It’s getting eerily close to the 3rd year anniversary of our house fire—that dreadful day during Advent when we lost our home. I remember thinking that Advent would be forever ruined for me. Right after dinner, the night of December 21, we read the O Antiphon before we lit the candles and finished the readings. (Never heard of the O Antiphons of Advent? Here’s a little introduction. Also? I beg you to listen to this awesome podcast by Pastor Weedeon about the O Antiphons—such good stuff!)
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.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to Thee, O Israel!
O Key of David and sceptor of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open; come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness, in the valley of the shadow of death.
We read those words and six hours later, in the horror of darkness, our home was in flames, burning to the ground. We were prisoners walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Like Adam and Eve, we had been barred from our paradise. The door to our home had turned to ashes and was blowing in the wind. On the very night when we had read the words that Christ would open wide our heavenly home, all we saw was a path of misery—a long, heartbreaking road that left us exhausted and living in borrowed rooms.
As much as I love to make this home beautiful and cozy and filled with good things, Advent reminds us that we have been exiled from our true home, and only Christ can open what has been closed to us. Sin took everything from us, when we were barred from Eden, but Christ has come to shatter the darkness—to tear down the locked door, to lay down His life across the threshold of heaven and hell and make a way of escape. He has come to rescue the prisoners, all of us, not just from the danger that lurks from without, but from the private hell that slowly kills us all from the inside.
Advent is a time for breaking down, for letting go, for clearing a path, and making things right. Because soon, the very Savior will come to us in the flesh, our Emmanuel. And the heartbreak of Advent, the longing and hoping, the crashing down of old dreams, will all be made right again when He climbs into our skin and sets His eyes toward the Cross. He is coming to make everything right. He is coming to open wide the doors to paradise.
The 2nd and 3rd Sundays are Advent take us to a strange place. While our malls and our homes are merry and bright, we hear a voice that doesn’t seem to belong. The Sunday readings take us to the wilderness, where John the Baptist cries, “Repent!”
We want joy, but we want it on our own terms. We search for it in every wrong place. We want it in the bright and merry comfort of our own lives. But that’s not the kind of joy we’ve been promised. We have been promised salvation in a Savior who has come to live among us, who will Himself be our joy, who will Himself will be our home. The promise of Advent will be fulfilled today, as He comes to us in Word, in Bread and Wine, to forgive us and give us life.
We are finally home, in Him, and it is a joyous homecoming indeed.
Collect of the Day
Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Isaiah 35: 1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; in the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God
will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy,and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
James 5: 1-7
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Matthew 11: 2-15
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.