The BCP

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

O LORD, raise up (we pray thee) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through the satisfaction of thy Son our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

The Advent Collect

This Collect is to be repeated every day, with the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas-Eve.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and ever. Amen.

 

Collect Commentary

This Collect is the last for the season of Advent and is used for the Sunday and such other days as they are up to Christmas Eve.

The two major themes of Advent have been the First Coming in humility and the Second Coming in glory of the one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father.

In this last period of Advent the emphasis is upon the Second Advent because from Christmas Eve the emphasis will most solidly be upon the First Coming, the Incarnation of the eternal Son from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Collect is addressed to the Father, the first Person in order of the Holy Trinity, and it is an earnest request that he will gather up his power and descend to his people (by the Holy Ghost) in order to help, succour and sustain them in the race they are running in their earthly pilgrimage towards the goal & fullness of the kingdom of heaven (see Hebrews 12:1).

In making this petition, God's people recognize that due to their sins of omission and commission they have failed to run in God's grace as gracefully and swiftly as they are called to do and ought to have done. Thus they look to the Father to provide them through his Son and by his Spirit, and in grace and mercy, the help they need. In particular they look to the "satisfaction of thy Son", to his perfect obedience of the Father in his life and in his death, as the basis for asking for divine mercy and assistance (i.e., to his active and passive obedience).

If God's people are to live as those who expect the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, then they need not only to watch and pray but also to live as the obedient and faithful servants of God, engaged daily in his service and running the race that is set before them.

The Collect ends in doxology to the Three Persons of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.

 

Epistle Philippians 4.4-7

REJOICE in the Lord alway, and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The Epistle is a magnificent call to live, think, pray and behave as those who are filled with the great joy of Christmas, the Incarnation of God. Christmas-people are a rejoicing, thankful and peace-filled people!

Gospel  St John 1:19-28

THIS is the record of John, when the Jews sent Priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that Prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not: he it is who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The Gospel provides us through the testimony of John the Baptist a further clear statement of the identity of Jesus, who is not only the Messiah, but the Messiah who will fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus the Messiah is not the political liberator of the Jewish people from Roman oppression, but the Redeemer of the Jews and the Gentiles