October 17, 2017

Happy New Year, Advent & Christmas 101

Guest post today by Chaplain Mike Mercer…

Happy New Year!

If you or your church follows the Christian Year, you know what I am talking about. Yesterday was the first day of the church calendar, the first Sunday in Advent. The Advent season stretches over four Sundays and ends on Christmas Eve, when the celebration of Jesus’ birth arrives in full flower.

Advent is a time of anticipation, when we remember God’s promises and expectantly look for him to fulfill them in Christ. It is also a time of preparation, when we ask God to make our hearts ready to receive Jesus at his coming. Themes of Advent (which means, “the coming”) involve not only Christ’s first coming, but also his ultimate return to reign, when “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess” that he is Lord.

Marking Advent can be one of the most counter-cultural activities in which Christians may participate. As the world around us works itself into a frenzy trying to keep up with holiday demands, believers can use this time for contemplation, spiritual practices, and simple good works of love for our neighbors.

The following video, “Christmas 101,” featuring Fr. Eric Dudley of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Tallahassee, gives an overview of this season from a Christian perspective. I think you will find it winsome, engaging, and practical. Part 2 is due Dec. 6th.

I’d also love to hear from you about how you, your family, and your church practice Advent and prepare for Christmas.

MOD NOTE: Those of you from liturgical traditions: please help the uninitiated by defining terms and explaining practices that might be unfamiliar to those from other communities.

MOD NOTE: Has anyone watched the video? Responses? Would love specific feedback on Fr. Dudley’s teachings.

Christmas 101, Part I from St. Peter’s Anglican Church on Vimeo.

Comments

  1. Since I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, Advent was a non-issue for me most of my life. Living as a Christian now, Advent certainly has a presence, but perhaps I don’t dive into it quite as much as I could.

    Over on Wondercafe.ca there’s some discussion going on right now surrounding Advent (for obvious reasons :’) ), including a thread on a possible alternative lectionary: http://wondercafe.ca/discussion/church-life/alternative-lectionary-advent

  2. The advent theme this year at our parish is “reconciliation”, which I have found to take on a deeper meaning during Advent. Of course, this means receiving the sacrament of reconciliation at some time during Advent but it also means reconciling ourselves to anyone who we might hold something against or someone who might hold something against us. This is to prepare ourselves a clean and open space for Jesus to be “born into” at Christmas but also, to purify ourselves in expectation of his second coming, either at our death or at the end of time. Prayer and sacrifice should be undertaken with this goal, of readiness, in mind.

    Have a merry and fruitful Advent and a happy feast of St. Andrew, apostle and martyr.

  3. At twelve o’clock Mass yesterday, had the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath in church while the children’s choir sang an appropriate modern hymn 🙂

    Purple vestments, of course! I’m waiting to see what colour they’ll be on Gaudete Sunday – not expecting them to be pink, somehow 😉

    And I watched the online broadcast of the Vespers on Saturday for the start of Advent from St. Peter’s in Rome – I’m after getting fierce pious in my old age or something.

    Definitely making more of an effort this year.

  4. This is my wife’s and mine second Christmas as a married couple, parents and the second year we have celebrated Advent. Last year we made a holly advent wreath and read a chunk from Isaiah for the four Advent Sundays and then read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. It was fun, but as it was our first year to celebrate Advent, we didn’t do much more besides.

    This year our daughter is turning one, so she’s able to respond a bit better than last year so we’re doing the wreath again (this time reading from Genesis, Isaiah, the “minor prophets” and then from Luke again, for all the days of Advent, not just the Sundays) and we also created a felt Advent Calendar in the shape of a Celtic Cross (the cross is green to symbolize the life we have in Christ’s Death, the 25 pockets are red to symbolize the fact that Jesus came to die for us and then the circle is white to symbolize Jesus’ infinity and purity). We’re hoping that it will be helpful to our daughter (even at 1) as we teach her about Jesus and what He did for us.

    Other than that, we’ve decorated the house with holly and white lights (much classier we think). We’re also working at buying less and making more in terms of Christmas gifts. We’ll see how far we can go with it this year. 😉

    • Christiane says:

      Try the O Antiphons this year. They are beautiful.

      • Christiane, please explain what the “O Antiphons” are for those who may not know.

        • Christiane says:

          Hi Chaplain Mike,
          For those who may not know:
          The ‘O’ Antiphons are sung or chanted during evening prayers, traditionally starting on Dec. 17th, one per evening, for eight evenings.
          They begin with one of the titles of the ‘Messiah’ from the Old Testament. And then, there are some related prophecies from Isaiah that follow.
          These ‘antiphons’ bring hopeful Advent to a joyful climax, as the day after they are ended, is the 24th, and the Christmas Eve Vigil begins both solemnly and joyfully.

          There are many references where people can find the O Antiphons, but I don’t think that Michael wants us to list sites. People who are interested can type into Google
          ‘O Antiphons’ and a number of sites will come up.

          ..

      • OH, yes!

        Though some may know the hymn “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) which is a distillation of the seven antiphons into one hymn.

        I prefer the Latin version myself, but the English one is no harm either 😉

        And as regards the “O Antiphons”, here comes my Obligatory Arvo Part Recommendation: he did a German language version which I like (and I don’t like German as a spoken/sung language, so this has to be good for me to recommend it) – the Paul Hillier Theatre of Voices is the one I especially like, but any version is good 🙂

  5. I had Thanksgiving dinner with an old friend and her family (kids, parents, siblings, their kids) this year. I was impressed that that their tradition is for the parents to give the younger generations an advent calender at the conclusion of Thanksgiving dinner as a way to start that season of preparation. They’re not-super-devout Catholics, and I think it’s great how the Church’s traditions greatly influence their family traditions.

    I’m not from an Advent-observing tradition, myself. That said, when I give the sermon at our fellowship later this month, I’ll definitely be bringing up the season.

  6. A few (actually, quite a few) liturgical “family-type” bloggers have gotten together for the past couple of years for an Advent Blog Carnival. If you are interested, there are lots of links for Advent ideas.

    http://theten0clockscholar.blogspot.com/2009/11/third-annual-advent-carnival_28.html

    (I do hope it is ok to comment with a link like this)

  7. Steve in Toronto says:

    One of my favourite local Priest’s Dr. Lisa Wang of Saint James Cathedral preached a great Advent sermon last Sunday. Like a lot of Anglo-Catholics she blurs the distinction between Justification and sanctification more then I would like but it’s still great stuff. Check it out http://www.stjamescathedral.on.ca/Portals/0/AUDIO/20091129am11RevdLisaWangS.mp3
    God Bless
    Steve in Toronto

  8. We try to follow the Liturgy of Hours Office of Readings more closely. There are 3 psalms, a scripture reading, and a reading from a spiritual master . . . often one of the Fathers of the Church. It’s a great way to prepare for the twofold coming of Christ: at Christmas and at the end of time.
    http://www.universalis.com/readings.htm

  9. Yesterday, our new church start, 5 years old, lit our first advent candle. We are following the advent calendar. Thank you Imonk, for opening our eyes to something that we just never saw before.

  10. Catholic re: Mod’s note

    Have no idea what’s going on with the candles. We use the one-a-week, three purple one pink schematic.

    Only thing I have to add is that in addition to the assimilation of the pagan holiday, Christmas stuck around at December 25th because it’s as far as mattered the winter solstice. From that point on, “the light of the world” increases. This is why Catholics celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist on June 24th, the summer solstice, when daylight fades. (He must increase, but I must decrease.)

    • The four candles mark the four Sundays. There is no one accepted interpretation of the meaning of each candle. Different readings and liturgies are used. The third candle is rose-colored rather than purple (or deep blue), and most link this to an old Roman Catholic custom of wearing rose vestments on the third Sunday in Advent. The third Sunday is sometimes called “Gaudete” (Rejoice!) Sunday.

      • I was talking about the candles mentioned at the end of the video, of which nothing I have ever heard. I have a basic understanding of NORMAL Advent candles (JK to any Anglicans or anyone who knows what’s up with what that guy’s talking about).

        BTW re: the new mod note. He’s funny! That balance between genuine Christian commentary and genuine funny is pretty rare.

        • He’s referring to the same candles you’re referring to, except these are at home instead of the ones lit each week in church. St. Peter’s, for example, sells Advent wreath kits with the four candles in the wreath, lit each Sunday of Advent, around the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Eve.

          • He also knows that the “normal” Advent candles are the three blue and one pink candle. He also understands that households may not have those so any candle will do in a pinch for the time being.

          • Okay, thanks. I’m sure I just misheard him. I tried to re-listen to the vid but it was taking ages to load. I thought something crazy was going on with two candles a day or something. Need to find my meds.

        • The talk is also available in audio: http://www.saint-peters.net/files/8/file/sermons/2009/SPAC_11_29_09_Christmas101Part1.mp3.

          At the very beginning is audio, not contained in the video, where Fr. Dudley explains the figurine of St. Nicholas next to him.

        • I *think* the 5 blue candles thing referred to the 5 candles of the Advent wreath, 3 are usually purple or blue, one is usually rose, and one is usually white. The white Christ candle isn’t always used. I also wasn’t sure if he was suggesting that a family light a new candle everyday or just light the Advent wreath everyday.

  11. i have enjoyed celebrating advent this year – I feel like I’m getting more “traditional” every year! I feel like focusing on Jesus coming is a wonderful way of keeping our hearts in the right place for the season. This year I bought the Mosaic Bible (Thank’s for info. Imonk!) to try and focus on the church calender thru out the year, I have found the Mosiac Bible is wonderful for bring weekly bible verse selections for my Coffee Prayer group. i don’t have to figure out what scripture to read each day, & i feel like I’m worshipping with the Church universal everyday(which of course we always are but it still feels special)! one thing I would like to throw out into the discussion —can lighting a Hanukkah menorah be used as part of a family advent. I have been lighting the menorah as a “family advent” with my girls for the last 2 yrs, I have them recite John 8 (Jesus is the light of the world). I’m not in any way Jewish & I don’t know any Jews (living in south-west GA) , & they would probably not be happy with the way I have changed their tradition. But i see hanukkah as a celebration of God bringing light to the world & a celebration of religious freedom! Jesus is recorded celebrating the “feast of dedication” or hanukkah john 10:22. & kids love all the lighted candles!! Am I crazy for adding this to advent or is this trying to mix religions too much????

    • I wouldn’t do it that way, out of respect to my Jewish friends and neighbors. However, there is nothing wrong with teaching your children about Hanukkah. I just wouldn’t mix it up with Jesus.

      • thanks for responding! do we see any connection with advent candles & hanukkah menorahs??? or do we see advent candles being connected to “light in the darkness” as in lighting candles in long cold winter nights??? just wondering, peace

        • My understanding is that the Advent Wreath with candles probably comes from the Middle Ages, from German and Scandinavian roots.

        • I’m told that in my mother’s Catholic family when she was growing up, they’d light a menorah (technically, a hanukkia… menorah=7-branched Temple candelabra… hanukkia=9-branched hanukkah menorah) during the Christmas season, though they didn’t know what it was. It was just an old family tradition. Probably it’s evidence of conversos or something in the distant family tree.

          While I certainly have not done the research to back this up in a scholarly way, I see a lot of parallels between Christian liturgical practices and those of Judaism, especially older forms of Judaism. My brother, who is a convert to Judaism and a rabbinic student in Israel, recently observed after my grandmother’s funeral Mass, “This feels like bastardized 2nd Temple Judaism” (his words… a blunt and opinionated one is my brother).

          All that is to say that I don’t see any problem with exploring aspects of Judaism through the lenses of how they may relate to Jesus. As you pointed out above, Jn 10 suggests that Jesus did observe Hanukkah. I know numerous Jewish Christians who live out the Jewish liturgical year from a Christ-centered perspective. That said, among those who have tried to incorporate both the Jewish liturgical year and the Christian liturgical year, it seems to not work out so well. Too big a pie to swallow, I guess. After 15 years of less-than-wonderful experiences in Messianic Judaism, I’ve decided to spend some time exploring the Christian liturgical traditions that I grew up with.

  12. Fr. Michael Petty, Associate Rector for Adult Education at St. Peter’s Anglican Church (where Fr. Dudley is Rector) wrote up a short summary about Advent.

    Additionally, Fr. Dudley gave a sermon about the Season of Advent and, among other things, explained the meaning of the candles.

  13. Chaplain Mike,

    The church we just started attending lit an advent candle on Sunday. I’ve never attended a church that followed the “Christian calendar” before, and I don’t think this one does, either, but it is recognizing the advent season. The preaching, however, continued in the current preaching series.

    But being a non-traditional Christian who more often than not “regards every day alike,” (Rom 14) it is doubtful that my family will immerse itself in the meanings of the calendar this year. Maybe next year?

  14. Advent – A time when God breaks in on us.

    In an attempt to counter the general malaise and indifference within many evangelical churches to the traditional Christian calendar, ‘Faith Interface’ blog will be celebrating Advent like this Australian Baptist has never celebrated it before. Come join us !!

    http://www.faithinterface.com.au/discipleship-spiritual-formation/celebrating-advent

  15. Advent wreaths are a lovely, but recent (19th century Lutheran) tradition. The violet & rose candles are used in North America; in Europe, the candles are usually red (see photos of Pope Benedict’s wreath this year) or white/unbleached.

    In our family, each evening, starting at First Vespers (Saturday evening before the first Sunday of Advent), the youngest child who can handle a match lights the candle(s). We pray:

    Be comforted, be comforted, my people: thy salvation cometh quickly: why with grief art thou consumed? for sorrow hath stricken thee: I will save thee, fear not: for I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.
    V. Drop dew, ye heavens, from above.
    R. And let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Let us Pray:
    O God, Who dost gladden us by the annual expectation of our Redemption, grant that we, who now receive with joy Thine only-begotten Son as our Redeemer, may behold Him without fear when He comes as our judge, even the same Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth forever and ever. Amen.

    The Versicle/Response (“Drop dew, ye heavens…”) is an ancient antiphon called the Rorate Coeli. You can hear it sung with its Gregorian hymn here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7U4flL5_cU&feature=related

    We are Catholic-nerdy enough to teach the children to pray it in Latin at the candle-lighting (it’s only 7 words, so even the littlest quickly learns it):

    V. Rorate coeli desuper
    R. Et nubes pluant justum.

    Then we sing the first verse and familiar refrain of Veni Veni Emmanuel (we sing the verses corresponding to the O Antiphons on the appropriate nights before Christmas).

    Another very old domestic Advent tradition is to clean the house from top to bottom, do all necessary repairs, and return anything borrowed. Also a time for limited fasting–going meatless, for instance–extra prayer, penance, and almsgiving. We try (this is hard) to avoid holiday shopping or parties (Twelfth Night is for parties!) during Advent, and don’t decorate until Christmas Eve. Fortunately our family’s closest neighbors and friends are Orthodox Jews, who help us not celebrate Christmas during Advent. 😉

    This one is past, but the Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent is “Stir Up Sunday,” from the old Mass prayer of that Sunday: Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful people; that more earnestly seeking after the fruit of good works, they may receive more abundant helps from Thy mercy.” From “stir up … the fruits” comes the hint to start marinating and aging your Christmas plum pudding or fruitcake. Or order a nice rum-soaked one from one of the Trappist abbeys. Yum.

    If you would prefer to escape the secular tradition of the buying and giving extravaganza on Christmas, the morning of December 6, St. Nicholas’ Day, and Epiphany are the traditional days for gift-giving.

    • “We are Catholic-nerdy enough to teach the children to pray it in Latin at the candle-lighting…”

      Thats awesome. Also, the term “Catholic-nerdy” gave me a chuckle; perhaps you should coin the term 😉

  16. Dana Ames says:

    A home Advent wreath was not a tradition for my family when I was a child, even though we were very devoutly Roman Catholic. I made the first and only Advent wreath we ever used at home, but we used it every year until I went away to college.

    When my children were growing up, we had an advent calendar, a nativity scene (not a candy house or old-timey village), with the 25 little folding doors that opened to a scripture verse that was part of the Christmas story, with corresponding tiny drawing. The kids took turns opening the doors each night before bed (and reading the verse as they were able).

    For a couple of years in my journey, I lit menorah candles during Hanukkah and wrote up a devotional for each night focusing on the coming of the Messiah, with appropriate chunk of scripture. I never spoke about this to my Jewish friends or tried to get any other Christians I knew to do it; it was a personal thing. It was very meaningful for me at the time, in addition to the usual Advent wreath readings at the church I was attending. (Husband never went in much for any candle-lighting; he is “allergic” to anything liturgical.)

    This is my first Orthodox Advent, which is six weeks long and a season of fasting (though not quite as strict as Lent). No special candles or wreath, but much interior preparation and meditation on the meaning of the Incarnation. The Orthodox year begins 1 September and is bracketed by feasts remembering Mary (birth 8 Sept and death 15Aug), John the Baptizer -we call him the Forerunner- (conception 23 Sept and death 29 Aug) and the Cross (exaltation 14 Sept and procession 1 August). For me, these feasts point to God coming into human history -through Mary, announced by John- and because of the incarnation, cross and resurrection, everything is changed… Every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection, a mini-Easter (Pascha), so that “umbrella” covers the whole year- all of human reckoning of time.

    Dana

  17. I had a nice 1st Sunday of Advent at the Lutheran Church I usually attend back in “home” town. This year, I specifically got all my Christmas shopping done by the end of November so I could appreciate Advent for what its worth.

    I did even go near the malls on Black Friday.

  18. “Has anyone watched the video? Responses? Would love specific feedback on Fr. Dudley’s teachings.”

    Michael,

    I was a bit disappointed to hear Fr. Dudley repeating the claim that Christmas, and many other Christian holidays/traditions, are co-opted from paganism. I see he goes for the Christmas = Saturnalia version, though there are others.

    I used to believe this myself, and was quite pleased how open-minded Christianity “baptized” pagan traditions, celebrations, and even gods (turning them into saints). After a while, though, I noticed that there was no proof, or even persuasive evidence, for the claims, other than “everybody knows it.”

    It’s believed by neopagans, because it vindicates their religion as “the original.” It’s believed by certain Christians, because it proves that Catholic/mainline Christianity is “deep down” really and truly pagan. It’s believed by certain other Christians because it shows how tolerant of other beliefs Christianity really is. So everyone has a reason to continue claiming it’s true.

    But when I began reading early Christian writings–and by that I mean the first thousand years–I was struck by (a) the utter absence of commentary by Christians on this “baptizing” of pagan ways & feasts–even in contexts, like the controversy over the date of Easter, which produced much writing and one would expect to see reference to the underlying pagan Easter; (b) the lack of substance of the “proofs” (e.g. Bede’s supposed claim that Easter came from the worship of a fertility-goddess Eostre, when in fact he reported that some said that the *time of year* was named for a goddess, exactly like Thursday is named for a Norse god); and (c) the vehement insistence throughout early Christian writings, including the great missionaries, that all pagan feasts, buildings, and traditions be completely rejected by Christians. It’s impossible to read, say, Tertullian or St. Patrick, and imagine for a moment they would tolerate “baptizing” a pagan holiday, for the sake of converts or anything else.

    I don’t mean to rant, but I am very, very tired of this supposed fact about Christian history that everybody knows; especially in the example here of a man of the cloth advising us about the great feast of the Nativity. Show me Cyprian or Chrysostom or Augustine of Canterbury writing “we place this feast on Saturnalia/ Sol Invictus/ Yule so as to lead the pagans to Christ.” They spilled plenty of ink; let’s see something besides speculation and wishful thinking, and I’ll buy the theory.

    • What’s your alternative “history,” o.h.?

      • Chaplain Mike,

        If I were to claim that the early Christians were secretly Freemasons and that everybody agreed with me–you pointed out that there is no evidence to suggest such–and I replied “What’s your alternative ‘history,’ chaplain?” what would you say?

        I don’t have an alternative “history.” I have just history, as do you. What we can read, when we read the Church Fathers and the early missionaries, is as I have described. The alternative “history,” if we must use scare quotes, is the notion that Christians co-opted pagan feasts, traditions, &c. willy-nilly. It deserves the scare quotes because it is an idea not supported by actual history.

        Try an experiment. Find a book or website setting forth this claim of the pagan origins of whatever. Look for the footnote for each such claim. Is there a footnote, or just the bare, unsupported claim? If there’s a footnote, is it merely a reference to some other source making the bare claim? If there’s actually a reference to an *original* source, go read that source in context. Does it in fact directly support the claim of pagan origins being made, or does it support some lesser or other claim (e.g. a Church Father noting that pagans have a celebration near the same date; a pope suggesting that the pagans might be permitted to re-use former temples for some other purpose)?

        • Patrick Lynch says:

          o.h., never thought to look up any ancient sources for that, but I think you’re probably more right than not! great comment

        • o.h., easy now. No snark intended toward you, I really was just asking the question if you had an alternate explanation for some of the developments. I have no horse in this race, just wondered what you might have found other than the standard interpretations.

          • Chaplain Mike,

            Sorry to sound uber-defensive. What I’ve found is that real historians find that there were pre-Christian practices that survived into the Christian era, but that (a) these remained cultural, domestic practices, and were not incorporated into the doctrine, liturgy, or calendar of the Church; and (b) that such customs, unsupported by the dominant institution (and in fact generally actively opposed by it) seldom lasted for very long. Victorian folklorists loved to report finding families out in the Orkney Islands engaged in pre-Christian rites; but modern historians and folklorists find that, in fact, such customs are either not so old, or are variations of Christian customs still in use. Folk customs simply don’t survive that long. People love to think that things like, say, advent wreaths and Easter bunnies, go back to time immemorial; but seldom do they last even a century in a recognizable form without institutional structural support.

        • St. Boniface chopping down the sacred groves of the Germans to spite the pagans and prove their gods to be useless is more characteristic of the patristic attitude towards paganism.

          Consider the Golden Legend’s remarks regarding the hallowing of the Pantheon as “St. Mary and all Martyrs”:

          And thus the temple that had been made for all the idols is now dedicated and hallowed to all the saints, and whereas the worshipping of idols was used, there is now the praising of all saints.

          More a spirit of triumphalism than compromise.

          Mind you, just as Christ was very forgiving of the errors of the humble and very severe with the errors of the proud, so I think the Church took a different, more relaxed, approach with the common people than they did with the more zealous pagans.

    • Perhaps the real problem isn’t that Christians were trying to co opt pagan feasts as much as it was that pagans were trying to corrupt Christianity itself. Constantine is commonly known as the first “Christian” emperor of Rome but he wasn’t exactly what we would think of as orthodox in any real sense. It was no real stretch for him to take his allegiance to the “Sun,” his coins were minted for years with the phrase “committed to the invincible Sun (Sol Invictus), and blend it with his new found faith. There is no record of a December 25th celebration of any kind in Christianity before the rise of Constantine.

      And there is material available out there to research this stuff. Check out this book for instance –
      http://books.google.com/books?id=FJa72GHwQTIC&dq=The+Codex+Calendar+of+354&printsec=frontcover&source=in&hl=en&ei=VZQWS4HIMsuBnQf5_fXjBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=11&ved=0CDEQ6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=&f=false

      I thought that Fr. Dudley did a good job of pointing out just how comfortable many are with the very unbiblical elements that have been incorporated into Christmas. We are creatures of habit with a tendency to do things the way we always have done them with little or no examination.

  19. Here’s my theory. Luke 2:21 tells us that Jesus was circumcised and formally given his name (as given to Mary before Jesus was conceived) eight days after he was born, as is the custom with Jews. So, if we celebrate each New Year of Our Lord on January 1 in the Gregorian Calendar, why not put his birthday eight days earlier, December 25?

  20. I’m writing a series of poems on Advent. And its usually around this time when a plethora
    of Christmas songs find their way onto my IPod. I’ve also got a little 31-day Advent
    devotional book.

    Martin

  21. Specific feed back after watching….
    From my cultural perspective he dresses funny. From my POV he hits the nail on the head. Santa is taught much more than Christ. It is a religion of works. I have no problem however, with the parish paying for a feast. The origin of the funds was after all, the parish. I would not appreciate Santa at church. The sad truth is that a group of people who are celebrating something have trouble changing, even if it is wrong. I know of a church where Santa was kicked out suddenly, and the youth of the church were shocked, and had a hard time healing from that.
    Santa is pagan, and detracts from the mission. The mission is Christ.
    This was a fine lecture on the introduction of pagan practices into Christianity.

    • Christiane says:

      There was a St. Nicholas, you know.
      There really was. 🙂

      • Right, Christiane. Santa Claus, as we know, comes from St. Nicholas, and we certainly have embellished the story with flying reindeer and all. But St. Nicholas was definitely NOT pagan and therefore I would not say that Santa is pagan either.

        • Indeed Santa (S.t Nich) is not pagan.

          The red costumed, white bearded charicature of St. Nich that we are most familiar with is also not pagan but commercial. This particualr imagery was invented by Coca Cola.

    • No disrespect meant about the clothing, it is just a cultural thing, something beyond by experience. In my area preachers wear suits at least 15 years out of style.

      • Actually, that’s the whole point. Fr. Dudley points out in Nuts and Bolts of Anglican LIturgy” that the weird clothing puts the focus all on God and isn’t supposed to be cultural at all. When they’re in the pulpit it’s some guy in funny clothing speaking about the morning’s Scripture readings and you’re not really focused on who specifically is speaking or the ugly suit they’re wearing. Because they all wear the same thing every Sunday!

  22. I gave up on getting the video to load in – sl—oo-ooooo–ooow. Anyway, Advent. Oh wait! First, I have a question – uhhmm, whyyyy is His Holiness dressed like the Pope?? Just wondering about that white on white cassock deal. 🙂

    Advent – I wrote a bit on my blog today – can you quote yourself? “I’m wondering now if there’s another “coming” we don’t anticipate enough. It’s a little more esoteric than the first and the last, although integrally connected to both. It’s His continual and progressive coming now, into our world and into our lives.

    This, I believe, is the most important coming of Jesus that we are to be awaiting, and working to cooperate with. It is the Kingdom of God now among us and within us. …

    Advent is really all about the Incarnation, as is Christmas. These are liturgical ways we have developed as the Church to help us navigate and appreciate the coming of God, of the fullness of His Life, into our world.”

    OK – there’s that. Our family has been doing the family Advent wreath (with 3 purple, one “pink”, and the white Christmas candle) for a good while – since the kids were little to some degree or another. We have a handy number of kids for this little family liturgy – 4. We’ve integrated that into the candle lighting ritual. By age, each candle is lit by that child during the corresponding week. So here in a little while, tonight, our oldest, Katey, will light the first candle and we’ll pray together. For the last few years we’ve been using a series of devotional books called “Advent and Christmas with…” – last year was “with Thomas Merton” 🙂 This year it’s “with the Saints. There’s a Scripture reading, somebody reads that – a quote from, in this case, some Saint – a prayer and an “Advent action.” It doesn’t take too long and is pretty helpful usually. OK – I have to go do that now, so Peace and Happy Advent.

    • “Anyway, Advent. Oh wait! First, I have a question – uhhmm, whyyyy is His Holiness dressed like the Pope?? Just wondering about that white on white cassock deal.”

      Actually, the way he was dressed kinda reminded me of Benny Hinn.

    • Fr. Dudley goes more into that in the Nuts and Bolts class. Basically, clergy wear white to honor the Lord. Also, he was the Celebrant that day, meaning he wears a chasuble (sp?), the colored robe of the season. For Advent it would be blue. The talk was between services so he removed the chasuble.

    • Fr. Michael Petty, also of St. Peter’s, wrote this in 2006:

      Question: Why do the people who lead worship wear all that stuff?

      Answer: The choir, lay readers and clergy all wear vestments when they lead worship for several reasons. The most important reasons can be found in Exodus 28 which contains a detailed description of priestly vestments given by God to Moses. Here we discover that vestments were worn to both acknowledge that the priests entered into the holy presence of God and to hide their individuality, emphasizing that they were serving God on behalf of Israel. Exodus 28:43 says that if the priests attempt to serve God without their vestments they will be struck dead by God’s holiness. The history of vestments in the Church is a long one, but the reasons given in Exodus still apply. Each Sunday in the liturgy we enter into the presence of a holy God. Those who lead worship are not actors putting on a show but servants of God on behalf of the Church.

  23. Michael, I couldn’t get the video to play. It kept stopping every few seconds and I would have to hit the Play “button” again. I clicked on the title to go directly to the Vimeo site to see if I could watch it there better and the same thing happened, only it may have been about 10 seconds apart intead of five!

    To o.h.: do you know why we call “Easter” that name? I had always heard about it being because of the fertility-goddess Eostre and did think it strange that if that was true, that the Christian “authorities” never got around to naming Easter something different.

    To John: about your theory about why we celebrate Christmas on Dec 25. That’s interesting. It seems like there must be some writings about it as that date was settled upon. If I have the energy tonight, I will internet search for it.

    • JoanieD,

      We know that April was called in Anglo-Saxon “Eostur-Monath.” In German, it was “Ostar Manod.” Nobody knows exactly what “Eostur” or “Ostar” meant. The German word is extremely similar to the word for “eastern,” and so there’s a lot of speculation that both words derive from “east,” and the month is named for the earlier rising of the sun in spring.

      What makes things interesting is that the English historian Bede, in his book De Temporum Ratione, wrote, “Eostur-month, which is now interpreted as the paschal month, was formerly named after the goddess Eostre, and has given its name to the festival.”

      This is the only reference to a goddess by this name anywhere. Since the Germanic religion was widespread and persisted well into Christian times, the absence of mention of any such goddess has given rise to speculation that Bede was mistaken or dishonest in his account (personally I go for the former, but your guess is as good as mine). One might observe also that Bede doesn’t say anything about her being a fertility goddess; that just gets thrown in to add spice.

      In any case, even if Bede was correct, all he is saying is that the Paschal feast in England (and Germany) is named after the time of year it was observed, which itself was named for a goddess. To suggest that the feast of Easter is really a survival of Eostre-worship would therefore be like suggesting that Ascension Thursday is really a survival of Thor-worship, since the name Thursday derives from Thor. It would also make it strange that Easter is referred to as Pascha (or some variation thereof) throughout the rest of the Christian world.

    • “Easter” is used by germanic and English speaking groups. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches offically call Easter “Pasch” or “Pascha”. Easter is more of a folk name.

      • Thanks, o.h. and Rick. I am Catholic and I always hear Easter being referred to as Easter, though I have heard of Pascha. I vote for working to always call it Pascha!

        • Catholics in English speaking lands call Easter Easter. The “Easter Season” is marked on liturgical calendars and phrases such as “Easter mysteries” pop up in many prayers. The new translation also uses the word Easter, so I don’t think there is any effort underway to change the name to Pascha.

          • For what it’s worth, my breviary calls the Easter season “Paschaltide”, as in “the tones for Paschaltide” or “the Paschaltide antiphons”, but also refers to Easter Sunday.

            There’s nothing wrong with multiple names for things, like Holy Week versus Passiontide, Christmas versus “Feast of the Nativity” and so on.

            Lent is another English-only name that we have no plans to change to “40 days season” or something more international.

            • Well, regarding Curtis’s reply to Alice, in Latin, Lent is “Quadragesima” (a period of forty days), but you won’t hear that outside of DOT-VA or TradCath circles much. As far as how my family, a very Catholic one, with nuns, and now one cousin who is an actual monk (Benedictine of St. Meinrad, IN) spent the Advent season, I think in my youth I spent most of it in a tractor on the farm plowing a field, unless we had a very late harvest. Lent was a much bigger deal. Keep in mind, I grew up in the 80s.

    • From another formerly-pagan territory, Easter in Irish is “Cáisc” which is derived from the church Latin for the season. There is no corresponding pagan feast; the nearest would be Imbolc, in February.

      So whoever Eostre may have been, she was a goddess with a limited base, and the “Easter is really a pagan festival taken over by the Church” is not terribly accurate.

      To quote the good old Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913:

      “The English term, according to the Ven. Bede (De temporum ratione, I, v), relates to Estre, a Teutonic goddess of the rising light of day and spring, which deity, however, is otherwise unknown, even in the Edda (Simrock, Mythol., 362); Anglo-Saxon, eâster, eâstron; Old High German, ôstra, ôstrara, ôstrarûn; German, Ostern. April was called easter-monadh. The plural eâstron is used, because the feast lasts seven days. Like the French plural Pâques, it is a translation from the Latin Festa Paschalia, the entire octave of Easter. The Greek term for Easter, pascha, has nothing in common with the verb paschein, “to suffer,” although by the later symbolic writers it was connected with it; it is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew pesach (transitus, passover). The Greeks called Easter the pascha anastasimon; Good Friday the pascha staurosimon. The respective terms used by the Latins are Pascha resurrectionis and Pascha crucifixionis…The Romance languages have adopted the Hebrew-Greek term: Latin, Pascha; Italian, Pasqua; Spanish, Pascua; French, Pâques. Also some Celtic and Teutonic nations use it: Scottish, Pask; Dutch, Pasen Danish, Paaske; Swedish, Pask; even in the German provinces of the Lower Rhine the people call the feast Paisken not Ostern. The word is, principally in Spain and Italy, identified with the word “solemnity” and extended to other feasts, e.g. Sp., Pascua florida, Palm Sunday; Pascua de Pentecostes, Pentecost; Pascua de la Natividad, Christmas; Pascua de Epifania, Epiphany. In some parts of France also First Communion is called Pâques, whatever time of the year administered.”

  24. Well, I keep finding on the internet that in 350 AD the Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas. The writers said he did so because of the pagan holidays around that time of year. But, I really would like to find something actually written BY him or those around him.

  25. I have not yet had the chance to watch the video, so I will just comment what I am doing/have done.

    This year for Advent, I made a paper chain, one link for each day during Advent, each containing a couple of readings. Each day I remove one of the links, read and meditate on the passages listed, and sing a hymn or two appropriate to the day’s readings.

    One year for Advent, I did a study of the various prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament. When I decorated my tree, I hung the lights, but no ornaments. After studying each prophecy, I chose an object to represent the particular passage I had just read and hung it on the tree. Each subsequent day I began by “reviewing” each of the ornaments and what they represented, before going on to study and medicate on the next passage.

  26. Tom Meacham says:

    Growing up Episcopalian, Advent was one of the few times my family prayed together. The Advent Wreath was kind of a home altar, and at dinner we read scripture and shared a prayer based on the reading. To this day I don’t know if I like Advent because of Christmas, or Christmas because of Advent.

    Sunday the prelude was “Wachet Auf” by Bach. “Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying…” That, and the blue candles and vestments (blue to symbolize Hope) send shivers of hope to my heart and tears to my eyes. Maybe the new year will be different, I can’t say how. “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

  27. Love the video. I have heard Christians complain about the loss of Christmas in the public square. Why? The tragedy is the loss of Christmas in the Christian home.

    I say: Kill Santa, eggnog, shopping, reindeeer & Christmas trees. We need to drive secularism out of the Christian home and the church.

  28. St. Peter’s Anglican Church has posted Part II of Fr. Dudley’s Christmas 101 talk, given on December 6, 2009: http://www.vimeo.com/8021491