by Matt Hein

This world has no shortage of promises that compete to capture our hearts and lives as we prepare for Christmas. Joy, fulfillment, happiness, and more will be promised through family experiences, shopping, traditions, food, expert advice, and the list could go on and on. As good as these can be for us and for the world, without Jesus all of these promises fall short.

Into this mix of Christmas season promises comes Advent: a season of hope, expectation, and promise. Advent is a season that recalls God’s Old Testament promises. Advent anticipates the Christmas celebration of God’s Messiah and Savior who came in the person of Jesus Christ.

Advent also looks forward in anticipation of the complete fulfillment of God’s promises that will come at Jesus’ Second Advent on the great Last Day. Where all other promises fall short, the promises of God recalled in Advent not only endure, but also bring everlasting life!

As the St. Luke congregation journeys through the season of Advent this year, seven ancient prayers will guide our worship experience. Benedictine monks composed these prayers, referred to as the O-Antiphons, from Old Testament passages sometime in the seventh or eighth century.

Together these ancient prayers recall God’s certain promises and point us to their fulfillment in Jesus. The O-Antiphons became part of the liturgy of the Church in the Middle Ages and monastic choirs raised these image-rich verses in song. Today we hear the O-Antiphons most commonly sung as the verses of the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

The O-Antiphons—O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel—each point to a specific title for the Messiah as well as a promise to be fulfilled in Him. The antiphons are rooted in the book of Isaiah the prophet, appeal to Biblical events throughout the Old Testament (Creation, Mount Sinai, etc.), and find their fulfillment in Jesus.

But these seven prayers are not just about the Old Testament. Together they point us to Jesus who came as God in flesh as a baby in Bethlehem’s manger, died on the cross as Savior of the world, rose from the dead as King of Kings, and who will come again to bring about God’s promised New Creation.

The first letter of each Antiphon in Latin anticipates Jesus’ second coming. Taken together and in reverse order these first letters create a Latin phrase (ERO CRAS) that may mean, “Tomorrow I will be there.” How appropriate as we wait with expectation the second Advent of Jesus when He will bring the complete fulfillment of all God’s promises! Jesus says to us and to all who wait for His return, “Tomorrow I will be there!”

And yet these O-Antiphons do more than just recall the past and point us to Jesus’ second coming. They engage our present discipleship journeys. Jesus transforms our lives by bearing the titles and promises of the O-Antiphons into our everyday existence as we follow Him.

Into our season of Christmas preparations where we are offered so many worldly promises of joy, hope, and fulfillment, we pray for and receive God’s certain promises in Jesus that transform us into people of promise in a season of promise. O come, O come, Emmanuel!

The Advent season begins Sunday, November 30, and continues until Christmas. You are invited to join the St. Luke Lutheran Church community as we journey through Advent: Season of Promise on Sundays and Wednesdays. Advent Sundays (11/30, 12/7, 12/14, 12/21) will follow the normal worship schedule at each site. Midweek Advent celebrations include the following options:

  1. Classic Advent worship at University Lutheran Chapel at 7 p.m., December 3 and 10.
  2. Family Advent devotion and activity at St. Luke-Ann Arbor at 6:30 p.m., December 3 and 10.
    Dinner will be provided on December 3 and 10 at both University Lutheran Chapel and St. Luke-Ann Arbor beginning at 5:45pm.
  3. In-home Advent family devotion and activity (requires internet capability, details forthcoming).
  4. Night of Promise: An Advent Music Experience at University Lutheran Chapel at 7 p.m., December 17.
    Dinner at the ULC site only, beginning at 5:45pm.