Thursday, December 16, 2004

Fourth Sunday in Advent

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great
might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let
and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and
mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our
Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without
end. Amen.

The Epistle: Philippians 4.4-7 The Gospel: St John 1:19-28

This Collect is the last for the season of Advent and is used for the Sunday and such other days as they are up to Christmas Eve.

The two major themes of Advent have been the First Coming in humility and the Second Coming in glory of the one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father.

In this last period of Advent the emphasis is upon the Second Advent because from Christmas Eve the emphasis will most solidly be upon the First Coming, the Incarnation of the eternal Son from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Collect is addressed to the Father, the first Person in order of the Holy Trinity, and it is an earnest request that he will gather up his power and descend to his people (by the Holy Ghost) in order to help, succour and sustain them in the race they are running in their earthly pilgrimage towards the goal & fullness of the kingdom of heaven (see Hebrews 12:1).

In making this petition, God’s people recognize that due to their sins of omission and commission they have failed to run in God’s grace as gracefully and swiftly as they are called to do and ought to have done. Thus they look to the Father to provide them through his Son and by his Spirit, and in grace and mercy, the help they need. In particular they look to the “satisfaction of thy Son”, to his perfect obedience of the Father in his life and in his death, as the basis for asking for divine mercy and assistance (i.e., they look to the active and passive obedience of the one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ).

If God’s people are to live as those who expect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they need not only to watch and pray but also to live as the obedient and faithful servants of God, engaged daily in his service and running the race that is set before them.

Not only is this the right way to approach the Christian life it is also the best preparation for the celebration of the Festival of the Incarnation, Christmas.

The Collect ends in doxology to the Three Persons of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity. Advent thus ends in adoration and praise.

The Epistle is a magnificent call to live, think, pray and behave as those who are filled with the great joy of Christmas, the Incarnation of God. Christmas-people are a rejoicing, thankful and peace-filled people!

The Gospel provides us through the testimony of John the Baptist a further clear statement of the identity of Jesus, who is not only the Messiah, but the Messiah who will fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus the Messiah is not the political liberator of the Jewish people from Roman oppression, but the Redeemer of the Jews and the Gentiles from sin, Satan and death.

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.)

No comments: