See also: “Understanding Advent and the Liturgical Calendar” (podcast) and “An Introduction to the Liturgical Calendar” (article with diagram).
What is Advent?
- The word “advent” means “coming” from the Latin word adventus which is the Vulgate translation of Parousia.
- Advent is the first season of the Christian year.
- Advent always includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.
- The first Sunday of Advent is the Christian new year. Of course, most of us celebrate New Year’s according to the Gregorian calendar (Pope Gregory XIII) which offsets the liturgical year because it adopts the Julian months (Julius Caesar).
What is the difference between Advent and Christmas?
- Advent is the season before Christmas.
- Christmas begins on December 25 and lasts for 12 days, until January 5. These twelve days of Christmas are the Christmas season. Although Advent and Christmas are designated as two different seasons, we conflate them in our celebration.
What is the Christian year?
- The Christian calendar or liturgical year is a schedule for celebrating the life and work of Christ for us and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church through a series of seasons and feast days.
- Six Seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Eastertide, Pentecost (Ordinary Time)
- Feast Days include: Christmas Day, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, and many others.
- The liturgical year was adopted widely in the 16th century after the invention of the printing press.
- The calendar that is generally followed in the West is from the Book of Common Prayer (1549, revised several times, last in 2019). Free PDF https://bcp2019.anglicanchurch.net/index.php/downloads/
How can we keep the liturgical calendar from restricting our freedom of worship?
- Remember that it is a way of redeeming the time.
- Remember that is a way to remember and declare the whole Gospel.
What are you doing to observe Advent?
- Lighting of the Christmas tree. We set up our trees in October and decorate them as autumn trees.
- Advent calendar with chocolates.
- Advent wreath.
- Bake or purchase a Christmas Sweetbread: Panetonne (Italian), Fruitcake, Christmas Stollen (German), Kings Cake (Mexican).
- Observing four themes: Hope, Love, Peace, Joy.
- A family will read the Advent Scripture selections and prayer.
- Someone from the same family will light the advent candle(s).
- Public reading of the messianic passages in the Prophets and Writings.
- Advent sermon series. This year: He Came Down from Heaven (Nicene Creed, John 6).
- Quiet moments of waiting in prayer; verbal fasting; restful preparation.
- Confection Connection (sharing of treat bags).
- Christmas Caroling in the community.
What are some resources for Advent?
- Martha Zimmerman, Celebrating the Christian Year
- Book of Common Prayer
- St. Augustine’s Prayer Book
- The Worship Sourcebook
- The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse
- Revised Common Lectionary
- Lectio 365 Prayer App
What books do you read in preparation for Christmas?
- On the Incarnation by Athanasius
- Why God Became Man by Anselm
- He Came Down From Heaven by Charles Williams
- The Sacrament of the Incarnation of Our Lord by Ambrose of Milan
- Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ by Thomas F. Torrance
- The God Who Became Human by Graham Cole
When do you take down your Christmas decorations?
- We usually remove them on Epiphany, January 6, but some traditions observe Candlemas which ends on February 2 which is the Feast of Purification (40 days after the birth of Christ) and the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
- Some years we have redecorated the trees as winter trees just because we like to have the lights during the early nights of winter.