The First Sunday in Advent ~ The Collect.
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy 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 quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.
An excellent way to focus our thoughts and deepen our understanding of the meaning of Advent is to turn to the Bible. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to know where to start. That is why the Church has provided us with the Lectionary Readings, Scripture passages that are appropriate to every day of the year. In our Book of Common Prayer, the readings for the Advent season are on pages x and xi. One may follow these readings or the abbreviated ones to follow. Every season of the Church year has a certain theme or themes. During Advent, the Church turns primarily to the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Isaiah, as well as Malachi, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Baruch, Amos, Nahum, Haggai, and Zephaniah.
Scriptural readings for the first week of Advent.
During Advent, we should try to slow down our lives, and quietly spend a few minutes each day – reading the following scriptures. There are many themes in Isaiah’s prophecy, but some of the most important are: the need for repentance, conversion of our spirit, and the extension of God’s salvation from Israel to all nations. As we listen to Isaiah call Israel to conversion, we should think those things we need to remove from our own lives this Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.
The punishment of Israel and the Promise of Redemption
First Sunday of Advent – Isaiah 1:1-20 ~ The sins of rebellious Israel and Judah
On the First Sunday of Advent, we read the beginning of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, and of the Sins of Rebellious Israel and Judah. The people were sinning and had turned against God. They had broken their moral and spiritual Covenant with God, and thus were bringing God’s punishment upon themselves. We will hear the prophet speak in the voice of God. He will call the people of Israel in the north and Judah in the south to repentance, and to prepare them for the coming of His Son. As Christians, we must remember that the people of the Old Testament – the Old Covenant – also represent the New Testament Church, so Isaiah’s call to repentance applies to us as well. Christ came to mankind at that first Christmas; but He is going to come again at “the Last Day” -the end of time, so we must prepare our souls. Isaiah admonishes his people to give up their evil ways, learn to do good, seek Justice, help the oppressed, defend the widows and orphans, or the Lord God will let them be devoured by the sword of their enemies – the Assyrians.
First Monday of Advent – Isaiah 1:21-28; 2:1-4 ~ Unfaithful Jerusalem and the LORD’s Reign
In this reading, Isaiah continues to call Israel to account. Jerusalem represents all of Judah, and God compares his people to a prostitute. They had turned from God and were worshiping idols, and they were in spiritual adultery. God reveals His plan to remake Israel. He will purify her as metal is purged in a smelting pot, and He will remove all their impurities. He will make them the shining city on a hill, toward which people of all nations will turn for Peace. They will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, and nations will no longer go to war. This new Israel will be the Church of the New Testament, because it is Christ who is coming to remake her.
First Tuesday of Advent – Isaiah 2:5-22 and Isaiah 42:1-6 ~ A warning of Judgment
The Prophet Isaiah continues the theme of the judgment of Israel in the reading for the first Tuesday of Advent. Because of the sins of the people, God will humble Israel, and the “day of reckoning” – the day of God’s judgment will come, when God will both evil and good. Isaiah chapter 42 begins what are called “the Servant Songs” – about the Servant-Messiah, who will be Jesus, who will show God himself to the world. “Only the LORD will be exalted on that day of judgment” (Is. 2:11), and Christ will shine in glory. Since Christ comes at both His Birth and at the “Second Coming,” and since the Old Testament is a type of the New Testament Church, Isaiah’s prophecy applies to both the birth of Christ and His Second Coming. During Advent, we prepare ourselves for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and we prepare our souls for the Final Judgment.
First Wednesday of Advent – Isiah 5: 1-7 ~ A Song about the Lord’s Vineyard
In this passage for the first Wednesday of Advent, Isaiah discusses the vineyard that the Lord has built—the house of Israel. Those for whom the vineyard was built have not taken care of it. God’s chosen nation was to bear fruit and carry out His work, but the frit was bad, and God tell Israel that he will destroy his vineyard. No other Old Testament writer foretell the life of Christ as well as Isaiah. This passage calls to mind Christ’s parable of the vineyard, in which the vineyard owner sends his only son to oversee the vineyard, and the workers in the vineyard kill him, foreshadowing Christ’s own death.
First Thursday of Advent – Isaiah 16:1-5; 17:4-11 ~ A Message about Moab, Damascus, and Israel
In this reading for the first Thursday of Advent, we see Isaiah prophesying the purification of Old Testament Israel. The Chosen People have squandered their inheritance, and now God is opening the door of salvation to all nations. Israel survives, as the New Testament Church God will establish one of King David’s descendants as king of Israel. God-in-Christ will rule with Mercy and truth and do what is just and right.
First Friday of Advent – Isaiah 19:16-25 ~ A Message about Egypt
The Prophet Isaiah continues with his theme of the conversion of nations in the reading for the first Friday of Advent. With the coming of Christ, salvation is no longer confined to Israel. Egypt, whose enslavement of the Israelites represented the darkness of sin, will be converted, as will Assyria. “When the people cry to the LORD for help against those that oppress them, the LORD will send them a savior who will rescue them (Is. 19:19). The Love of God-in-Christ encompasses all nations, and all are welcome in the New Testament Israel, the Church.
First Saturday of Advent – Isaiah 21:6-12 ~ A Message about Babylon
Isaiah’s prophecy foretells the coming of Christ, and of His triumph over sin. In the reading, Babylon, the symbol of sin and idolatry, has fallen. Babylon was, and remains a symbol of all that stands against God. Despite all its glory and power, Babylon will be destroyed along with its idols. Threshing and winnowing are two steps in the process of farming the wheat. The heads of wheat (used to symbolize Israel) were first trampled to break open the seeds and expose the valued grain inside, called “threshing.” The seed were then thrown into the air, and the worthless chaff blew away while the good grain fell back to the ground, which is called “winnowing.” Israel and the Church will experience the same process: the worthless chaff will be taken away, but God will keep the “good grain” to replenish Israel. Like the watchmen on the city walls, in this Advent, we wait for the morning light and the triumph of the Lord.
Life Application Study Bible – New Living Translation – second edition, Tyndale House publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, 2004
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1997
The Book of Common Prayer (1928), The Church Pension Fund, New York, 1945