St Alban’s Episcopal Church
Bolivar, Missouri

Friday, December 17, 2021

What are the “O” Antiphons?
What are the “O” antiphons? In fact, what is an antiphon?
An antiphon is a short verse that sometimes precedes and follows the singing or chanting of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) which is read daily at the service of Evening Prayer. Towards the end of Advent, there are seven specific antiphons that are used to heighten our expectation of the coming of the Lord.
Each begins with the familiar “O” of invitation – as in, “O Come, O come, Emmanuel” and the texts of the Advent antiphons actually appear in the verses of the hymn.

Today begins the first of the seven “O” antiphons, inviting Wisdom, personified, to come – and if we were singing, this is what we would hear:
“O come thou wisdom from on high, who ord’ rest all things mightily. To us the path of wisdom show, and teach us in her ways to go”
And our little Advent carol that we sing during communion echoes those same longings, and sometimes the same words as the antiphons –
All during Advent we pray and we sing, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Now that Christmas is so much closer, we pray it with even more urgency.
Each antiphon is a simple prayer we can repeat all day. Today: Come, O Wisdom. God knows we need that in our day and time.

The First Reading for Sunday Micah 5:2-5But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.

So? Okay. There’s a lot in this text, from about 700 years before Jesus. It made sense to the people who heard it, and originally it wasn’t about Jesus at all. But here’s what I love: In its first telling Bethlehem was called out as “one of the little clans of the tribe of Judah.” It was a nothing town. A bunch of nobodies. Not at all the center of power, like Jerusalem. And yet. As is so typical of scripture from beginning to end, it is precisely there, in a little place, among ordinary people, living ordinary lives, that God does God’s thing. Always. Unexpectedly. Irrationally. Barren women, Virgins. Hopeless cases and hopeless causes. Among foreigners, refugees. The poor. Shepherds. Slaves in Egypt. And you – right now, right here.

What’s happening at your house?
I wonder if you are using the Advent wreath? Or the little daily Advent spiral pathway with tiny candles that came form Everything Holy? Have you been cutting the little colored strips and making a chain to discover what people around the world do to celebrate Christmas? Or what about the stand-up Advent Calendar? Or are you slowly building your own Bethlehem?
It’s okay if you do only one practice – or none, but I think even if you get behind and need to “catch up”, the day-by-day preparation for Christmas can help children, and even adults to slow down and let Advent BE Advent.
It isn’t easy with all the last days of school programs and celebrations, and with our own daily busy-ness. But it does help. I speak form a whole lot of years of experience! Rituals practiced and repeated yearly at home help prepare children for worship in the whole community. And what they do over and over they don’t forget, either.

A Suggestion for Saturday Night IF the weather is good, and IF you aren’t too tired, and IF the children aren’t fussy, you might want to drive over to the Methodist Church between 6 and 7:30 pm this Saturday, Dec 18..They are having a drive-through live nativity, with music, hot chocolate and gifts. That means you could drive through the park to see the lights before or afterwards, and do it all from the warmth of your car! You might even have them in pajamas ready for bed – which would make it even easier. It sounds cool. We might even do it.
It’s a picture of what can’t be contained by images, but it’s a real way of helping children see – as is letting them act it our themselves later!



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