The Second Sunday of Advent
December 5, 2021
One of the blessings of our Sunday Morning Prayer tradition at Grace Church is being steeped in the rich Elizabethan language of the Book of Common Prayer. One phrase that we recite most weeks occurs in the Confession of Sin on pages 41-42: We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done. I have often thought that the latter part of the phrase – the sins of commission – are the particular purview of Lent. It’s the former half of the sentence – the sins of omission – that ought to be our concern in Advent.
What have you left undone that you ought to have done? Of course, we immediately think of preparations for Christmas: the tree, the cards, the presents, the food, and all that goes into making the season merry. But we know that the significance of the season is deeper than holiday cheer. As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus begins to land in New York City, it could be that you’ve left undone getting the booster shot of the vaccine. This week we’ve suffered a bracing reminder that as a nation we’ve left undone the problem of how to keep guns out of the hands of mentally unstable people. Now in Michigan four high school students are dead after their 15-year old classmate went on a shooting rampage. In our personal loves and relationships, what have we left unsaid that we ought to have said? During Advent we try to capture a sense of spiritual urgency that impels us to attend to the things left undone that we ought to have done.
The church has a message for the world in Advent that the darkening days of December help to amplify: the time is short. We do not have forever to address our sins of omission. But the good news is we do have now. It’s been said that the best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second best time is now.
The spiritual urgency of the season is what we will try to express liturgically this coming Sunday at 4 pm. The Advent Procession with Carols begins with God’s calling the prophet Isaiah to take a message of burning importance to the people. Isaiah agrees to go, saying, “Here am I, Lord. Send me.” Then the choir and clergy begin to process around the nave, stopping at every corner for another prophetic reading and carol. We enact what ought to be the church’s commitment, with Isaiah, to go forth into the world in witness to God’s love, to cast away the works of darkness, to “wake up and smell the coffee!”
The hour is late, but it’s not too late. The time is short, but the time is at hand to use now for the glory of God and the welfare of God’s people.
See you in church.