Advent and the Particularity of Love
Dear Kaleid Ladies,
Good morning! And Merry (almost) Christmas to you! We are so grateful to be in community with those of you we know personally and those of you who connect with us simply through these emails. It is a gift to be among women who care so deeply about God’s world and about their own formation, even when caring means things get messy. Thanks for walking together.
This week, we lit the fourth Advent candle, the candle of Love.
This is also the week in the Church when we recall the hope of the Old Testament prophets through seven “O Antiphon” prayers, which are short and powerful prayers that have been in use since the seventh century. They praise God for being “O Wisdom!” “O Lord!” “O Root of Jesse!” “O Key of David!” “O Dayspring!” “O Emmanuel!” and “O Desire of Nations!” (If this is new to you, find out more here.)
Each of these Messiah-pointing titles recalls Israel’s hope for salvation, healing, and restoration.
Together, these titles find their expression in Jesus Christ: God, who is Love, who has come and who will come again.
Love can be a squishy word. Its use can be sentimental, vague, or even idealistic.
Love can also seem disembodied, other. Even when we read I Corinthians 13, we can nod our heads at the strength, the fortitude, of love. We can see how we fall short of this list of love’s attributes. But if we are not humble toward Paul’s beautiful enumeration of love, we can turn and walk away because it is “love” that is patient, kind, trusting, etc., and so the poem is less-than-particular for us.
Jesus is the human particularity of God’s love. Isn’t it true that we know love most deeply when it has a particularity about it…when it finds a tangible expression inside of time? When it is kind to us, when we are patient toward them, when they choose to trust someone “other,” even when trust seems a doubtful proposition?
There is a particularity to true love.
The “O Antiphons” express the longings of the ancients for the particularity of God’s love. They are the hope of Israel for God to fill human history with something tangible and timely that will bring them, finally, into the security and safety for which they have always longed. They are an expression of our human longing for Jesus, even before we know his name or his deeds.
British Poet Malcolm Guite says of the “O Antiphons”, “The whole purpose of Advent is to be for a moment fully and consciously Before Christ (B.C.). In that place of darkness and waiting, we look for his coming and do not presume too much that we already know or have it. Whoever compiled these prayers [Antiphons] was able, imaginatively to write ‘BC’, perhaps saying to themselves; ‘If I hadn’t heard of Christ, and didn’t know the name of Jesus, I would still long for a saviour. I would still need someone to come. Who would I need? I would need a gift of Wisdom, I would need a Light, a King, a Root, a Key, a Flame.’ And pouring over the pages of the Old Testament, they would find all these things promised in the coming of Christ.” (Guite, Waiting on the Word, 67)
This week, Advent resolves into Christmas. Waiting resolves into welcome. Hope resolves into joy. And our longings resolve into Jesus—the particularity of God’s love.
How do you long for God to come to you today? How do your longings for the particularity of God’s love connect with these words, from the Antiphons: wisdom, light, key, desire, companion, grounding, Lord? (If you’d like to color as you reflect, there’s a download here.)
We love you, friends!
The Kaleid Team
P.S. The O Antiphons are also the basis for the seven verses of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. This video points each of them out.
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