Advent Week 1, Day 1

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Chorus

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

An unknown author wrote this hymn in Latin about 900 years ago. He blended many Old Testament prophecies with an existing poem to create this beautiful Advent carol. The tune we use today comes from a French funeral hymn. The somber feel of the music and the desperate cry to God remind me of the value and the beauty of lament. (I found the lyrics and information at cyberhymnal.org)

This week we’ll begin looking at a pattern of scriptures traditionally read during the Advent season. “Advent” means “the arrival of an important person, thing, or event,” and we use the term to mean the four weeks before Christmas Day. (See footnotes at the end of this post).

During Advent, we look back at the promises of Jesus’ first advent or arrival on earth as a baby, and we look forward to the second advent when he will return.

If you have an Advent Wreath, this is the week to light the first candle and talk about Abraham and Sarah. Surprisingly, they are not mentioned specifically in the Scriptures we are reading this week. But they demonstrate the great themes of Advent: waiting and depending on God’s faithfulness even when you can’t see any hope of the promise being fulfilled.

As you read today’s scriptures, look for two things: phrases you can use as you pray, and a word or phrase to be your treasure today—something you can carry with you in your mind or on a sticky note. Sometimes the scriptures will all fit together with an obvious theme—and other times you will have to look closely to find the common thread running through them.

I know that this can be a busy time of year. Don’t let this study be a burden. If you would like to focus on just one day’s reading each week, please do so. Choose a treasure verse and ponder it every day for the rest of the week. Use it as you pray. Use it to remind you to interact with Jesus all day.

Link to today’s scriptures here.

Psalm 122

Isaiah 2:1-5

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44

Notes
Psalm 22 was a song the Israelites sang as they traveled to Jerusalem for the three yearly feasts that God commanded them to celebrate.

Isaiah 2 shows us a future time when the whole earth is peaceful. In contrast to Psalm 22, where the Jewish people are headed to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, the whole earth is now seeking the ways of God.

Romans 13 gives us guidance as we live between the times—between the pilgrimages of Psalm 22 and the future shown in Isaiah 2.

Matthew 24:37-44: We’ll be reading many passages about Jesus’ return. The goal of this study is not to organize each prophecy in chronological order, but to constantly remember that Jesus is going to return. Pray for a fresh sense of expectancy.

Treasure

Today my Treasure is the phrase “Wake up!” I’m praying for a new awareness of the Lord’s presence and his guidance.

Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
(Romans 13:11b NLT)
…Let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
(Romans 12:12 HCSB)
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
(Psalm 122:1)
He will teach us about His ways so that we may walk in His paths.
(Isaiah 2:3b HCSB)
Come and let us walk in the Lord’s light. (Isaiah 2:5b HCSB)

Wake me up, Lord.
Wake me up to a new gladness in worship.
Wake me up to a new knowledge of your path for me.
Wake me up to your light, brightening even this darkest season of the year.

Footnotes:

I quoted the meaning of the word “advent” from dictionary.com.

I looked for a schedule that focused on Old Testament promises instead of just dividing the Christmas story into four weeks. I found that many churches use the same schedule of readings, and I didn’t see any reason to reinvent tradition. I found basically the same schedules at http://www.lectionarypage.net, http://www.lectionarylibrary.vanderbilt.edu, and http://www.hymnary.org. The schedule follows a three year rotation. I used all three years’ readings. The first day of each week quotes the Year A scriptures, the second day uses Year B, and the third day uses Year C. I occasionally lengthened the readings slightly in order to give us a whole psalm, or to put the readings into context. I first read the schedule of biblical characters in Paula Gooder’s book The Meaning is in the Waiting.

Photo credit: Amy Mayfield

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