Preaching Through the Christian Year -- By: Nancy Hastings Sehested

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 08:2 (Spring 1991)
Article: Preaching Through the Christian Year
Author: Nancy Hastings Sehested

Preaching Through the Christian Year

Nancy Hastings Sehested

Pastor, Prescott Memorial Baptist Church
Memphis, Tennessee

As a full-blooded Southern Baptist, I grew up in a church tradition that served several “special” days throughout the year. The high, holy days of the church year were Easter, July the Fourth, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. There were two other important Sundays that at least warranted an extra special choir “special” and a notably larger flower arrangement on the Lord’s Supper table. They were Mother’s Day and Stewardship Sunday. When I began to step outside the religious ghetto of my denominational heritage, I started to breathe the fresh air of the ecumenical world. I stepped into unknown territories called Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Pentecost. I am still exploring these new lands. I have experienced the wide-eyed wonder of a newcomer seeing the Mississippi River for the first time. I have also known the confusion of a foreigner wondering what is appropriate to wear to a dinner party. Is it time to wear white or red? Are the Advent colors purple? When do you light this pink candle? What? Advent is now royal blue? Who makes these wardrobe decisions anyway? Is it in the Bible somewhere? Or did Hallmark cards decide this holiday too? If your hymn book only has two Advent hymns, what do you sing for the other three Sundays? Are there Advent inerrantists that take away your lectionary if you sing a carol before Christmas? Can we shorten Lent by a week or two? Don’t you think forty days is too long a time to be wandering around depressed and confused in a wilderness? Don’t you think we could liven the people up with some peppier songs during Lent?

These are some of the abiding questions of a new convert to the seasons of the Christian year. I am still a new immigrant to this vast land that marks the spiritual cycles of our soul. I have not developed the trained eye and the confident stride of a native to this land. I do not yet know all the historical markers on the trail. I still have many rocks to overtum, caves to explore, and mountains to climb. I cannot guide you on preaching through the Christian year as a liturgical scholar, a historian, or a Biblical exegete. Yet as a working pastor, I can invite you to come see with me some of the wonders I have discovered on this journey.

I have found in the liturgical calendar a rhythm for my annual spiritual pilgrimage with a people of God called church. As a preacher, I have found the Christian year a wise guide through the deep yearnings, fears, and even clownings of the human spirit. Our ancestors created festivals and holy seasons that originated from their wrestling with God in history and in nature. In the wrestlings, the twin compulsions of the spiritual life we...

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