Third Sunday in Advent

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon


O Lord Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, 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, now ever. Amen.


Collect Commentary

This Collect was written in 1661 by Bishop Cosin of Durham and inserted into the 1662 edition of The Book of Common Prayer, to replace the Collect that had been in there since the first edition of 1549. This was very brief: "LORD, we beseech thee, give ear to our prayers, and by thy gracious visitation lighten the darkness of our heart..."

The Address. In The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 only three Collects are addressed to the Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Advent 3, St Stephen's Day & Lent 1) while the rest are addressed to God, the Father. Here Jesus of Nazareth is thought of as the exalted Messiah, who has been given the name of "the Lord" by his Father. He reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father as the Lord of lords and King of kings over the whole universe and also over the kingdom of the Father, wherein are all the redeemed and holy angels.

The Recollection. As we address the Lord Jesus Christ, we recall in his presence an aspect of that which he has done in salvation history in order for it to become the basis for our specific petition to him. And what we recall is that He as the Lord of history and salvation caused John the Baptist to prepare the way for himself, as the Messiah of Israel, and for his messianic ministry of bringing the message and power of the kingdom of God from heaven to earth. We are not here presuming to tell the Lord Jesus what He already knows perfectly; but, rather, we are remembering in his presence what we need to have in mind in this act of prayer.

The Petition. God's people pray especially this Sunday and during the week for those who are ordained ministers, that they may be faithful heralds of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ even as John the Baptist was a faithful herald of the ministry of the Messiah at the First Coming. The description of a Christian minister (from the original Greek words of the NT) is in terms of a rower (huperetes) in the Church's galley and as a steward (dispenser/housekeeper) in the household of God. As slaves/rowers in the Church's galley, ministers receive orders and the timing of their rowing from the Captain, who is also their pilot on the voyage. As stewards or housekeepers, ministers also serve those who attend Christ's Banquet with that which the Lord himself has provided (see the Epistle reading). If the ministers are faithful as rowers and stewards they will be God's agents in bring people to repentance from sin and commitment to holiness and service of the Lord.

This prayer for clergy is particularly meaningful on this Sunday for Advent 3 is an ember week and Advent 4 is traditionally a time for ordinations. The Aspiration. No-one knows when the Lord Jesus will return to earth in power and great glory and accompanied by the holy angels. Yet it is most necessary that the household of God, the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, be in such a state of faithfulness, godliness and preparedness, that they may be found an acceptable people at his Parousia/Appearing. They want to hear at the Judgement his words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant."

The Termination. Since this Collect is addressed to the Second Person of the Holy, Blessed Trinity, the ending unites Him with the First and Third Persons in a brief doxology. There are three Persons, each of whom possesses in totality the One Godhead or Divinity/Deity and thus we say, "Three Persons and One God. A Unity in Trinity and a Trinity in Unity."


Epistle The Epistle. 1 Corinthians 4:1

LET a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified; but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.

The Epistle is in part the inspiration for the Collect. While the people of God have certain legitimate expectations of the clergy, it is God the Father who will ultimately be the Judge of all.

Gospel The Gospel. St Matthew 11:2-1

NOW when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? a prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

The Gospel describes the entry - the Coming - of Jesus of Nazareth into the holy city as the Son of David, the Messiah and the Lord. Thus it helps us recall the other two Comings, the Incarnation as a baby and the Parousia at the end of the age as the Lord of all lords.