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!