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Vicar's Musings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

23 December, 2018

We all know how stressful, and sometimes positively painful, this busy time of year can be. But it is good to remind ourselves of the profound blessings that are to be had over these last few days before Christmas. The disciplines of regular worship, perhaps an Advent course, making time to pray, these all help us to step aside from frenetic end-of-year deadlines and retail frenzy; and then, in the stillness of devotion, our hearts and minds are drawn into the great healing mystery of the Incarnation. One of the great traditions of our faith, over the final week of Advent, is to bring into our daily devotions seven short prayers, one each day, reflecting on the prophetic titles of the soon-to-be-born Christ-child: Wisdom (Sapientia), Lord of Israel (Adonai), Root of Jesse (Radix Jesse), Key of David (Clavis David), Radiant Dawn (Oriens), King of All Nations (Rex gentium) and Emmanuel. The prayers are antiphons, a short sentence sung or recited before or after a psalm, traditionally in this case at the evening office of Vespers. These Advent prayers are known as the "O" Antiphons, after the opening word of each:

(December 17) O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.
(December 18) O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
(December 19) O Root of Jesse, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
(December 20) O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
(December 21) O Radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
(December 22) O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
(December 23) O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Saviour of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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