a priest's musings on the journey

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sermonette: Advent: Prepare your hearts! Christ is Coming!

Tonight at sundown the Church begins the season of Advent. The word Advent means coming or arrival. During Advent, the Church prepares itself and awaits in expectant anticipation the coming of Christ in the manger in Bethlehem. It also joins with all of nature, which is groaning in anticipation of its redemption, for future coming of Christ in clouds of glory, when Evil will be vanquished, the final redemption of the universe will be accomplished, and God's Reign of Peace will hold sway.

During these four weeks of Advent, the Church's sense of being caught between the Coming of Christ as the Incarnation of God as a human being and the Coming of Christ as the Reigning King of the Universe is heightened. Our readings in worship and prayer, and the imagery and rituals of Advent all point to the darkness of our world and the coming Light that will shatter the darkness and radiate all of creation with the splendor of God's glory. As we grow closer to that Light, we begin become more aware of the darkness in our own hearts. So we are called by the Holy Spirit to repentance; we are called to examine ourselves and to turn away from those things that dim the Christ Light in our hearts. We are called to prepare ourselves for the Coming of Christ, and to be alert and watchful, because He will come when we least expect it.

Although this is a pentitential season, it is also a hopeful season. We spend time looking at the darkness of our heart; but, we rejoice that God has not abandoned us in our sinfulness. God has shined His Light in our hearts, God has already come and walked among us; God is with us; God is tranforming us to be like God. Our preparation and penance culminates with the celebration of Christ's first coming, when we stand at awe before the mystery of a God, whom the Universe can not contain, who became a helpless baby in order to show us the way of salvation. Because we see love and Light of God shining in the holy child Jesus, we are confidant that we will see that same Jesus returning to conquer sin and evil once and for all at the culmination of history. Because we see that God loved us so much, that he became one of us so that he could identify and sanctify our pain and suffering, our joys and delights, and our hopes and fears, we can trust that God's love will overcome Evil in the end.

One of the customs of this season is the lighting of Advent Candles in an Advent wreath. The evergreen wreath is symbolic of the eternal life of God that is offered to each of us. The four candles represent the time of waiting that we must endure as we anticipate Christ's coming. The flames of candles are symbolic of the Light of Christ that is shining in the darkness, and our call to be Light in the world. As the weeks of Advent progress, more candles are lit, symbolizing the recession of darkness as the Light of God and our Hope for Christ's coming grows stronger. In the Latin Rite, 3 purple candles and one Rose candle are used in the wreath. Purple is the color of repentance (also used during Lent) as well as the color of royalty, used in anticipation of the Coming of Christ the King. The Rose candle, lit on Gaudete Sunday (meaning "Rejoice") and on evenings of the Third week of Advent, points to the rejoicing that we feel as the Coming of Christ gets closer. During this week we get a break from the pentitential aspects of the season, and concentrate more on the Hope and Joy of Christ's coming among us.

In the Anglican Tradition, there has been a revival of the Sarum Rite in many parishes during Advent. Sarum means Salisbury in Latin. The Sarum Rite refers to the litugical tradition and Rite that was used at Salisbury Cathedral and much of England before the Refornation. It is different than the Roman Rite in several ways. One of the differences is its elaborate liturgical color scheme. In the Sarum Rite, blue is used during Advent. The recovery of Sarum blue in Advent differentiates the season from Lent, and places the emphasis less on penitential preparation and more on a meditative, introspective preparation for the promised Comings of Christ.

Sarum blue is also appropriate for Advent because of its association with the Mother of God, who is our greatest companion during this period of hopeful waiting. Although the Sarum Rite used white for The Virgin Mary, the Roman Rite uses blue for her, and she is readily brought to heart and mind when we see her color in the candles and fabrics of the liturgical hangings and vestments.

Advent is also a time where we are called to be still; to be quiet, to look within ourselves to see God within us and to see how those life practices that threaten to separate us from God. It is a time of gestation and growth, as we lay aside those selfish/dark practices that dim God's light within us, and take on more Christ/God centered practices which will enable the Christ to be born in us. Because of the busy-ness that the secular world brings to our lives during these weeks, one must be diligent and intentional in creating space in one's life for meditation, introspection, and silence. The practice of creating a home advent wreath, blessing it and lighting it with simple prayers before dinner is one way to do that. You might also consider journaling, enaging in forms of contemplative prayer, such as centering prayer, lectio divina, or yoga, or making time for a quiet walk where you can clear you thoughts and quieten your soul to hear a word from God (you might be surprised through whom or through what God reveals Himself to you).

Here is a simple service you can use in your home with your friends and/or family as you light the advent wreath. Or, you can join me each evening with a Service of Light and Advent Devotions before Evening Prayer at my podcast... you can listen here www.switchpod.com/p6026.html

Tonight, my son and I will bless our Advent wreath, and say Compline- you can listen at the above link if you'd like.

Here's the Advent Wreath Service of Light

The family gathers around the wreath (which is not yet lit).

Leader: Light and peace, in Jesus Christ our Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.
Leader: Let us pray.

Prayer for the first week of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for the second week of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for the third week of Advent
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for the fourth week of Advent
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The candle or candles may now be lit

O Gracious Light Phos hilaron (said together)

O gracious Light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Scripture Reading
(Suggested passages for the day are listed below)

After the reading
Reader: The Word of the Lord
All: Thanks be to God

The Peace
Leader: The peace of the Lord be with you
All: And also with you

Leader: The Lord be with you
All: And also with you
Leader: Let us pray

All pray The Lord's Prayer

Leader: The Lord bless us and keep us. Amen.
The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious to us. Amen.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon us and give us peace. Amen.

Leader: Let us bless the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

Put out the candle or candles

Suggested Bible passages

First Week
Sunday Matthew 25:1-13
Monday Isaiah 1:16-18
Tuesday Isaiah 60:1-3
Wednesday Psalm 43: 3-5
Thursday Isaiah 58:6-9
Friday 1 John 2:8-11
Saturday 1 John 3:1-2

Second Week
Sunday Isaiah 40:1-5
Monday Revelation 1:7-8
Tuesday Matthew 22:41-45
Wednesday Hosea 11:3-4
Thursday Psalm 130
Friday Micah 6:6-8
Saturday Jeremiah 14:8-9

Third Week
Sunday Isaiah 9:6-7
Monday Isaiah 7:10-14
Tuesday Isaiah 11:1-6
Wednesday Isaiah 40:10-11
Thursday Isaiah 52:7
Friday Jeremiah 33:14-16
Saturday Malachi 3:1-2

Fourth Week
Sunday John 3:16-21
Monday Luke 1:1-25
Tuesday Luke 1:26-38
Wednesday Luke 1:39-56
Thursday Luke 1:57-66
Friday Luke 1:67-80

Dec. 24 Matthew 1:18-25

Not all fourth week readings are each year. Skip to the Christmas Eve reading on the 24th
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 7:15 PM


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