Advent Evening Prayer Reflection: December 1, 2023

Let us Pray

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.

Over the next four weeks the sermons at this service of Evening Prayer will center around the four advent collects. These prayers, that the priest prays on our behalf as we gather each week to celebrate Holy Communion and the Daily Office are often overlooked or at least not given much thought. But they are incredibly rich works filled with cadences of poetry and prose inspired by scripture and shaped by history which give voice to the Church’s theological convictions and deepest hopes.  It is our prayer that by spending just a little bit of time reflecting on them week by week your understanding will be enlarged and your devotion deepened as we prepare ourselves to receive Our Lord anew.

The Collect we just prayed is sometimes known as the Advent collect, It was written by Archbishop Thomas Cramner for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. Inspired by the 11th Chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans which was the appointed epistle reading for the 1st Sunday of Advent in the Sarum rite. It is called the advent collect because in all previous editions of the prayer book the collect was appointed to be said every day of the advent season after the collect of the day so central was it to Archbishop Cramner’s understanding of the advent season.

         In some ways I wish our current prayer book maintained the practice because in this collect the Archbishop really captured the essence of this season we are about to enter. In just 8 short lines we have a remembrance of Christ’s first advent that we remember at Christmas when he came in humility to take on our mortal nature, and an expectation of his 2nd advent at the end of time when he will come in power and majesty to judge the living and the dead and put all things right.

But this prayer is not just a remembrance of things past and a hope of things future it begins by asking for God’s grace so that we might cast of the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Thus, tying our present reality to all that has come before and that is yet to come.  And that means that we are not just passive recipients in this story but active participants!  There is work for us to do, work we cannot do on our own but work nonetheless!

In our baptismal covenant each one of us promised to turn reject the evil forces that corrupt and destroy the children of God, to repent and return whenever we fall into sin and to seek the things that will help us to grow in Grace….with God’s help. This season of advent invites us to return to this work with renewed vigor. It is because of that first advent, because Jesus came among us taking upon himself and sanctifying our human nature and destroying the power of sin and death that we have any hope of accomplishing these promises. It is only through the grace he brings that we have any hope of being found worthy of being raised with him to life eternal. So as we enter this season, remember this and ask yourself what works of darkness do you need to cast off, and run to Christ in his Word and sacraments for the armor of light to equip you for the battle, and take courage because he is with you every step of the way.

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