06 November 2020

AN EXTENDED ADVENT—SEVEN WEEKS




PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS

The weeks before Christmas are a busy and often a chaotic time. There is so much to do. Each year out list gets longer. Every year the preparations begin earlier. Sometimes we loose ourselves in the hurriedness and to-do-lists.

While Advent has been observed a season of preparation to celebrating Christmas for many centuries, the length of the season has changed several times over the course of history. Earlier, Advent was a longer season. It is just in the last century that Advent got shortened to four weeks. Nevertheless, as the month of December became so crowded with secular activities and the demands of our culture, the shortness of the time for our preparation too often became overshadowed in all the other tasks and traditions of our contemporary age,

Thus, extending Advent to a longer, 7 week, time of preparedness, we are given an intentional time frame in which to live more deeply into making ready for Christmas and the good news of Emmanuel, God with us. Beginning Advent on the Sunday following All Saints' Day, we have the opportunity to get into the Advent way of things at about the same timing as Christmas decorations begin adorning shop shelves. Hence, we may focus on the purpose and meaning of Advent at a time when we are just beginning to think about Christmas. Rather than getting overwhelmed by the hectic pace of December's expectations, we are able to slow down and be more focused on living into the themes of Advent that will, in turn, shape our experience of Christmas.

Since the 7th century, the "O antiphons" (which we know today as the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel") have been a rich tradition being sung in worship on the last seven days of Advent. Having 7 stanzas makes the hymn quite suitable as the theme for as extended Advent. Each week, the attributions of God named in the verses become our focus. The schedule is simple and covers a wide array of God's presence, actions, and promises that are found in scripture. The seven themes are as follows:

Week 1 (11/8 through 11/14)—Wisdom (Sapientia) Isaiah 11:2-3 and 28:29
The Spirit of YHWH will rest on you—
a spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a spirit of counsel and strength,
a spirit of knowledge and reverence for YHWH.
You will delight in obeying YHWH,
and you won’t judge by appearances,
or make decisions by hearsay. You will treat poor people with fairness
and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden.
All of this also comes from YHWH Omnipotent,
magnificent in counsel, wonderful in wisdom.
  • (Latin) O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
  • (English) O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.
Week 2 (11/15 through 11/21)—Great God of Might (Adonai) Isaiah 11:4-6 and 33:22
You will delight in obeying YHWH, and you won’t judge by appearances, or make decisions by hearsay. You will treat poor people with fairness and will uphold the rights of the land’s downtrodden. With a single word you will strike down tyrants; with your decrees you will execute evil people. Justice will be the belt around this your waist—faithfulness will gird you up. 
Then the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the lion cub will graze together, and a little child will lead them.
YHWH is our judge, YHWH is our lawgiver, YHWH is our ruler—the One who frees us!
  • (Latin) O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
  • (English) O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.
Week 3 (11/22 through 11.28)—Sovereign of the Nations (Rex Gentium) Isaiah 2:4 and 9:7
God will judge between the nations and render decisions for many countries. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation will not raise the sword against another, and never again will they train for war. This dominion, and this peace, will grow without end, with David’s throne and realm sustained with justice and fairness, now and forever. The zeal of YHWH Omnipotent
will accomplish it!”
  • (Latin) O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
  • (English) O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.
Week 4 (11/29 through 12/05)—Key of David (Clavis David) Isaiah 9:6 and 22:22
For a child is born to us, an heir is given us, upon whose shoulders dominion will rest. This One shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Strength of God, Eternal Protector, Champion of Peace. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder.** When he opens, no one will shut. When he shuts, no one will open.
  • (Latin) O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
  • (English) O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Who dost open and no man doth shut, Who dost shut and no man doth open, come and bring forth from his prisonhouse the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Week 5 (12/06 through 12/12)—Day Spring/Morning Star (O Oriens) Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:78-79
The people walking in darkness are seeing a brilliant light—upon those who dwell in a land of deep shadows light is shining! Such is the tender mercy of our God, who from on high will bring the Rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
  • (Latin) O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
  • (English) O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Week 6 (12/13 through 12/19)—Root of Jesse/Jesse's Branch (Radix Jesse) Isaiah 11:1; 11:10-11 and Romans 5:12
Then a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse; from Jesse’s roots, a branch will blossom...On that Day, the Root of Jesse will serve as a symbol to the peoples of the world—nations will flock to you, and your home will be a place of honor. On that Day, YHWH will once more raise a hand to recover the remnant of what is left of the people, and gather them in. “The root of Jesse is coming and will arise to rule over the nations,
and they will place their trust in the Coming One.”
  • (Latin) O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare. 
  • (English) O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.
Week 7 (12/20 through 12/24)—Emmanuel/God With Us (Rex Domine Deus) Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23
Therefore, the Holy One will give you a sign: This young woman will become pregnant and will give birth. You will name the child Immanu-El. This child will be living on curds and honey by the time it knows how to refuse evil and do good. “The virgin will be with child and give birth, and the child will be named Immanuel”—a name that means “God is with us.”
  • (Latin) O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
  • (English) O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the Nations and their Savior, come to save us, O God our God.

PRAYER FOR ADVENT (click here for video)

O Immanuel, God with us, truly in this Advent season we celebrate that you are not hidden in some faraway cloud, but you chose to be with us in the blur and mystery of our lives.
In the midst of lists and rush, you are with us as a song that echoes in our minds, as the light of a candle, as a card from a friend. They are signs of your presence.
We turn to you this season and pray that you would birth joy and healing, blessing and hope in us.
Let something wonderful begin in us — something surprising and holy.
May your hand be upon us. Let your love fill us. Let your joy overwhelm us.
Let our longing for you be met on a coming holy night. Immanuel with us once again.
Amen. (—by the Rev. Jerry Chism)