Keeping the Church Calendar

Our goal at is to reacquaint Christians not only with the seasons of Advent and Christmas, but with the Church Calendar more generally. That's because all time is sacred. The annual seasonal cycle of the Church Calendar keeps us immersed in the Gospel story, helping us to walk with Christ throughout the year.

Advent and Christmas are now past, but this site keeps going. You'll see two big changes going forward:

  • A redesigned and simplified home page, with a section called "What Time Is It?" that highlights the current church season, dates, themes, and how to learn more.
  • Throughout the year, the blog will feature posts on the different church seasons and special days, with resources aplenty: lectionary readings, prayers, short reflections, and selections of music, poetry, and art.

We want to know if this site is useful to you, and whether and how we can improve it. Don't hesitate to contact us with feedback.

Grace & peace,

The Great "O Antiphons" of Advent

Among the richest treasures of Advent are the Great "O Antiphons." The Antiphons are a series of seven ancient verses that use prophecy and biblical imagery to express the ever-present longing for Christ. They're beautiful, theologically deep poetry, and they serve as the “heralds of Christmas," reminding us that the fast of Advent is almost over and the feast of Christmas is almost here.

A different Antiphon is sung or chanted on each of the seven nights leading up to Christmas, beginning today, December 17.

The Great O Antiphons

December 17

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching from one end to the other mightily,
And sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
Who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
And gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

December 19

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
Before you kings will shut their mouths,
To you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

December 20

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel;
You open and no one can shut;
You shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
hose who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 21

O Morning Star,
Splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of the nations, and their desire,
The cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
Which you fashioned from clay.

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and our lawgiver,
The hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Anglican men's religious order, has a series of short videos on the Antiphons, all available at our YouTube page. Each video features one of the Antiphons sung in English plainchant, followed by brief commentary.


EXPLORING The ANTIPHONS' theological riches 

The Antiphons may be ancient, but they speak across the ages. Preceded by the poetic “O” to express yearning and wonder, each prays for Christ to come and adds a different dimension to that prayer: teach, redeem, deliver, lead, enlighten, and save. (The prayer “Come and save” appears twice, surely because it is the deepest cry of our hearts.)

Consider incorporating the Antiphons into your Advent practices, for example by reciting them as nightly prayers over the next week. To enrich your experience of the Antiphons, here are a other few things worth noting.

Origin: The Antiphons are old. They date at least to the 8th century, and probably earlier. If you think they sound familiar, you’re right -- the Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is actually a synthesis of the Antiphons.

The Gospel story: The story of the Gospel unfolds progressively in the Antiphons. December 17 tells of creation. December 18 recounts God’s giving of the Law to Israel. On December 19, we remember that out of Israel, from the line of Jesse, came Jesus, the promised Messiah. December 20 and 21 are allusions to Christ’s death and resurrection. December 22 and 23 foreshadow the Last Days when Christ, the hope of nations, will come again to save.

“Tomorrow I will be there”: Each Antiphon addresses Christ by a different title, a name or attribute by which He is known in Scripture. In the original Latin, the first letters of these titles form an acrostic that, spelled backwards, reads “Ero cras,” which means “Tomorrow I will be there.” 

More Resources

Songs for Advent

One of our big goals at is to reacquaint Christians with the Church Calendar and recover Advent as a distinct sacred season

One way we do this in our own home is through music. Along with Christmas carols and winter songs, we mix in music that reflects the waiting, longing, and ache of Advent. Here's what we're listening to right now.

Advent by The Brilliance

We love pretty much anything by The Brilliance, and their Advent Volume 1, Advent Volume 2, and Advent B Sides are among our favorites. Follow our playlist on Spotify to listen. (Note: Advent Volume 2 is not available on Spotify, so check out iTunes.)

I have so many favorites on these albums. This year, "May You Find a Light" has risen to the top of my list:

There are weary travelers, searching everywhere you go.
Strangers who are searching, longing deeply to be known.
May you find a light.

Midwinter Carols by Joel Clarkson

I'm so grateful to have discovered Joel Clarkson's Midwinter Carols this year — a collection of eight ancient carols and two original interludes, all set to instrumental piano, that I can only describe as musically exquisite. I've put the album on our Spotify, and you can buy it on iTunes. 

Joel's rendition of the 17th-century "Sussex Carol" is especially delightful, not least because of the song's unusual, lilting rhythm. (Nobody uses the 6/4 time signature anymore!)

Advent 24: A playlist for Advent

We've curated a playlist for Advent that we call Advent 24 — 24 hymns and songs full of warning, sorrow, joy, ache, and hope. Check out the Advent 24 page for the playlist and lyrics, and listen on Spotify and YouTube

Watch for the Light: an Advent devotional for adults

Watch for the Light: an Advent devotional for adults

An anthology from well-known Christian writers and thinkers, Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas will deepen your experience of these sacred seasons.

Advent 101: A beginner's guide to the seasons

If you didn't grow up in a liturgical tradition (Episcopalian/Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc.), the Advent season may be unfamiliar territory to you. Maybe you want to learn more about Advent, Christmas (all twelve days of it!), and even the Church Calendar more generally, but you don't know where or how to start. You're in the right place. Here's our Advent 101, a beginner's guide to the seasons:

Advent and Christmas are distinct seasons.

Advent, which means "arriving," consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The central theme of Advent is expectation. It's a season when Christians both prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ's first coming at Christmas two thousand years ago and look forward to Christ's second coming at the end of time.

The Christmas season runs for twelve days from December 25 to January 5. The central theme of Christmas is joyous celebration as we commemorate the birth of Christ our Savior.

Advent traditions impart a preparatory rhythm to the season.  

During the Advent season, let your outward practices reflect and shape the inner preparation of your hearts. The most basic Advent tradition is lighting the candles of an Advent wreath as the season progresses. With each week of Advent, a new candle is lit, and the wreath becomes a growing circle of light, a beautiful symbol of our hope in Christ.

Other practices, like an Advent calendar and decorating the home for Christmas, are wonderful ways to experience the rhythms of Advent. Kids love these traditions, too! Our own kids look forward to them every year.

Christmastime is a joyous festival.

While Advent is a season of expectation, Christmas is a season of celebration. Christmas is less rhythm and more revelry. Gather with friends and family, throw a party or two, share meals, give gifts, sing carols, play games. It’s hard to go wrong at Christmastime. It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

And the celebration doesn't end on December 25. The season of Christmas lasts for twelve days. Find ways to "keep the party going" through fun-filled traditions, feastdays, and music.

Advent and Christmas are seasons of the Church Calendar.

The Church Calendar or Christian Year is an annual cycle of seasons that correspond to key events in the life of Christ. Through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost, Christians for centuries have commemorated Christ's birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and second coming.

The Calendar is a way of keeping and seeing time differently. It's a way of centering our time and activities around Christ. Advent is always the beginning of a new Christian Year. Learn more about the Church Calendar here.

So how do I get started?™ was designed to help Christians get started with Advent, Christmas, and the Church Calendar. And if you've already started, we hope the site helps you go deeper. We've designed two resources to bless you in your journey through the seasons:

  • Seasonal calendar: Our seasonal calendar has the key dates for the Advent and Christmas seasons, including the special feastdays to enrich your journey. Print it off and hang it on your fridge!
  • Family Guide to the Seasons: The Family Guide is a short devotional resource, chronologically arranged, with easy reference to the practices, prayers, Scripture readings, and even musical selections for the days of the seasons. Pull up the web version on your phone or tablet. We also designed a booklet version that can be printed double-sided and folded and stapled down the middle.

Stay tuned!

As Advent approaches and throughout the seasons, follow us here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more ideas, from crafts to book reviews, to help make the holidays more meaningful and more Christ-centered.