A few years ago, I embarked on a little adventure to blog my way through various scripture readings for Lent from the Book of Common Prayer. I entitled the attempt Lenten Lectio and I encourage you you to go back and check out some of the reflections. Last year I began doing the same thing through Advent and my Lectio blog series was born. Now that we have arrived at the Advent season and entered a new year on the Christian calendar, it is time to return to the Advent Lectio blog series. This introduction is a slightly reworked introduction from what I have posted in the past, but it gives a good background on what Advent and the practice of lectio divina are if you are not familiar.
Advent has grown near and dear to my heart over the past 15 years or so. Growing up I had never heard of Advent since my tradition did not follow the Church calendar and generally viewed such “high” church things as empty ritual and suspiciously Catholic. Thanks to some wise pastors and seminary professors I’ve been able to grow out of that suspicion and now see the Christian calendar as a great part of Christian life, worship and spiritual discipline. At the core of Advent is the concept of expectation. We get our word Advent from the Latin word adventus which means, “coming”. Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia which is often used in the New Testament to describe the second coming and return of Christ. So in Advent there is this dual expectation and focus. On one hand we remember the expectation of those living in Israel during the time of Jesus’ birth eagerly expecting the Messiah and looking to God for some kind of intervention in the world. The prophecies of the Old Testament about a Messiah, a new king, a new high priest, and a new prophet sent by God echoed in their hearts and minds. The Gospel of Luke records the response of a prophetess by the name of Anna who highlights this expectation after she saw the infant Jesus in Jerusalem:
She [Anna] approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:38 (CEB)
Practically every Jew in Israel at the time was looking forward to some kind of redemption. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Anna recognized Jesus as the coming Messiah who their Scriptures (the Christian Old Testament) spoke about.
On the other hand, today we look forward to the second coming of Jesus and the advent of God’s Kingdom being established on Earth and the fulfillment of prophecies in the Old and New Testament. As John writes in Revelation:
Look! I’m coming soon. My reward is with me, to repay all people as their actions deserve. I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Revelation 22:12-13 (CEB)
Advent then wraps up in its focus the already and not yet that makes up so much of the Christian faith. We look back to the Christmas memorial of Jesus having already come, but we are also looking forward to the revelation of Jesus in his second coming which is yet to come. Advent calls us to live in the already and not yet as we light candles around the Advent wreath and read stories of both expectation and fulfillment. Every Sunday we light one of the five candles of Advent and not all of them together (until Christmas). All of the candles are already on the wreath, but we light them one by one. As each candle lit represents the fulfillment of a promise and the unlit candles represents the expectation of further promises yet to be fulfilled. Ultimately we end with the Christ candle in the center which is the fulfillment of all our hopes both now and in the future. The fulfillment of both the already and the not yet.
So, each week during Advent I will post a prayer on Sunday and then follow-up with a reflection from that weeks reading on Wednesday. The reflections are inspired by the practice of lectio divina which is one of my favorite ways to read and reflect on scripture. The readings and some prayers will come from the Book of Common Prayer (as provided in the Sunday Worship app on my iPhone). I will alternate between Old, New Testament and maybe a Psalm for the readings because I think it is important that we not only read the familiar Christmas stories and ideas of Advent from the New Testament but also read the promises and expectation of the Old Testament as we live and worship in the tension of the already and not yet.