Saturday, November 29, 2008
In the four Sundays preceeding Christmas, the church observes the season of Advent (this year starting on November 30). Advent literally means "coming." The Church calendar helps us create a mood of expectation. From the promise to Abraham til the coming of Christ, 2000 years passed. We give a few weeks to recreate this anticipation. We look forward to the coming Christ in his Incarnation (God becoming man). In doing so, we also acknowledge the present anticipation of Christ's second Advent, his coming not in humility but in power.
In the coming weeks, I will have the collect (or common prayer) for that Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer was originally organized by Thomas Cranmer as a help to the many poorly trained priests and their congregants in England during the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism. The Book of Common Prayer was a reforming and evangelical book, allowing for the first time the common man to understand and follow what was occurring in the worship service, whereas before the service was in Latin. In the following years, some Puritans believed the Prayer Book should not be forced on all congregations, as the Word of God in Scripture should be the only regulator of worship. Even so, the Puritans collected their own prayers, and the protest should not be seen as a condemnation in the Reformed tradition of all common prayers, for common prayers can be a help to personal prayer, just as the Lord's Prayer is. So if you see a collect from the Book of Common Prayer, I am not imposing forced prayers on you. If you wish, read it and use it as a help to your own personal reflection and anticipation of Advent.
[Used here will be the Book of Common Prayer 1928. The 1979 book also has some very nice prayers, but I am more familiar with the 1928 book and it feels to me to have a sharper tone and theology to me personally.]