The End of Advent and Christmas Services

This Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and we will hear, again, the account of the Annunciation and Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s message.  We will also have the joy of baptizing three young people at the 10AM celebration of the Eucharist.

In many ways, it will seem as if the period of waiting will be over after Sunday.  I know that, even I have begun to focus on the Christmas celebrations and putting together the homilies for those.  Yet, I would encourage you to continue to enjoy the wait, to prolong Advent for as long as you can, so that Christmas can be savored as the Christ Mass it is.

So, when does Advent officially end?  The easy answer is Christmas Day, which is why we have the long-standing tradition of the “Midnight Mass/Service” as the primary celebration.  In fact, in many places where the service begins at midnight there is no other celebration on Christmas Day.  However, in our busy lives the easy answer may not always be feasible, so we have multiple options of celebrating the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas.

For liturgy and history geeks, it is common to begin the celebration of a Holy Day with Vespers (Evensong) on the day before and to conclude the liturgical celebration with Vespers on the day.  Thus the liturgical celebration of Christmas Day, as a Class I Double, would begin with Vespers (Evensong) on December 24.   Others would prefer to begin the celebration of Christmas Day with a morning service.

So, when does Advent end and the celebration of Christmas begin?  Ultimately, that will be determined by your work and family commitments.  I hope, though, that you will begin the celebration of Christmas with taking the time to give thanks to God for the birth of Christ by gathering with fellow Christians, hearing the stories again, participating in the Eucharistic meal, and singing the songs of the faith.  To help in this St. Matthew’s is offering three different celebrations in terms of time and content.

The First Evensong of Christmas with Holy Communion:  5:30 PM on 12/24 (Christmas Eve).

Traditional Candlelight Holy Eucharist Rite II with preparatory carol sing: 10:30 PM on 12/24 (Christmas Eve).

Holy Eucharist Rite I (Spoken): 10AM 12/25 (Christmas Day)

Remember, Christmas is a twelve day season and does not end until Epiphany on January 6th!

From the Daily Office Lectionary for the Monday of 3 Advent.

2 Peter 1:1-11

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,  having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you san entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Collect for 3 Advent

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

 

St. John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by your servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today is the commemoration of St. John of Damascus who is remembered for both his work to end the iconoclastic controversy and his hymn writing. Many Episcopalians may not know his treatises, but will be familiar with his Easter hymns: “Thou Hallowed Chosen Morn of Praise”, “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain”, and “The Day of Resurrection!”

1 The day of resurrection!
Earth, tell it out abroad;
the passover of gladness,
the passover of God.
From death to life eternal,
from earth unto the sky,
our Christ hath brought us over,
with hymns of victory.

2 Our hearts be pure from evil,
that we may see aright
the Lord in rays eternal
of resurrection light;
and listening to his accents,
may hear, so calm and plain,
his own “All hail!” and, hearing,
may raise the victor strain.

3 Now let the heavens be joyful!
Let earth the song begin!
Let the round world keep triumph,
and all that is therein!
Let all things seen and unseen
their notes in gladness blend,
for Christ the Lord hath risen,
our joy that hath no end.

St. Andrew’s Day (December 1, 2014)

The celebration of St. Andrew’s Day is traditionally observed on November 30.  It was transferred to December 1 this year as November 30 was the First Sunday of Advent.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Reflection:

St. Andrew’s day is the first feast of the new liturgical year and rightly so, as he is among the first to respond to Jesus’ call to follow.  Little is known of Andrew outside of the New Testament, though he is traditionally shown as being crucified on an X shaped cross, now known as the Cross of St. Andrew.

St. Andrew did not seem to be in the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, but he is described as one who left off following John the Baptist to follow Jesus.  Andrew is also the disciple who brings the boy with the loaves and fishes when Jesus feeds the multitude.  Perhaps the most important attribute of Andrew is that he brings his brother to Jesus.  That brother, Peter, ultimately becomes the primus inter pares of the Apostles, is martyred in Rome, and according to Church tradition it was St. Mark who recorded the preaching of Peter in the Gospel that bears Mark’s name.

The point is, in many ways Andrew does not seem too remarkable, yet he makes his mark by being faithful and bringing his brother to Jesus.  He is an inspiration for all of us who labor in the vineyard, not knowing what fruit will be produced, or what the harvest will be, but believing that because we are faithful, God will bless the results. God knows, maybe that sister, cousin, neighbor, or coworker we bring to Jesus will be the next key leader of the Christian Church who sets the world on fire with the Gospel.