First Sunday in Advent

It’s the first Sunday in Advent in the Western Church, when we remember the first coming of Jesus Christ, and we also look forward to when he will come again in glory.

The angel Gabriel had visited Mary and told her she was to be the God-bearer. The annunciation is celebrated on March 28, and the earliest depiction of the annunciation dates from the 3rd century in the catacombs!

Anyway, I thought you guys might be interested in our class last year about The Annunciation and Art

I think at least @Dale will be interested.

image

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@GJDS You would appreciate this also. The Orthodox have beautiful icons. (As a matter of fact, my Episcopal church has a beautiful antique Orthodox icon of Christ in the sanctuary.)

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Beautiful! 

ADVENT UPDATED AND EVOLVING

No, not ‘Watching and Waiting’; advent is preparation,
rehearsing all that Jesus, the exemplar, has enacted and spoken,
deduced in his time from biblical searching for inclusive justice.
Now is the time and need for action, time to be oneself
alive in awareness and responses to our persistent calling;
to realise our incarnate potential, not birthed in us to lie idle.

With such preparation for these four weeks ahead,
a recovery might yet restore significance to Bethlehem,
its poetic account of every ordinary child being born to
follow the less trodden road as humble kin[g]dom stewards;
each in their unique way serving the Common Good,
refreshed throughout by God’s continuous, gifted creativity.

This past year, Amanda Gorman in ‘The Hill We Climb’ ,
broke through presidential rituals to elaborate the
Advent task with insights from the daily stables of ordinary lives.

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But it is watching and waiting also, because we await the second coming of Christ. The readings for this time of year include the parable of the wise virgins and foolish virgins. Hymns we sing include “Lo, he comes with Clouds Descending” and “Wake, awake for Night Is Flying”

But the whole point of that group reflection was that the incarnation known in Jesus is God’s creative potential lies in the birth of every human child. Jesus is the human exemplar, Christ is a title bestowed on him, but also in any manifestations of kin[g]dom trusteeship and stewardship.
Many who are deserting the old language and the idea of waiting for divine intervention are awakening to their own responsibilities with the potential of genuine discipleship inbred or incarnate. That insight and interpretation is endorsed by Quantum discernment in the sciences.
Please don’t reject this interpretation or you may be denying unconsciously the endless or eternal gifted creativity of our God.

Peter of 63 years ordained ministry as chaplaincy in everyday settings.

I was only explaining that in the mainline churches, Advent is a season where we remember both the first coming of Christ, and we also look forward to the second coming of Christ. It’s a season of great riches liturgically and musically.

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Probably nobody will be interested, but here is a wonderful performance of JS Bach’s cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme . (“Wake up! The voice of the Watchmen calls to us.”) Sung in German with English subtitles, played on original instruments.

, Everything revolves around the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They wait throughout the night with burning lamps for the arrival of the bridegroom. Five of them have brought along extra oil to keep their lamp burning. The others run out of oil and go off to buy some more. The bridegroom arrives while they are away.

The Advent hymn “Wake, awake, for night is flying” comes from the first cantata. Bach is sometimes referred to as the “Fifth Evangelist.”

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That is the major reason I love Come, thou long expected Jesus! sung during Advent, but it’s good any time of the year, too. The other reason is that I love the Hyfrydol setting.

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And “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”–all 500 verses.

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“Lo, he comes with clouds descending”, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”, “O come, O come Emmanuel”, and (the more modern) “Glorious Day (Living he Loved me)” are a regular feature in my advent playlist.

Totally agree that Advent is a rich vein for Christian’s mine in the lead up to Christmas - musically, liturgically, artistically, and theologically.

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some beautiful chants from Mt Athos (Greek). Beautiful Orthodox songs from the Mount Athos- Greece - YouTube

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Beautiful indeed! I want to remind everybody that the very first Christian liturgies were in Greek. In the Western Church the mass was in Latin, except that the “Kyrie” remains in Greek to this day. (“Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”)

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The Incarnation | Advent Readings with BreakPoint

When we think about Christmas, we tend to think about the story: Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, angels and shepherds. We rarely go beyond that to ponder the deeper significance of what was going on that day in Bethlehem. We don’t want the ugliness of the cross to interfere with the sweetness of our celebration. Part of the reason for this is our culture’s one-dimensional, simplistic view of reality that leads us to focus so much on the story that we can forget the bigger picture.

Fortunately, C. S. Lewis showed us how to get around our era’s limitations: reading old books.

Works from other eras bring a different perspective that helps move us past our own blind spots and biases. Further, reading the great thinkers of the past illustrates the unity of the faith across traditions, what Richard Baxter called “mere Christianity.” Lewis also noted that for him, reading theological works and pondering their truths was far richer devotionally than reading devotional works.

Lewis makes these arguments in his introduction to a translation of “On the Incarnation of the Word of God,” a work by early fourth-century theologian Athanasius of Alexandria. Athanasius was an enormously important figure in church history. He was the primary theologian arguing that Jesus was God rather than a created being as argued by Arius, a rival Alexandrian theologian. “On the Incarnation” was the second of a two-part defense of Christianity written prior to the controversy with Arius which lays some of the groundwork for Athanasius’s arguments later.

Athanasius begins with the doctrine of Creation, which was the work of the Word of God. Humanity, being created in the Image of God, has “a share in the reason being of the Word Himself.” As a result, we were made for eternal life, though we were warned that disobedience would lead to death. By following the devil, we became estranged from God and the Word, the source of life. We thus became bound to death and corruption, and in our alienation from the source of existence, were destined to fall into non-existence.

This is the reason for the Incarnation. Athanasius discusses this in the familiar terms of God’s love for humanity, but rather than looking at it from the perspective of our need, he emphasizes the implications of the Fall for God himself. Our sin created a dilemma for God: it was unthinkable that God would not carry out his word and subject humanity to death, but if he did this, his purpose in Creation would have been thwarted.

To solve the dilemma, the Word became flesh. The unincarnate Word could not die, but humanity had a debt to pay to death, so the Word took on a body like our own. We die because we are corrupt from sin; the Word was sinless and uncorrupt. Thus, when he freely offered his life, he was not paying his own debt but fulfilling what we owed death. By so doing, he satisfied the demands of death and thus abolished the Law of Death on our behalf.
But the Incarnation accomplished more than simply freeing us from death. The Image of God made it possible for us to know God; with sin, the Image was defaced, and we lost the knowledge of God. But since the Word is the perfect Image of God (Col. 1:15), He was able to renew that Image in us, and by his life, works, and teaching to renew and restore true knowledge of God. His works of power revealed Him as the Word of God and thus the one through whom true knowledge of God comes.

His works also demonstrate that though incarnate as a man, he continued to be the eternal Word of God, the Lord of Creation:

“The Word was not hedged in by His body, nor did His presence in the body prevent His being present elsewhere as well. When He moved His body He did not cease also to direct the universe by His mind and might. No. The marvelous truth is, that being the Word, so far from being Himself contained by anything, He actually contained all things in Himself.”

Think about that when you contemplate the baby in the manger!

Athanasius then turns his attention to the objection that Christ should not have had to die in so public and disgraceful a way, arguing instead that crucifixion was uniquely appropriate for the death of Christ. To bear the curse laid on us by sin, he had to become a curse himself, as the Scripture says, “cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree,” (Deut. 21:23.)

Further, he died for all humanity, uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body, and so on the cross his arms were outstretched, one reaching to the Jews and the other to the Gentiles. And since Satan is the “prince of the power of the air,” in order to “purify the air and to make ‘a way’ for us up to heaven,” Jesus had to die in the air. These arguments are foreign to our ways of thinking about Jesus’ death, but they are worth pondering as elements of the early church’s understanding of Jesus’ work.

Turning to the resurrection, Athanasius offers proofs that are again very different from those apologists today offer. The essential point is that dead people have no power to do anything, yet the power of Christ and his triumph over death is evident in his followers who have no fear of death but despise it and trample on it, and in the triumph of Christ over pagan gods, evil spirits, and magic, all of which are rendered impotent by the name of Christ and the sign of the cross.

In the subsequent sections, Athanasius deals with objections from both Jews and Gentiles. To the Jews, he emphasizes fulfilled prophecy, including Dan. 9:24-25, which refers to sealing vision and prophecy and the end of the time decreed for the holy city; Athanasius saw this fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It thus parallels the end of the rule of pagan gods and evil spirits he spoke of in connection with the resurrection.

Against the Gentiles, he again cites the triumph of Christ over their gods, oracles, evil spirits, and magicians, but also notes that as the Gospel has gone across the world, it has done what paganism had never been able to do by uniting people in the worship of one God.

Further, it turns entire peoples away from warfare, cruelty, and aggression to peace, harmony, and a desire for friendship—a phenomenon still seen today in many places in the Global South where the Gospel is growing.

Since no human could have done all this, it must have been done by and through God, proving that Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God, the creator of all things who reveals the mind of God. The effect of the Incarnation is a salvation much bigger than just forgiveness of sins:

He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God [i.e. partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. 1:4]. He manifested Himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the Mind of the unseen Father. He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality. He Himself was unhurt by this, for He is impassable and incorruptible; but by His own impossibility, He kept and healed the suffering men on whose account He thus endured. In short, such and so many are the Savior’s achievements that follow from His Incarnation, that to try to number them is like gazing at the open sea and trying to count the waves. One cannot see all the waves with one’s eyes, for when one tries to do so those that are following on baffle one’s senses. Even so, when one wants to take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, one cannot do so, even by reckoning them up, for the things that transcend one’s thought are always more than one thinks that one has grasped.
The Incarnation: Advent

The church’s understanding of who Christ is and what He accomplished continued to develop from Athanasius, and in some ways, his description of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ would be modified by later theological discussions. Just as we have blind spots from our era, Athanasius had his; he also did not have the benefit of the ongoing debates about Christology. Nonetheless, his work provides valuable insights that much of the church has lost.

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