Tag Archives: O Antiphons

Preparing: O Emmanuel

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We continue our series reflecting on the O Antiphons, the prayers for the seven days before Christmas.

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, hope of the nations and our savior: come and save us, O Lord our God.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

“The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Emmanuel means “God with us”–God not far away, not enthroned on high, not distant and uncaring, but here, in our midst, sharing our flesh, our life, our pain, our hopes, our dreams, our hungers, our fears, our tears, our laughter, our achey joints from so much walking, our sights and sounds and smells, our tastes and loves and losses. This is the scandal of the Christian faith–that God would lower Godself to take on mortal flesh, to be in a particular time and place with a particular people, to know bodily life and suffering and death. This is the Big Idea of Christianity, the thing that makes us different from other faith traditions–that we claim that God came In The Flesh, that God was incarnate in one man so that the divide between divine and human might be bridged once and for all. This incarnate word, God made flesh, come to dwell among us, brings us the good news that we too can be fully human, that the flesh is not evil, that God can be known right here, right now, just as we live and breathe and eat and drink and suffer and rejoice. This life matters so much that God came and lived it with us. Life before death–what God is all about in the Christian story.

How have you seen and known God with YOU this Advent season? Where do you hope to see God in the flesh in the coming season?

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Preparing: O King of the Nations

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We continue our series reflecting on the O Antiphons, the prayers for the seven days before Christmas.

O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations)

O King of the nations, you alone can fulfill our desires: cornerstone, binding all together: come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9.6-7)

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2.2-4)

What does it mean for Christ to be King of the Nations? Not just king in our hearts, though that is important. Not in the sense of having Christian Governments (whatever that means). What would it look like if we, the body of Christ, believed and lived as if our citizenship was in this kingdom of God that is so eloquently described by the prophet? Jesus lived his life as if he was living in the kingdom of God here and now. In many ways, the early church described in the book of Acts tried to do the same. Of course, neither the gospels nor Acts give us much hope that this way of life will lead toward the kind of success our culture values, but might it lead to a different kind of success? The kind where justice and righteousness reign, where the implements of violence are turned into implements of care, where we live in peace? It’s hard to imagine, and the argument always is that if you turn your sword into a plow, someone who didn’t will come along and kill you with their sword (and take your plow). Does that mean we should strive for this, and pray for this, and pray to be made into instruments of God’s reign, anyway?

Can you imagine a world in which Christ is King of the Nations? What would that be like, and how can we work toward that day?

Preparing: O Morning Star, O Radiant Dawn

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We continue our series reflecting on the O Antiphons, the prayers for the seven days before Christmas.

O Oriens (Radiant Dawn, Morning Star)

O Morning Star, splendor of the light eternal and bright sun of righteousness: come and bring light to those who dwell in darkness and walk in the shadow of death.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:2)

This is one of the great metaphors of the Advent and Christmas season–light shining on those who live in the land of darkness. Our Christmas Eve call to worship comes from these verses (well, from verses 2 and 7 of Isaiah 9!), because this is such a powerful image. Depending on the translation you choose, it could be dawn breaking forth–like the most beautiful of sunrises, with light spreading from the horizon over all the earth, colorful and bright and illuminating, or it could be the Morning Star, the guiding light that shines just before dawn, showing us the way. Either way, it is definitely light shining in the darkness–and the good news is that the darkness cannot overcome it.

What darkness do you walk in? What light do you need in the land of deep darkness?

Preparing: O Key of David

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We continue our series reflecting on the O Antiphons, the prayers for the seven days before Christmas.

O Key of David

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel; you open and none can shut; you shut and none can open: come and free the captives from prison, and break down the walls of death.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

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.” (Isaiah 22:22)

This is one of the stranger metaphors, but one that Jesus used himself when describing his mission and that of the body of Christ he was creating. What the Messiah opens, none can shut. We know from other parts of Isaiah (for example, chapter 61) and from Jesus’ own words that his mission was to open the love of God to all–to break down the dividing walls of hostility, to open the eyes of the blind, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim good news, freedom to captives, the year of God’s jubilee. One common image is of Jesus “opening heaven’s door.” While we don’t like to think that God was somehow locked up and a key was needed to let us have access to God’s grace, that idea has been with humanity a long time (and is still with us in some insidious ways)–that we need a special ritual, a special person, a special sacrifice, special words, a particular prayer, to have access to God. In this prayer we remind ourselves that is simply not true–Christ has opened the door, and none can shut it.

Can you imagine yourself freed by the Key of David, freed to love yourself and others, freed to set others free, free to have a relationship with God without the need for perfection or the-right-way?

Preparing: O Root of Jesse

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We continue our series reflecting on the O Antiphons, the prayers for the seven days before Christmas.

O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the nations; kings will keep silence before you for whom the nations long; come and save us and delay no longer.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Amen.

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11:1–and keep reading the chapter for more on this idea!)

Out of a stump, a dead thing, something left behind, new life will sprout. Where everything seemed hopeless, hope springs forth. Just when all seemed lost and dried up–whether that refers to the people of Israel, who still waited while living under occupation, whose lives and nation and economy were not their own; whether it refers to any people of God, who have waited for God to do a new thing; or whether it’s a spiritual statement of waiting in the darkness and the valley of the shadow of death, still the promise holds–God will bring life out of death, newness out of a dried up old stump. And so we pray: delay no longer–come, Lord Jesus.

Where do you need to know God’s promise of new life?