Christmas and Easter may be the most well-known Christian holidays. But Pentecost - which will be observed Sunday - has been a Christian celebration for much longer than has Dec. . 25.
The seventh Sunday after Easter is the day of Pentecost.
"We recognize the day of Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and those who were in the upper room after the ascension of Jesus Christ," said Bishop Madai Taylor, of Agape Church Kingdom Dominion Ministries.
The account is found in the Bible in Acts, chapter 2.
"The scriptures tell us tongues of fire were seen on the apostles' heads, and they started speaking in languages they didn't know, and people were understanding them," said the Rev. Ed Durand, of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.
Unlike Christmas, Easter and Pentecost coincide with Jewish festivals described in the Old Testament of the Bible. Easter comes during the Jewish Passover.
Pentecost was the Greek name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, "one of three great historical annual festivals of the Jews," said the Rev. Deb Parkinson, pastor of Our Savior United Methodist Church in Manson.
"For the early church, Pentecost was the second most important part of the Christian year after 'Pascha' or Easter," she added. In fact, she said, Pentecost has sometimes been known as the birth of the Christian Church.
"This was the kickoff for the church, of taking the message of Christ and the salvation he won for us to all the nations," said Durand. He added that the way the disciples shared the gospel, and in many different languages, "shows us the faith is for all nations. It's not relegated to one ethnic group or church body, it's meant to be shared with all nations."
The pastors said Pentecost is an ancient Christian ceremony, and there are plenty of old traditions connected to it. Red is the traditional color of Pentecost.
"Our church is very traditional. I wear an alb (similar to a tunic) and a stole, and the stoles are different colors for the different periods of the church year," Durand said. "Easter is white; on Pentecost it changes to a red stole. After that Sunday we'll be in the season of Pentecost until Advent, and the stoles will change to green."
Parkinson said Pentecost is "a celebrative time for rites of passage including baptism, confirmation and the reception of new members."
Durand said the Lutheran church also had a tradition of holding baptisms on Pentecost at one time.
"In Germany especially, the water was frozen, and they couldn't baptize during the winter months as well," said Durand. "Sometimes they would wait and then they'd have a big service at Pentecost where lots of people were baptized at once."
The Rev. Shane Deman, of Holy Trinity Parish, said Pentecost is a major feast day in the Catholic faith, celebrated with great solemnity.
It's a time for solemnity, but also a time of celebration, and perhaps even something wild and unpredictable.
"A pastor friend of mine - the title for his sermon Sunday is 'A Drunken Fellowship,'" said Parkinson. "Because when the (apostles) started speaking in tongues, everybody thought they were kind of drunk and crazy. Because all of a sudden the spirit came down and filled everybody. It was kind of a free-for-all for a while, nobody knew what was going on."
The Rev. Allen Redenius said First Covenant Church is looking for creative ways to express the message of the first Pentecost.
"Our plan is to bring in people who speak different languages, and we'll have them each read the scripture from Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit comes on them and they begin preaching in other tongues," he said.
Taylor said that he and others from his church have been meeting at 10 a.m. throughout this week to pray. Just as the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles to preach back then, he said, Christians need the Holy Spirit today to do God's work.
"We're continuing to pray for our ministry, our community, our city and its leaders. We know that is something only the Holy Spirit can intercede or make a difference in," he said.
The power of the Spirit is more important than any traditions, he said.
"It is really my belief that the Holy Spirit wants to do a greater work in the body of Christ, more than the traditional things we've become accustomed to, as relates our religion and denominations, the rules and the regulations, the traditions of churches.
"If the kingdom of God is going to come, it will be because of what happened on the day of Pentecost, through the spirit. ...It won't be because of a religion and it won't be because of a man, it'll be because of God's spirit."
Redenius said, "The Holy Spirit's pretty powerful.
"Remember that Jesus told his disciples to wait until they have the power from the father, and that would allow them to go out and do some spectacular preaching. And they did, if you read the story; they did some miraculous things after they received the Holy Spirit."
It's hard to describe how the Spirit works today, he said.
"I think it's about knowing Christ as much as anything else, and feeling his presence within you. The Holy Spirit doesn't live up front where pastor is, he lives out in the congregation, with the people."
Deman said, "Just as the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, descended on the apostles on that first Pentecost morning, it's important to recognize today that we still live in power of Christ Jesus through that same Holy Spirit. It's that same power of the Lord, through divine grace, that's going to continue to be active in the world today."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org