Is Ascension Day the Fifth Christian Holy Day?
Celebrate Jesus’s Return to Heaven, Which Prepares the Way for Pentecost
In my post The Four Main Christian Celebrations, I list for holy days (holidays) that smartly recognize Jesus and succinctly outline the key elements of his life and what he did for us. These Christian holidays are:
- Jesus’s Birthday (Christmas)
- Jesus’s Sacrificial Death (Good Friday)
- Resurrection Sunday (Easter)
I wonder if I should add Ascension Day to the list. It is, after all, a critical element in the arc of Jesus’s life.
What is Ascension Day?
Ascension Day occurs forty days after Resurrection Sunday (better known as Easter). On Easter Jesus rises from the dead. He spends forty days with his friends and followers to prove he is alive. Then he gives his disciples the directive to wait in Jerusalem for a special gift—the Holy Spirit—that Papa will send (Acts 1:4). After his parting words, he ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
Ascension Day falls on Thursday, so the date differs each year. Out of convenience many churches acknowledge Jesus’s returned to heaven on the following Sunday, which they call Ascension Sunday—even though it didn’t happen on the first day of the week.Ascension Day celebrates Jesus’s return to heaven, preparing for the Holy Spirit to arrive. Click To Tweet
Ascension Day is critical, for Jesus had to return to heaven before his followers—and we—could receive the Holy Spirit. Without Jesus leaving, Pentecost couldn’t have occurred.
The Five Holidays That Commemorate Jesus’s Life
Putting these five days together reveals a sound theological understanding of the essential role Jesus plays in our faith journey. Here it is:
Jesus comes to earth (Christmas). After he spends three years to teach his disciples and talk about the kingdom of God, he dies as our once-and-for-all sacrifice to cover all the mistakes we—and everyone else throughout time—have ever made (Good Friday). To prove he has the authority to make the ultimate sacrifice for us, he overcomes death by rising from the dead (Easter). After confirming he is alive, he returns to heaven (Ascension Day) so that we may receive the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).
Recognizing these five days as Christian holy days and celebrating these holidays reminds us each year of the essential elements of the gospel story, God’s good news to save humanity.