The traditions of Whitsuntide, the week that follows Whit Sunday, sadly, are now uncommon. As a result we lose focus on the significance of why in the past Whitsuntide was celebrated with such joy. Those long forgotten traditions represent one of the earliest established public holidays. It was the first holiday of the summer at a time when being away from work was far less an experience than we enjoy today. There would be trips to the seaside, Whit Walks where communities would parade through the streets accompanied by brass bands. Village fetes with Morris dancing and games, and of course lots to eat and drink.
So what was all this celebrating about? Whit Sunday, the start of Whit Week, is Pentecost, or as some like to call it, the birthday of the church. We mark Pentecost every year of course but like the Whit Week traditions are we losing focus? We celebrate Christmas, the time we remember God’s greatest gift to the world, the birth of Jesus. We celebrate Easter, the time when Christ not only sacrificed Himself for each one of us, but overcame the power of death. For me Pentecost is equally significant in the Christian calendar. It is the time that Jesus, as he promised, sent the Holy Spirit to work through ordinary people.
Jesus demonstrated the character of God through the way he lived his life. He taught how humanity should live through love for each other and an attitude of compassion. A way that much of the world claims to like but struggles to deliver. The difficulties we face in sharing the message that Jesus gave us are so often beyond our abilities alone. We need each other in strong union and we need the Spirit of God to inform, strengthen and guide. So much of what we see across world history that we recognise as freedom, peace, love and compassion is all because of ordinary people seeking and responding to God’s Spirit. It is there for anyone who asks for it with the right intentions.
For many world religions coming into the presence of God is unthinkable. Because of Jesus, who came into our presence, the Spirit of God comes into our very being. Not only is that astonishing it is requisite, I believe, that we celebrate that fact. I appreciate this year we are somewhat limited so let’s galvanise an intension to allow the realisations of this difficult time to keep us ever mindful of the presence of God’s Spirit and next year to celebrate joyfully together.