Advent has always been my favorite season of the liturgical year, especially when I was a Lutheran pastor. The prayers, the Scriptures, the hymns, the Advent wreath, all played their proper roles in stirring up hope in the midst of what might otherwise be a dark and gloomy time of early winter. Rediscovery of the Advent season can be a powerful antidote to the commercialism of the secular Christmas that bombards us on every side.
And now, some reflections for this week. (I’m traveling this weekend, so posting it a little early).
From the Lutheran Book of Worship …
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
And readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C.
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!
Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!
Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!
The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!
Rejoice, rejoice, believers, and let your lights appear.
The evening is advancing, and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising, and soon He draweth nigh.
Up, pray, and watch, and wrestle: At midnight comes the cry.
See that your lamps are burning; replenish them with oil.
And wait for your salvation, the end of earthly toil.
The watchers on the mountain proclaim the Bridegroom near.
Go meet Him as He cometh, with alleluias clear.
O wise and holy virgins, now raise your voices higher,
Until in songs of triumph ye meet the angel choir.
The marriage feast is waiting, the gates wide open stand;
Rise up, ye heirs of glory, the Bridegroom is at hand.
Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou Sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that brings us unto Thee.
Ye saints, who here in patience your cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever, when sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory the Lamb ye shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him your diadems of gold!
O Lord, how shall I meet You, how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet You, my Hope, my heart’s Delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy, a lamp within my breast,
To do in spirit lowly all that may please You best.
Love caused Your incarnation, love brought You down to me;
Your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace
In love all loves excelling our lost and fallen race.
A glorious crown You gave me, a treasure safe on high,
That will not fail nor leave me as earthly riches fly.
My heart shall bloom forever for You with praises new,
And from Your Name shall never withhold the honor due.
Come, O precious Ransom, come,
Only hope for sinful mortals!
Come, O Savior of the world;
Open are to you all portals.
Come, your beauty let us view;
Anxiously we wait for you.
Enter now my waiting heart,
Glorious King and Lord most holy.
Dwell in me and never leave,
Thought I am but poor and lowly.
What vast riches will be mine
When you are my guest divine!
My hosannas and my palms
Graciously receive, I pray you;
Evermore, as best I can,
Homage I will gladly pay you,
And in faith I will embrace
Life eternal by your grace.
Hail! Hosanna! David’s Son!
Jesus, hear our supplication!
Let your kingdom, scepter, crown
Bring us blessing and salvation
That forever we may sing:
Hail! Hosanna to our king!
The advent of our God
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must meet Him on His road
With hymns of holy joy.
The everlasting Son
Incarnate deigns to be;
Himself a servant’s form puts on
To set His people free.
Daughter of Zion, rise
To meet thy lowly King,
Nor let thy faithless heart despise
The peace He comes to bring.
As Judge, on clouds of light,
He soon will come again,
And all His scattered saints unite
With Him in Heaven to reign.
Before the dawning day
Let sin’s dark deeds be gone;
The old man all be put away,
The new man all put on.
All glory to the Son
Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever One,
Through all eternity.