When our second child turned one, we planned a birthday celebration for her several days after her actual birthday because celebrating on the day itself wasn’t very convenient. It wouldn’t matter to her, I reasoned, and I didn’t think it would matter to me. But it did. I quickly realized when March 3 came, and we had nothing special planned that celebrating birthdays in some way on the day itself was more important than I realized.
Annual celebrations are important because they are occasions when we remember something good or significant. This month, on Sunday, May 23, we have the opportunity to commemorate Pentecost, the beginning of the Church’s mission to the world as recorded in Acts 2. Pentecost also marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and other disciples following the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Every spring thousands of Jewish pilgrims poured into the city of Jerusalem for two significant harvest celebrations—the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which included Passover, followed 50 days later by the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. The Feast of Weeks was a festival celebrating the wheat harvest that also commemorated the giving the law at Mt. Sinai. According to Acts 2, while Jesus’ disciples were gathered for Pentecost, they were also following Jesus’ instructions to stay in Jerusalem and “wait for the gift my Father promised.” God had something special planned for his disciples and that was the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit filled the house where they were gathered, the disciples began to speak in the languages of the pilgrims that filled the city. The Bible lists 15 different places represented by these various languages and reports that Jesus’ disciples grew by 3,000 that day. And when those pilgrims returned to their homes, they were equipped by the Holy Spirit to share the message of Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
Pentecost is often overlooked, but it is the anniversary of our commissioning by God and our empowerment by the Holy Spirit to spread the good news of salvation and to invest individually and as local congregations in discipling others. I hope the feature articles in this issue inspire you to celebrate the gift and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Resources for celebrating Pentecost with your family
When our children were young, my husband and I wanted our holiday celebrations to reflect our faith. So, I purchased a variety of books that provided ideas for ways to celebrate many of the calendar holidays as well as the church year. Recently I looked through the various resources I collected over the years and was pleased to see that suggestions for celebrating Pentecost are included. These books and several websites are the basis for these suggestions for celebrating Pentecost with your family or with the children you teach in Sunday school or midweek Bible classes.
- Red is the color for Pentecost, representing the fire of the Holy Spirit. Use red napkins or placements for your Pentecost dinner. Have everyone wear red. Decorate with red balloons, streamers or candles.
- The Holy Spirit is often represented by wind. We can’t see wind, but we can see the way it influences and changes things. Enjoy the wind as part of your Pentecost celebration. Blow bubbles and watch the wind carry them away, play with pinwheels, fly kites or hang a wind chime. Talk about what the wind does even though we can’t see it.
- Pentecost marks the birth of the church. Bake a birthday cake—or enjoy a favorite family birthday treat.
- Talk as a family about your church. Research the history of your church. Talk about the people in your congregation that have influenced you. Share your own memories of Sunday school, church, youth group and special occasions.
- Read the Pentecost story from Acts 2. If your children are young, read the story from a children’s Bible story book. Pray together, thanking God for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and equip us.
- Pentecost was a feast day so plan a special meal. Include your family’s favorite foods. Include a fruit salad and talk about the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
- Pentecost is a good time to celebrate and introduce your children to the global church. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down and gave the apostles the ability to spread the good news in languages from around the world.
- Make a list of the countries that are home to Mennonite Brethren churches. Find these countries on a map or globe. Talk about the different languages represented by these countries. The ICOMB (International Community of Mennonite Brethren) website can help you with this project.
- Cut colorful paper in the shape of a dove and hang them by strings or ribbons in windows. On each dove write one of these words “love,” “peace” or “hope” in a different language. Kids will enjoy using Google Translator to find these words in other languages—maybe the languages represented by ICOMB conferences or any language you are interested in.
- Celebrate Pentecost with the global church. In 2020, ICOMB hosted a virtual Pentecost service in English, German and Spanish. Watch the celebration together. Link: https://vimeo.com/423408790