? For this to occur, congregations must understand the significance of Easter beyond a one-day of celebration. “For 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 the Christian year by some congregations is based on a deeper understanding of this calendar as the 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 approach. Observing this celebration 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. Although observing elements of the Christian year such as the Great Fifty Days may be a stretch for your congregation, consider making that decision based on a deeper biblical, theological, and historical understanding, not solely on traditionalism.
 Timothy L. Carson, Transforming Worship, (St. Louis: Chalice, 2003), 57.
 Idid., 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.