Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Friday, November 26, 2010

First Sunday in Advent

In the Western church, this Sunday begins a new church year and the season of preparation for Christmas. It was not always so. Advent seems to have started long ago as a season of preparation for Epiphany and baptisms. Then later, it was shortened and re-focused when Christmas entered the Latin calendar during the fourth century. Advent, which comes from the Latin word "coming," stresses the theme of Christ's coming in humility. Later, the theme of Christ's Second Coming was added as a second theme. The Advent Collect composed for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer combines these two themes in a beautiful way.

The Collect
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy 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 quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The Gospel (St. Matthew 21:1-13) also emphasizes Christ's Coming. At this time of the year, the account is not so much about the historical entry of Christ into Jerusalem at Palm Sunday; it is more of a reminder that Christ the Messianic King has come to humanity, keeps coming to us and will come again at the last day. He comes humbly and peaceably as our rightful ruler who does not have to prove Himself. Yet, even when He comes in this simple peaceful way, He is so holy that He automatically brings rebuke and judgment to human corruption, a corruption that had even perverted the purposes of the Jerusalem Temple. So as we begin our preparations for the great Christmas festival, let us also begin to examine our souls. Only through spiritual self-examination, repentance and renewal can we truly develop an appreciation for the good news that Christ's Coming brings.

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