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christ.jpg This or this? super-bowl-logo.jpg

In the Christian Year, Sunday February 3 is Transfiguration Sunday. In popular culture, February 3 is Super Bowl Sunday. On that Sunday, churches have two choices for the heading in their worship bulletins or on their video screens:

  1. Super Bowl Sunday -or-
  2. Transfiguration Sunday

In the past, I have gone with Super Bowl Sunday. This year, I choose Transfiguration Sunday. Why? Because we as followers of Christ need to be shaped by something other than the pop culture calendar. Let me explain:

Here’s what the pop culture calendar looks like:

  • Christmas: shopping starts before Halloween.
  • New Year’s: parades, football, parties.
  • Valentine’s: shopping for your romantic love, and named after a saint.
  • March: basketball.
  • Easter: more shopping for new clothes, school holidays, spring vacation.
  • Mother’s Day: shopping for mom.
  • Father’s Day: shopping for dad.
  • 4th of July: food, flags, and more parades.
  • Fall: Back to school. more shopping for school clothes.
  • Halloween: national day of shopping for candy and costumes.
  • Thanksgiving: food and football.

Notice a pattern? Our culture revolves around sports, shopping, and food. Churches do not need to help culture shape us into hyper-consumers.

Contrast the pop culture calendar with the Christian Year:

  • Advent: waiting for the coming of Christ.
  • Christmastide: the birth of Christ.
  • Epiphany: the revealing of the Christ to the Wisemen.
  • Baptism of Christ: the beginning of Jesus ministry.
  • Transfiguration of Christ: the glory of God in Christ.
  • Lent: 40-days of reflection taken from Christ’s 40-days in the wilderness.
  • Palm Sunday: the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem.
  • Holy Week: the events in the last week of Christ — last supper, arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial.
  • Easter: the resurrection of Christ.
  • Pentecost: the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church.
  • Kingdomtide: a time of growth between Pentecost and Advent, when the cycle starts all over again.

But, many object that the Christian year is “too Catholic.” Actually, what could be more Christian than marking time by the events in the life of Christ? Thousands of churches of various denominations worldwide observe time this way. Isn’t it more in keeping with the mission of the church to shape our lives around the life of Christ? Isn’t this a part of our uniqueness as the people of God, that our lives have a unique rhythm?

You don’t have to break out the censers, candles, and paraments to observe the Christian Year. Just identify each Sunday in your bulletin and offer a quick word of explanation. Your church will understand what it means, and many might find a new way to order their lives. You can still have a Super Bowl party for your community that evening. But let’s identify the day we gather for worship by something other than Super Bowl Sunday. Let me know what you think.
If you need resources for the Christian Year, you can find them at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School website here, or by searching the web.