Advent Calendar

Join us in prayer and meditation this Advent. Discover a new way to commemorate this special time in the church through the lessons, songs and activities provided for each day leading up to Christmas.

Click on the expanding boxes below for each day to view daily Advent worship resources.

The First Sunday of Advent – December 3

Each Advent we repeat the refrain “Come, Lord, Come” which may mistakenly lead us to imagine that God is somewhere else and needs to come down from there to be with us.

But the Advent hope is not that God will come to somewhere God is presently not, because God is deeply present in the world always and ever.

No, the Advent hope is that we will open our eyes and see where God is already present; that we will open our minds and be transformed into agents of God’s will; that we will open our hearts and find room in them for all of God’s beloved creation.

Each Advent offers the possibility of a second coming. Not in the traditional sense of a world-ending conclusive final appearance of the divine, but in the potential of Christ being born again in us. Meister Eckhart put it this way: “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.” To be a mother of God – a calling for men as much as for women – is to allow ourselves to be open to the life-changing grace of God finding a home in us. It is to put ourselves at the service of God in a life which becomes fruitful and procreative.

Each Advent we are called to be open to God’s grace that we may become the hope the world needs if it is to survive, to change and to reach shalom. We are to be the Advent hope.

— The Rev. Canon Ellen Clark-King

Image: Ein adventliches Kerzenlicht in Deutschland by Oxfordian Kissuth (Creative Commons License 3.0)

Monday after Advent 1 – December 4

We grow accustomed to the Dark

We grow accustomed to the Dark—
When Light is put away—
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye—

A Moment—We uncertain step
For newness of the night—
Then—fit our Vision to the Dark—
And meet the Road—erect—

And so of larger—Darknesses—
Those Evenings of the Brain—
When not a Moon disclose a sign—
Or Star—come out—within—

The Bravest—grope a little—
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead—
But as they learn to see—

Either the Darkness alters—
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight—
And Life steps almost straight.

— Emily Dickinson

Image:  Ice lantern on Jäspilänpiha in Kerava, Finland by Anneli Salo; Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Tuesday after Advent 1 – December 5

They who watch for Christ

They who watch for Christ
who are sensitive, eager, apprehensive in mind,
who are awake, alive, quick-sighted,
zealous in honoring him,
who look for him in all that happens, and
who would not be surprised,
who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed,
if they found that he was coming at once…

This then is to watch:
to be detached from what is present, and
to live in what is unseen;
to live in the thought of Christ as he came once,
and as he will come again;
to desire his second coming, from our affectionate
and grateful remembrance of his first.

— John Henry Newman

Image: Robert Dimov, detail from the Meeting Place at St. Pancras (licensed under Creative Commons SA 3.0)

Wednesday after Advent 1 – December 6

St. Nicholas Day

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (now in Turkey) in the 4th century CE. St. Nicholas was known for his generosity to those in need and his care for children and for sailors.

A legend surrounding St. Nicholas is that he provided for families in need by throwing sacks of gold through the window at night. Some families around the world remember this story by making small colorful bags of treats (nuts, candies, oranges) and hanging them on their neighbor’s front doorknobs, with a note from “Saint Nick”!

What gifts do you want to share with others this holiday season? What might delight those you love, and what might be better left unbought? How can you expand your circle of giving? How do you respond joyfully to the gifts you’ve been given?

Image: Ambrogio Lorenzetti: Carità di San Nicola,1330-40 ca. (public domain)

Thursday after Advent 1 – December 7

Advent begins with someone shouting. A person appears in the wilderness of Judea proclaiming, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord!” It is John the Baptist, first celebrant of Advent, the herald of Christ. John’s outfit is decidedly rustic and he dines on locusts and wild honey, but as depicted by El Greco, John is a sober, clear-headed individual, customarily depicted with a knowing gaze.

John’s wilderness is located in the Jordan Rift Valley, about two days walk east from Jerusalem, on the banks of the Jordan River. It is dry scrub habitat, not a barren desert, a suitable place to find locusts, with seasonal streams and springs that support date palms — the likely source of John’s honey. If you have traveled around California, you would recognize John’s wilderness. A person could get lost there, but you can survive and find a way out. Of course, John is also speaking about cultural and personal wildernesses where the path ahead seems crooked and faint, metaphorical locales from which we also need a way out. You might recognize those wildernesses too.

Advent ends with crowds rejoicing. People from Jerusalem and all over the countryside hear John’s voice, take a break from their everyday lives, and join him in the wilderness to find renewal and a straighter path home. Let us also follow John, to a place that is away but not far, neither barren nor silent, and together make the way home straight and wide.

— Jim Simpson

Image: El Greco, St. John the Baptist, ca. 1600, San Francisco Legion of Honor (public domain)

Friday after Advent 1 – December 8

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen,
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create, refashion, and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch or handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet at every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

— St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 CE)

Image: Icon of St. Symeon; public domain

Saturday after Advent 1 – December 9

We do not pray that your birth according to the flesh shall be renewed as it once occurred upon this day. Rather do we pray that your invisible Godhead may be grafted into us. May that which was then accorded after the flesh to Mary alone now be granted in the spirit to the church: that faith unquestioning may conceive you, the spirit free of all corruption may bear you, the soul overshadowed by the power of the Most High may quicken with you evermore. Go not forth from us; spring forth rather from within us.

— From the Mozarabic rite

Image: BrankaVV, detail of a fresco at Zica monastery near Kraljevo, Serbia. (Licensed under Creative Commons SA 3.0)

The Second Sunday of Advent – December 10

This year the second Sunday of Advent falls on December 10. On December 10, 1968 a cloistered American monk who had become an internationally recognized spiritual writer died in Bangkok while attending a conference on interreligious dialogue. Born in southern Europe in 1915, Thomas Merton had been baptized and received early schooling as an Anglican there before coming to America as an immigrant. A long spiritual search led him to Gethsemani Abbey, a Roman Catholic Trappist Benedictine monastery in rural Kentucky where he began his monastic life on December 10, 1941.

In his 1965 collection of essays about the liturgical year, Seasons of Celebration, Merton revives a classic, dynamic view of Advent based on a 12th century sermon by another Trappist monk, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Merton retells Bernard’s description of “three Advents.” Scripture speaks of Christ’s first advent –– “coming” –– “to seek and save the lost.” His final advent would be to take us completely into God’s heart and life. “The first is a promise and the third is its fulfillment. To meditate on these two Advents is to sleep between the arms of God with God’s left hand under our head and God’s right hand embracing us … to live at peace in the midst of our inheritance.”

Nice place to be in early December! What peace can you find in this “middle Advent…in which Christ is present in our souls now?” Don’t wait till the 25th! Can you “recognize the passage of Christ through our world, through our lives, now?”

— The Rev. Canon Mark Stanger

Monday after Advent 2 – December 11

When Gabriel had spoken in due measure and had
heard immediately the responses of the Virgin,
He flew away and came to his bright and gleaming abode;
Then, it is probable that the young woman summoned Joseph to her
And said, “Where were you, my wise husband?
Why did you not guard my virginity?
For a certain winged being has given me a bridegroom.
He has hung his words
Like earrings of pearls on my ears.
Look, see how he has beautified me,
As he adorned me with what he said to me. Just so you will say to me
In a short time, holy one,
‘Hail, virgin wife.’”

When Joseph saw the maiden whom God had blessed as highly favored,
He was struck with fear and amazement,
and he thought to himself:
“Just what manner of woman is this?” he said, “For today
she does not seem to me as she did yesterday.
Both terrible and sweet does she appear
to me now, and it gives me pause.
I gaze upon burning heat in snow,
Paradise in a furnace,
I gaze upon a smoking hill, upon a divine flower with young freshness,
Upon an awesome throne, on a pitiable footstool
Of the All-Merciful One. I do not understand the woman whom I took.
How, then, shall I say to her:
‘Hail, virgin wife’?”

— Romanos the Melodist (6th century CE)

Image: Romanos and the Virgin Mary, Miniature from the Menologion of Basil II (public domain)

Tuesday after Advent 2 – December 12

A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”

Our reading from Isaiah this week provides us with a bewildering array of options for defining our relationship with God. Is God fundamentally the punisher of our misdeeds, or the shepherd who carries us tenderly through all hazards and woes? Are we flimsy handfuls of grass, always at the mercy of wind and sun, or are we the mighty heralds of God’s glory?

If God is inviting us into collaboration, pointing us to the work of making the world an easier place for all God’s people to live and move and grow, then we need to look through our feelings of helplessness and limitation, down into the depths of the power God has shared with us. God’s faithful presence in our lives and in our work does not make us immune to failure and suffering. Raising our voices to praise and to call others to God’s work nourishes our own strength and joy in serving.

What do you want to cry out? Where do people need to hear the voice of God’s mercy and glory?

Image: Icon of Isaiah, late 19th century Russian (public domain)

Wednesday after Advent 2 – December 13

St. Lucy’s Day
Saint Lucy was a young Sicilian woman martyred under the persecution of Diocletian in the early fourth century. Her name is derived from the Latin word for light (lux, lucis), and traditional iconography shows her holding a plate from which her eyes, plucked out by her torturers, capture our own gaze. Those eyes speak not only of her suffering, but of the essence of her holiness, the light of Christ in which she had already come into new life.

Human sight, with its inclination to focus on the imperfections of others and catch us up in distractions, could no longer reveal anything to Lucy. Like Saint Paul, she had already died to herself and been reborn, so that Christ lived in and through her. She can lay down her life because,with the eyes of her heart fully opened, she understands that there is nothing to see but God.

As we approach the point in the year when light begins to increase in the darkness, may our path be illuminated by Lucy’s unconquerable faith and hope. May our own field of vision be expanded so that we can see and experience this life through the wide, all-embracing lens of Christ’s everlasting light.

— Peter Grace

Image: Public Domain

Thursday after Advent 2 – December 14

If you meet the Virgin
coming down the road,
ask her into your house.
She bears the word of God.

— St. John of the Cross

What is pregnant with possibility in your life today? Where do you have the opportunity to welcome good news? How can you strengthen and nourish the new life within you?

Image: Richard Mayer, “The Visitation (Licensed under Creative Commons SA3.0)

Friday after Advent 2 – December 15

St. Peter Chrysologus, archbishop of Ravenna, preaching on the mystery of the Incarnation, examines the love and longing which Advent celebrates. God loves first and then instills in us a deep love and longing to see and know God:

God, seeing the world falling to ruin because of fear, immediately acted to call it back to himself in love. God invited the world back by grace, preserved with love, and embraced it with compassion. In all the events of the first covenant, the flame of divine love enkindled human hearts and exhilarated them. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes.

Yet we might wonder: how could our narrow human vision apprehend God, whom the whole world cannot contain? But the law of love is not concerned with what will be, what ought to be, what can be. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to be consoled when its goal proves impossible, disdains all hindrances to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot obtain what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think of right and wrong. Love inflames desire, which impels it toward things that are forbidden. But why continue? It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they merited was nothing to the saints if they could not see the Lord.

Image: Augustus Saint-Gaudens, “Amor Caritas.” Photographed by Joe Mabel and licensed under Creative Commons SA 3.0

Saturday after Advent 2 – December 16

Every act reveals God and expands His being. I know that may be hard to comprehend. All creatures are doing their best to help God in His birth of Himself.
Enough talk for the night. He is laboring in me. I need to be silent for a while, worlds are forming in my heart.

— Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

Image: Dark, Dark Lane by Face Potter; licensed under Creative Commons Share-Alike 3.0 license.

The Third Sunday of Advent – December 17

The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at
evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. They are called the O
Antiphons because each one begins with “O.” Each uses a name or title of
Christ drawn from Scripture. Today, the Rev. Jude Harmon offers a
reflection on O Wisdom.

Light behaves as both a particle and a wave; its expressive unity defies
easy classification, challenging the obvious categorical dualities that
superficially describe the physical world. It’s no wonder that light is a
favorite metaphor for Wisdom in the Christian tradition.
Wisdom exceeds all our human attempts to define Her. She precedes,
orders, and permeates creation. The earliest Christians felt the warmth of
Her light so unsurpassably expressed in the life of Jesus that they believed
his birth heralded the dawn of a new age in human history marked by Her
power. We remember that the Wise Men follow a star to the place of Jesus’
birth. The Light of the World – this Jesus who reconciles humanity and
divinity, unites grace and truth, fuses unqualified love to perfect justice –
shining out with a radiance greater than any cosmic light.
— The Rev. Jude Harmon

Listen to the Rev. Elizabeth Grundy chant O Wisdom.

O Wisdom, coming from the mouth of the Most High,
spanning the world in power from end to end,
ordering all things for good:
come and teach us the Way of Knowledge.

Take a moment after listening to reflect. Where do you perceive the light of
Wisdom in your life this season?

Image: Lunar crepuscular rays by Brocken Inaglory; Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Monday Advent after Advent 3 – December 18

O Wisdom

The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. They are called the O Antiphons because each one begins with “O.” Each uses a name or title of Christ drawn from Scripture. Today, we consider outreach as a builder of the beloved community and a source of strength for the journey through the work of the Rev. Canon Nina Pickerrell.

After a well-cooked meal with lively companions in the kitchen at St. Boniface, host of the Winter Interfaith Shelter’s Feeding Program, a group of men came back to thank the people who had made and served dinner that night. It had been the first meal with meat that they had eaten in several days. Volunteers had been the hands of God’s mercy and deliverance that evening, and a community had been made around a simple table.

“Adonai” is an ancient word which is often translated “Lord.” The images of this antiphon come from the story of Exodus, and the binding of a people to God and God’s law of faithfulness and unity. The people of Israel left what was known and familiar for a glimpse at a larger, more abundant way of life. God called them to be a people who trusted in divine deliverance and who remained alert to divine presence.

In our day, how can we respond to this call? We can commit to multiplying the paths God can use to reach those who are vulnerable and in need through the use of our own time, resources and talents. We can come together as a people of mercy, generosity, and compassion, who seek and serve Christ in all persons.

As a community, the people of Grace join together to serve our neighbors in so many ways, through Dinners With Grace, our Jail Ministry programs, through Bayview Mission and special events throughout the year. We invite you to learn more about these opportunities to call upon Adonai, to ponder where you are called, and to deepen your response to God’s invitation to serve.

The Rev. Andy Lobban chants O Adonai.

O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire,
and gave him the law of Sinai:
Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

Take a moment after listening to reflect. Think of an aspect of your own life or the life of the world which needs God’s deliverance.
Listen again to O Adonai with this situation in your heart. Where is God present in that situation? Notice that and give thanks.
Notice the sustaining presence of God in your life today.

Image: Winter Interfaith Shelter Feeding Program 2016; photograph by Else Holt

Tuesday after Advent 3 – December 19

O Root of Jesse
The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. They are called the O Antiphons because each one begins with “O.” Each uses a name or title of Christ drawn from Scripture.LISTEN
The Rev. Elizabeth Grundy chants O Root of Jesse. Root of Jesse, standing as an ensign of the people,
at whom kings shall shut their mouths,
to whom the Nations shall seek:
come and deliver us, and tarry not.
Virdissima VirgaHail, o greenest branch,
swaying in the breath of saintly prayersNow your boughs are blossoming
Hail, hail, you hear
for the sun has brought forth from you
the sweet smell of balsam.The flower blooming in you
awakened all the dried-up perfumes
They arise anew in their full freshness.Then the heavens rained dew on the field
and all the earth was cheered
for her womb brought forth fruit
and the birds of the sky built their nests in her.Then was prepared a feast
that all people rejoiced to behold.
O sweet Virgin, you leave
no joy ungiven.— Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179Image: Tree of Life or Blazing Tree by Hannah Cohoon, 1845 (public domain)

Wednesday after Advent 3 – December 20

O Key of David
The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at
evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Each uses a name or title
of Christ drawn from Scripture.

The Rev. Andy Lobban chants O Key of David.

O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel;
that opens and no one closes, and closes and no one opens,
Come and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house,
and those who sit in darkness, and the shadow of Death.

Grace Cathedral’s jail ministries visit women and men who are incarcerated in San Francisco’s jails. Our Stories From Mom/Dad program helps parents remain close to their children by recording them reading bedtime stories, then delivering book and recording to the children. Our evening prayer ministers listen as much as they speak, in a circle of trust and hope that allows people painfully waiting for the next step in their journey through the legal system to share their stories, their fears, and their dreams.

In and out of jails, we meet people who are imprisoned by poverty, addiction, physical and mental health challenges, and damaging relationships. They struggle to gain dignity, stability, and the necessities of life for themselves and those they love. How do we help them unlock the doors to a fuller and freer life? Where can we add to the light of their lives and dispel darkness?

Image: “The Light Shine Upon Us”, taken in Robben Island Prison, South
Africa, by Witstinkhout. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Thursday after Advent 3 – December 21

O Dayspring
The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at
evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Each uses a name or title
of Christ drawn from Scripture.

O Dayspring
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice, rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

“Everything beyond a certain distance is dark, and yet everything is full of being around us. This is the darkness, heavy with promises and threats, which the Christian will have to illuminate and animate with the divine presence.”
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Where do you hold light within yourself? Where will you offer that light today, and to whom?

Image: Helgi Halldórsson, used under Creative Commons share-alike license 2.0

Friday after Advent 3 – December 22


O King of the Nations

The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at
evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Each uses a name or title
of Christ drawn from Scripture

Listen to the O Antiphon O King of the Nations:

O King of the Nations, and their Desire,
the cornerstone
who makes both walls one:
Come and save humankind
whom you formed of clay.
I begin through the grass once again to be bound to the Lord;
I can see, through a face that is faded, the face full of rest
Of the earth, of the mother, my heart with her heart in accord,
As I lie ‘mid the cool green tresses that mantle her breast
I begin with the grass once again to be bound to the Lord.

By the hand of a child I am led to the throne of the King
For a touch that now fevers me not is forgotten and far,
And His infinite sceptered hands that sway us can bring
Me in dreams from the laugh of a child to the song of a star,
On the laugh of a child I am borne to the joy of the King.
— George William Russell (AE)

What leads you closer to God? Where do you find solid ground, and what can you build on the foundations of faith within you?

Image: The oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel (Saint Catherine’s Monastery). The two different facial expressions on either side may emphasize Christ’s two natures as fully God and fully human (public domain).

Saturday after Advent 3 – December 23

O Emmanuel

The O Antiphons are a set of ancient Christian chants, often sung at
evening prayer on the last seven days of Advent. Each uses a name or title
of Christ drawn from Scripture.

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver,
Desire of the nations,
Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord Our God.

“The church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.”
— Charles Borromeo

What are you carrying that you can let go, to make greater space for God in your life? What do you want to be freed from?

Image: William Blake, “Our Lady with the Infant Jesus Riding on a Lamb with St. John” (public domain)

Christmas Eve – December 24

I spent a lot of time on the Bay Bridge while commuting to seminary and during that time I observed the entire construction of the new Bay Bridge. It left its mark on my theology.

Nearly every time I crossed from Treasure Island to the eastern span, I noticed something new about the process. A small crane worked near a huge crane; vertical stabilizers were installed; incredibly brave people walked on planks and cables several hundred feet above the water, creating this enormous structure. It was awesome.

One point in the construction was particularly impressive. For a few weeks, there was an immense scaffolding swinging in what appeared to be mid-air. It was a work of art itself, a very simple wire and wood-planked, long but graceful arc. Its beginning and end were not visible from any point on the bridge that I could see. Just the center of the scaffold structure floated there in the air, an improbable, tenuous and soaring contrast to the gray sky.

My understanding of Advent – this time when we wait for the Messiah, could be likened to this bridge scaffolding, the offer of a soaring and joyous gift whose beginning and end remain out of view but which are undoubtedly present, anchors to the exhilarating story before us.

As daylight comes to evening, and this Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, I pray you are filled with the same soaring joy that comes from knowing the gift you have been waiting for has in fact been born.

–Rev. Mary Carter Greene

Enjoy a moment of peaceful joy with the Selwyn College Choir, who sang with us this summer.

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