Advent: The Script of Scripture

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The 2019 Book of Common Prayer has a prayer for each Sunday of Advent. These prayers are intended to gather the people of the assembly together, focusing their attention and prayers in a unified direction in keeping with the theme of the day. The prayer for the second Sunday of Advent goes like this: “Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This petition reminds us, in these weeks of waiting prior to the celebration of the first Advent of Christ—the birth of Jesus—that we do not wait alone. Instead, like the generations of God’s people prior to the birth of the Messiah, we have the Holy Scriptures that teach us how to wait by faith. In the word of God, we have the blessed hope of everlasting life that has been given in our Savior Jesus Christ. In these weeks, we have a special occasion to reflect on the Old and New Testaments and upon the hope of the Messiah revealed in them, allowing them to train us in patient waiting as we anticipate the celebration of the incarnation of that hope on Christmas day.

But our waiting for the birth of Christ is more than a mere depiction of the past or reenactment of the lives of the faithful who have gone before us. In our conscious waiting for the celebration of Christ’s birth, we are training ourselves to wait more faithfully for Christ’s return. By entering into the story of waiting for the birth of Christ, we get a feel for what it should look like to wait for the return of Christ. We have a certain confidence that Christmas day will come, so we busy ourselves with preparing for it. We do not want to be found unprepared on that day, so we adjust much of our lives and habits so that we will be ready. In so doing, we learn the steps to ready ourselves for Christ’s return so that we will not be unprepared on that day either.

The first step is to embrace the Holy Scriptures. To hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them because they nourish within us grace, patience, and comfort as we anticipate our Lord’s return. In these Scriptures we are given a script for the drama of redemption. We are assigned parts to play, words to pray, and a posture of patient trust. Advent calls us to practice our parts—to rehearse our roles—to wait for Christ by faith in the promise of his coming relayed to us in the Holy Scriptures.

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