Onslow Anglicans
Onslow Anglicans

Church Seasons

The Calendar is our way of marking the seasons of the church’s year. The church’s year begins on Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Then follow the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and finally the great teaching period of the year, the Sundays after Pentecost, called Ordinary Time.

We welcome questions about our worship traditions. If there is something that you would like to know more about, please ask.


The four Sundays of Advent are those immediately before Christmas Day. The name “Advent” is derived from the Latin, adventus, ‘coming,’ i.e. of Christ. The season is observed as a time of preparation not only for Christmas, but also for the Second Coming of Christ, as Judge at the Last Day.

The liturgical colour is the same as Lent, penitential purple. The traditional Advent wreath, in which another candle is lit as each week of Advent unfolds, underlines the theme of the light of Christ shining in the darkness, and the decoration of the wreath with evergreen leaves is a reminder of God’s constant love and care for us.

Another Advent custom is the decorating of the Jesse tree. Jesse was the father of King David, and it was believed that the longed for Messiah would also come from the line of David. A Jesse tree is different from a Christmas tree, in that it is a dead tree, upon which are hung symbols of the Old Testament stories which lead up to the birth of Jesus. It has become an excellent teaching tool for reminding children of these Old Testament stories. And of course there are the popular Advent calendars in which a door is opened for each day preceding Christmas beginning on December 1st.

Come, O come Emmanuel,
you are the way, the truth and the life;
you are the true vine and the bread of life.
Come, living Saviour,
come to your world which waits for you.

God of all hope and joy,
open our hearts in welcome,
that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming
may find in us a dwelling prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

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The feast of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, and the central Christian teaching that in this new-born child our God took human flesh and became one of us - the incarnation.

The Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14.)

The day has always been celebrated in the Western church with great joy and merry-making.

Son of God, Child of Mary,
born in the stable at Bethlehem,
be born again in us this day
that through us the world may know
the wonder of your love.

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The Festival of the Epiphany is celebrated by the Church on 6 January, twelve days after Christmas. In the Eastern Church Epiphany was very important and was celebrated many years before Christmas was recognised. From the 3rd Century there is ample evidence that the feast ranked with Easter and Pentecost as one of the three principal festivals of the Church.

It was introduced to the Western Church in the 4th Century, where it became associated with the manifestation (epiphany = showing) of Christ to the Gentiles, in the persons of the Magi or wise men from the East. Although Epiphany predates any of the Christmas celebrations, gradually it came to mark the end of the Christmas festivities. From Christmas Day to Epiphany is a period of twelve days, hence the references to Epiphany in “The Twelfth Day of Christmas” and “Twelfth Night”.

Epiphany also describes the period of the Church’s calendar between 6 January and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The seasonal colour is green. On the first Sunday after Epiphany the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord and in the Sunday readings there is an emphasis upon the early stages of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Thanksgiving and love and praise
to you Jesus Christ.
You are God revealed in human form;
you are the baby visited by the shepherds,
the boy in the temple learning the law;
the man baptised in water and the Spirit
driven to the desert to face the devil.
You are Christ the teacher, Christ the healer.
You went to Jerusalem to give your life
as a ransom for us all.

Jesus, as we travel far and fast,
lead our minds back to the wise men
following your star,
and forward to the day
when all will see your shining light.

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Lent is a period of intense preparation for Easter. It’s also called the “forty days” – there are forty week days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day. Traditionally Lent was the season during which converts to Christianity were prepared for baptism. It was also a time when notorious sinners were reconciled, forgiven and restored to the community. In medieval times the fasting aspect of Lent was taken very seriously indeed, and no meat was eaten throughout this season.

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday when Christians traditionally went to visit the priest to make their confessions (“being shriven”). It was also the last day to eat up all the goodies you wouldn’t be allowed during Lent, like pancakes. Mardi Gras, the festival in South America, is the French for Shrove Tuesday.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent, and as Easter Day varies from year to year according to the phases of the moon, so Ash Wednesday never falls in exactly the same week each year. “Lent” is an Anglo-Saxon word for “spring” which of course reflects its northern hemisphere origins.

In more recent times Christians have marked the season of Lent by being more rigorous in their spiritual lives: by reading the Bible more attentively; paying closer attention to their daily prayers; giving money to worthy causes; or giving up something enjoyable so as to sharpen its value when renewed at Easter. Church members are expected to prepare themselves for Easter in the same way that they prepared themselves for baptism or confirmation.

At worship the liturgical colour of the priest’s vestments become penitential purple. On Ash Wednesday, the liturgy includes a litany (a prayer to God to forgive our sins) and most dramatically the imposition of ashes. That is, members are invited to come forward and receive a sign of the cross, marked in ashes on their foreheads. This action serves to remind all church members that they are mortal and signifies their intention to repent and lead lives more worthy of God.

In Onslow Anglicans Ash Wednesday is one of the occasions when we join with fellow Christians from the Presbyterian and Catholic churches to worship together. This happens in the evening and we meet in a different church each year.

You might like to do to something to prepare for Easter. We encourage you to choose from this list:
1. Set aside time for daily prayer including time to listen to God.
2. Read from the Bible each day and reflect on what God is trying to teach you. The parish provides booklets of Daily Readings
3. Read a Christian book.
4. Do some voluntary work.
5. Support a charity financially.
6. Give up alcohol, smoking, eating out and use the money to help another.
7. Be more regular at worship.

God our light,
make your Church like a rainbow
shining and proclaiming to all the world
that the storm is at an end,
there is peace for those who seek it
and love for the forgiving.

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Easter— The Great Fifty Days

In Jesus’ death on the cross and his rising again, we celebrate the central events of the Christian faith. Through his death and resurrection Jesus restores the relationship between God and all of us, offering us forgiveness from sin and opening the way to new life with God.

In the Christian tradition Easter is more than one day. It is a whole fifty days of celebration covering the period from Easter Day until Pentecost.

The first Easter happened during the Jewish Passover. The Jewish traditions of the Passover have shaped the Christian understanding of Easter. The Passover celebrated the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery, and Easter celebrates our liberation from sin and death.

In our calendar Easter Day is the Sunday after the first full moon of spring (in the northern hemisphere). It therefore falls between March 22 and April 25. The Great Fifty Days correspond to the Hebrew Feast of Weeks, which counted a week of weeks (49 days) from Passover and celebrated the fiftieth as Shavuot or Pentecost. The Jewish Pentecost was an agricultural festival in origin, but it came to be celebrated as the feast of the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai. Easter is the most important festival of the church year and is therefore the most appropriate time for baptism.

In church at Easter the colour of the vestments of the clergy change to white or gold. The church building is festooned with flowers and banners, our liturgy , hymns and songs are littered with Alleluias: shouts of praise to God. In a central place in the sanctuary the Paschal (Easter) candle takes pride of place. It is brought into the church in joyful celebration on Easter Day, and is the symbol of the risen Christ in our midst.

Easter is a time to join together with other Christian friends to party, to celebrate, to enjoy each others company, to reaffirm our identity as followers of the Risen Jesus. Easter reminds us that no matter how black and hopeless our situations might seem to be, in the end we are sustained by the life-giving Christ, who promises us new life with him.

Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered!
Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes forever!
Rejoice, O Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Saviour shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

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The Ascension

The Ascension of Christ, that is the movement of Christ into heaven, was witnessed by the apostles. It is commemorated on the sixth Thursday (the fortieth day) of Easter. The liturgical colour for this festival is white.

The Ascension marked the end of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus and his exaltation to the heavenly life. Its theological significance is that Christ’s human nature was taken into heaven, where he reigns over all things, both in heaven and earth. Christ is not absent but is present in a new way. He is at the centre of all things and all things are in him.

King of kings, Lord of lords,
you have ascended your royal throne
carrying the crossbar for your crucifixion.
Now you are lifted high,
exalted to draw us all to your love.
You are the captive saviour,
who has led us in triumph
from the sin, the anxiety, and the doom
which held us captive.
May we whom you have redeemed
and called to be guests at your table
receive and put to use the gifts you offer us..
Praise and glory to you, God of space and time,
humble saviour, king of love.
(A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.539)

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Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter, and commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Pentecost ranks immediately after Easter as the second most important festival in the Church. On the day of Pentecost the disciples experienced the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the Sprit are such things as wisdom, faith, healing, prophesy, discernment and tongues (1 Corinthians 12:4-11).Pentecost marked the birth of the Church as the new people of God.

The Jewish Pentecost, The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot), was originally a feast of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest, one of the three great pilgrimage feasts (Exodus 34:22). Later it was linked with the commemoration of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

In the earliest Christian celebrations the festivals of Pentecost and Ascension were combined. They only became separated in the fourth century. The liturgical colour for Pentecost is red. In some parts of England Pentecost goes by the alternative name “Whitsunday”, in Old English meaning “white Sunday”, because it was a day for baptisms.

Eternal Spirit, living God,
in whom we live and move and have our being,
all that we are, have been, and shall be is known to you,
to the very secret of our hearts
and all that rises to trouble us.
Living flame, burn into us,
cleansing wind, blow through us,
fountain of water, well up within us,
that we may love and praise in deed and in truth.
(A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.168)

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Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is the Sunday immediately after Pentecost. This festival evolved in about 1000, as a result of the ongoing struggle in Gaul and Spain against Arianism. Arianism was the heresy associated with Arius, a priest of Alexandria who denied the divine nature of Christ. Although this heresy was condemned at the Council of Nicea (325), it was accepted by some Roman emperors. Many of the Germanic tribes had been converted by Arian missionaries, and therefore it was a difficult false teaching to overcome. Even today there are still some groups who do not believe in the Trinity and the divine nature of Christ, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The feast of the Holy Trinity remembers and celebrates one God in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The liturgical colour for Trinity Sunday is white.

Great praise and everlasting glory be to God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier,
Lover, Beloved, and Love Between,
Giver of Life, Bearer of Pain, Maker of Love,
Apha and Omega, the beginning and the end,
in all times and places:
Holy, holy, holy, great God of power and love,
who was and who is and who is to come.
(Prayer in the Morning, Jim Cotter, p128)

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Sundays after Pentecost - Ordinary Time

The Sundays after Pentecost link the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to the celebration of the final Advent or “Second Coming” when Christ will come in glory. This leads into a celebration of the first coming of Christ at Christmas and the cycle returns to its beginning. It is in these Sundays after Pentecost that we actually live – that is, in the period between the incarnation of God in Christ and our future life with God in heaven.

This teaching part of the Church’s year is not related to the natural seasons, but to the gradual unfolding of the gospel’s insight into the meaning of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a time for reflection and continued growth in study of the Scriptures and our encounter with God. The liturgical colour for this season is green with all its connotations of new life and growth.

Almighty God,
give us such a vision of your purpose
and such an assurance of your love and power,
that we may ever hold fast the hope
which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(A New Zealand Prayer Book, p.623)

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