Christmas is deservedly a big holiday. After all, it celebrates the coming of our Lord — the Messiah — to live among us. Easter deserves the same attention. On Easter Sunday, we move beyond reflecting on the week of Christ’s suffering. His crucifixion is past. Resurrection Sunday has come, and Christian hope is renewed in us!
Curiously, it’s different with Pentecost. That’s falls on the Sunday 50 days after Passover, or after our Lord’s crucifixion. This year it will be on June 8. There are no pageants for Pentecost. Some preachers will make little of it. There are Christians who will hardly know it has come and gone.
Yet Pentecost – marking the descent of the Holy Spirit for the empowerment of Jesus’ followers – signifies the birthday of the Christian Church. This earthshaking event is recorded in Acts 2.
Consider the background for Pentecost: After his resurrection, Jesus had remained with his disciples for 40 days, instructing, encouraging, and clarifying for them their ongoing task of being his witnesses throughout the known world (Acts 1:3,8). Afterwards, he ascended into heaven and about 120 of his followers remained in Jerusalem in anticipation, praying and encouraging each other (Acts 1:4).
They did not know what to expect. How could they? Pentecost would be like nothing that had happened on earth before. There wasn’t anything in their previous experience to prepare them.
But in 50 days they had moved from being a frightened, scattered group of men and women to being a prayerful and expectant gathering of disciples. Some of them had seen the living Lord and others had heard stunning witness of his resurrection. They had believed. On the eve of Pentecost they were filled with expectation. And what an event it would be!
More on this later, as in the next few weeks I’ll write on features of Pentecost that should be experienced in the life of the church today. I suggest you dip into the first 2 chapters of The Acts of the Apostles and refresh your memory of what the church should look like when the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is honored in all of its life.
Image credit: Waiting for the Word (via flickr.com)