“The Season of Advent is 4 Sundays. This year, be sure to celebrate ALL 4”
One of my family’s traditions starting from as far back in my childhood memories as I can recall is the joy of opening an “Advent Calendar” every morning in anticipation of Christmas Day. Every year there was a new calendar with pictures, and sometimes even a chocolate treat, to discover each day. Opening the Advent Calendar was a delight.
I don’t remember when I learned that despite the fact that we called them Advent Calendars, they did NOT actually mark the days of Advent! With the exception of one Advent Calendar that was designed specifically for the Liturgical season that year, my beloved “Advent” Calendars were actually December countdown to Christmas calendars. They always started on December 1.
But Advent does not always start on December 1. In fact, Advent could start as early as November 27 (or as late as December 3 as it does this year). The Season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day (the Vigil of Christmas on Christmas Eve is a Christmas Day celebration).
This year, December 24 IS the fourth Sunday of Advent. While it may seem reasonable to skip the celebration of 4 Advent and only celebrate Christmas Eve services on Sunday, December 24, this year, it would be liturgically and traditionally inappropriate to do so.
The Episcopal Church’s tradition–indeed, every liturgical church’s tradition, requires the celebration of ALL 4 Sundays of Advent. The rules on the liturgical calendar in the Book of Common Prayer emphasize this point about Advent stating that no other feast may be observed on or transferred to an Advent Sunday (n.b. rules on feasts of the dedication of a church or patron BCP pg. 16). All four Sundays in Advent are important for the season.
So, this year, be sure to celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent as the principal feast on Sunday, December 24, at your morning service(s). Then, having honored the full season of Advent, begin your liturgical/worship preparations for Christmas Eve.