Holidays to celebrate God's story
SYNC's annual cycle goes from January to December and from Genesis to Revelation, using various biblical holidays and some others as stepping stones to take us through the story. Some of the holidays have to be given new meanings to make this work. For details, see below, but please do not think that SYNC must be tied to this particular interpretation. All kinds of variations are possible.
Life Rhythm -- January 1 (New Year's Day) - February 25 (Mardi Gras/Carnival)
Roots Rhythm -- February 26 (Ash Wednesday) - April 4
Freedom Rhythm -- April 5 (Palm Sunday) - May 20
Power Rhythm -- May 21 (Ascension Day) - August 6 (Feast of Transfiguration)
Mercy Rhythm -- August 7 - September 27 (Day of Atonement)
Honor Rhythm -- September 28 - November 21
Vision Rhythm -- November 22 (Feast of Christ the King) - December 31 (New Year's Eve)
In the SYNC cycle, the first day of the year is celebrated as the first day of creation. This means that the sixth day of the year is the sixth day of creation, the day when animals and humans were created. SYNC figures that the day of the creation of the human race is worth celebrating, and January 6th is used for that purpose instead of its traditional purpose--Epiphany (Christ's "appearance" to the world). In Western Christianity the celebration is about the wise men seeing the baby Jesus and giving him gifts. In Eastern Christianity it is about Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River, with people seeing God's Spirit come down on him like a dove. (Eastern Epiphany may be on Jan. 19th instead of Jan. 6th, following the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one.)
Since SYNC's second season, Roots Season, begins on Ash Wednesday, the Life Season comes to its climax the day before, which is Mardi Gras/Carnival. SYNC celebrates on Mardi Gras not by wild frivolity and costumes but by authentically celebrating how good God made creation in the first place. It is "glory to the Creator" day.
As with Epiphany, the SYNC interpretation of Ash Wednesday is totally different than the traditional Christian one. Instead of it being a day of penitence introducing Lent (40 days of austerity and self-denial), Ash Wednesday is a celebration of God's promises to Abraham and Abraham's trust in God.
In the SYNC interpretation, the ash of Ash Wednesday is the ash of the sacrifice by Abraham on Mount Moriah. It is a day of joy because we see how much Abraham trusted God--to the point of willingness to sacrifice his son and heir--and how God provided a ram as a substitute. The point of the SYNC celebration is that there was no bone of Isaac in that ash. It was all ram's bone. Isaac lived, and through him God later kept his promise to create a nation that would bless all families of the earth. That ram is a key to all the rest of the biblical story.
Freedom Season opens with Palm Sunday, when crowds in Jerusalem wildly hailed Jesus as their liberator, the descendant of David who would free the entire nation of Israel. Jesus was executed on the cross on Passover, the day the nation celebrated its freedom from slavery in Egypt.
Unlike the traditional emphasis on holiness and forgiveness of Good Friday, SYNC emphasizes the original meanings of Passover, which are 1) freedom from slavery and 2) belonging to the People of God who are protected from the death angel (the angel "passes over" them and strikes others). Jesus' resurrection is his liberation from death, from shame, from pain, from apparent failure. He is free to lead his followers again as they continue to spread heaven's freedom across the earth.
(Note: holiness and forgiveness are themes associated not with Passover but with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). These are emphasized later in the SYNC cycle. See "Mercy" below.)
Power Season begins on Ascension Day, 40 days after Jesus' resurrection. Jesus ascends from earth to heaven and sits down on his heavenly throne, taking power as the King of the Universe. 10 days later (Pentecost Day) he sends his power down onto his followers through the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was the Jewish celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. For Jesus' followers, it became the celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit, the one who could work inside them so they could fulfill the goodness that the Law was pointing to.
Power Season is the longest of the SYNC seasons. It ends on August 6th with a little-known festival in the traditional Christian year, the Feast of Transfiguration. That is a fitting climax to Power Season because that is the day Peter, James, and John saw "the kingdom of God coming with power".
All the other seasons have a festival either on the first day or very early in the season. Mercy Season is different. The whole season is leading up to the only holiday in the whole season, which is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The reason is that mercy is the only thing which we have to put into practice in order to receive it ourselves. We do not have to show power in order to receive God's power. We do not have to show freedom in order to receive God's freedom. But as we receive God's mercy, we do have to show mercy. Jesus says this three times in three verses, Matthew 6.12, 14, and 15.
So the whole Mercy Season we are preparing for the final day by forgiving everyone else of everything we have against them. Then when the Day of Atonement arrives, we can freely receive and celebrate God's mercy, which Jesus gave his life to bring to us.
Four days after the Day of Atonement is the biblical festival of "roughing it"--living in very simple huts for a week to remember what life was like for Israel in the wilderness, before God gave them the Promised Land. SYNC uses this festival to remind followers of Jesus that we are pilgrims on this earth, roughing it, looking forward to the inheritance that Christ will give us when he returns.
It takes grit to get through the wilderness years. Jesus warned us that we would face shame and persecution because of him. Grit Season therefore includes All Saints Day, which originally was called "All Martyrs Day." At first the church celebrated a day for each prominent martyr, like Stephen in Acts 7, but later when there got to be too many martyrs to each have their own memorial day, they created one day for all of them--"All Martyrs Day." The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is usually scheduled on a Sunday near this date for this reason.
(SYNC does not celebrate Halloween, the night before All Martyrs Day, at all. Current Halloween celebrations have nothing to do with honoring the memories of the heroes of the faith. Like Mardi Gras, Halloween is an originally Christian festival that has been corrupted into its present form that has no meaning or evil meaning.)
Vision Season starts with another obscure holiday in the traditional Christian calendar, the Feast of Christ the King. It was introduced by the Catholic Church about a hundred years ago as the final Sunday in the traditional church year, the last Sunday before Advent Season. The point was to create a day to celebrate Christ's return to earth to reign as King, and that is exactly the point of Vision Season.
Vision Season also includes Christmas Day, but the focus of the whole Advent and Christmas season is more on the Christ's Second Coming (Second "Advent") than his First Coming. Many carols talk about him as the King, and they fit wonderfully with this emphasis on his return as king.
New Year's Eve is the climax of Vision Season. We look forward to the New Year and pray that this will be the year when Jesus comes back to bring his peace to earth.
(Note: The Feast of Christ the King may fall on either the Sunday before or the Sunday after American Thanksgiving, the 4th Thursday of November, depending what day of the week Christmas falls on. Americans may celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a foretaste of the Messianic Banquet when all nations will feast together at Jesus' table.)
NOTE: THE CROSS AS CENTRAL TO THE CYCLE
In case it seems that the SYNC annual cycle does not give enough emphasis to the cross, please note that the three seasons that follow the season of the cross and resurrection (Freedom Season) all look back to the cross. They do that from three different angles that theologians have long used to spell out the rich layers of the meaning of the cross. It is Jesus' victory over evil ("Power" in the SYNC cycle), his atoning sacrifice ("Mercy"), and his example of being faithful all the way to death ("Grit").