We all know the major festivals of our church, right? Christmas and Easter. They are the two major festivals of the ELCA. But not so fast. What about the neglected major festival? What about Pentecost?
Christmas and Easter are huge celebrations for at least two reasons:
- The biblical stories that are the foundations of these festivals (i.e., the birth of baby Jesus, the Savior of the world, and the resurrection from the dead of that same Jesus) are momentous.
- These religious festivals have been “picked up” or commercialized, if you will, by the secular world.
But not “poor, old” Pentecost. No Pentecost carols exist. No
Pentecost shopping. No Pentecost candies. No trees, lights, gifts, baskets, eggs or bunnies. We don’t have Pentecost sunrise services. Pentecost suffers from an inferiority complex. It’s most often neglected.
We prepare for Christmas, the birth of the Christ child, by having four Sundays in Advent. We prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection with special Ash Wednesday services and then 40 days of Lent followed by Holy Week. What preparation do we have for Pentecost? How do we make our parishioners ready for the coming of the Spirit? In most cases the answers to those questions are: “We have no specific preparations” and “We don’t make them ready for the coming of the Spirit.”
Why not? Why can’t we? Why don’t we? Back in 2001 I started something new before Pentecost. The congregation I served gave Pentecost a “warm-up week” similar to Advent and Lent. We designated the Sunday before Pentecost as “PrePent” Sunday. Red is the color for that season—much like having poinsettias at Christmas and lilies at Easter—so we had red geraniums at Pentecost. We made every effort to make this pre-Pentecost season very special. We didn’t (and still don’t) want Pentecost to continue to get short shrift on our festival calendar.
I wrote the above words for an article that appeared in The Lutheran in June 2001. It seems that Pentecost is still not celebrated like Christmas and Easter, so maybe my words are still relevant.
Therefore, I again raise my call to make our church one that can say, “We have three major festivals, and we celebrate all three!” Amen.