During the final days of Advent, the anticipation increases as the birth of the Savior draws near. In the seven evenings before Christmas, this anticipation is marked by the “O” Antiphons. This liturgical tradition from the earliest days of the Church emphasizes a different prophetic title of Christ as foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah. These are included in Evening Prayer on the final seven nights of Advent.
The Seventh "O" Antiphon
O God Among Us, come.
Great king, who gives the Law
to gather nations nigh,
O Lord our God, Redeemer,
to save your children, come.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
And now we come to it: Christmas is mere hours away, and with it, the birth of our Savior. Truly, the moment that God literally came among us, and lived in our midst some 2000 year ago. Of course, God is not so literal, and in fact among us all the time, to this very day. He is among us in the gathering of family for Christmas traditions; among us in the glorious Christmas masses, decorated to the rafters and packed in the pews; and He is among us in the wonder in our kids’ eyes at the magic – of the celebration, yes . . . but also in seeing that special wish list item they’ve been dreaming of.
I idealize Christmas like no other time of year. In my rose-colored memories, every tradition was honored, every church was resplendent, every present was perfect. It probably leaves me with unrealistic expectations for each coming Christmas, but Advent is all about anticipation, so I don’t try too hard to fight it.
But the past 2 years have been stark reminders that none of it – the gathering of family or of congregation, or any of our perfect plans – can be taken for granted. But we can take all the more comfort in the things that are truly constant – present in good times and bad, global pandemic or not. God Among Us is certainly one of those things – present not only in a manger in Bethlehem 2 days from now and thousands of years ago, but here, now. He is among us in our hope for the future, our grief for what was lost, and our celebration of the Christmas Season, whatever form that takes.
By Chris Freeman
fill our hearts with your love
and our minds with your wisdom
so that our actions will be pleasing to you.
May your peace, which surpasses all understanding,
guard our hearts and minds.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.