A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The new Christian year heralds the coming of the Lord, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” Our hearts turn once again from their present occupations to behold this thing that is coming to pass, and we cry out with the multitudes, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” It is the moment for which all of history suspends its motion, and then exhales in relief, like a child who waits for the return of a parent from distant travels, or a lover who awaits the arrival of the beloved. Whether He is met with joy or wrath, the coming of Jesus is the pivotal event in time that ultimately gives shape to our earthly story, and without which all our earthly actions are an endless pursuit of lost meaning and empty purpose. He is the light that shines in the darkness, to illuminate our sin, and to guide our passage into His kingdom.
And so, our collect prays, “give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light,” echoing the stirring words from the epistle. Let us commit to the story of our redemption, and to nothing else, Paul tells us, let us make our labour the preparation of Christ’s way among us. We ought to have no outstanding obligations, except to love one and other: “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” The bridegroom comes, and we must be ready, and vigilant. The house of our souls, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, must be kept in Godly honour, a place of prayer and devotion, and not a ‘den of thieves’, not a sanctuary of wretchedness.
The choice of Gospel reading for this week, Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, is often, and quite naturally, met with surprise, as it seems so out of place. But that is quite intentional, and we must recognize the point of its placement here, at the beginning of a new Advent, if the season is to have its full effect on us: the coming of the Lord, which we celebrate in a special, and absolute sense, at Christmas, is never limited to the moment of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem—indeed, if it is to have any true significance for us, it must not be so; the coming of the Lord, ultimately, is the unlimited freedom of Jesus to come to us wherever and whenever we find ourselves, here and now. That is the power of the Incarnation for which we make preparation in Advent: the power of God to be with us in time. To that power we commit all our thought and longing, because it holds all our joy and blessing, moving our hearts so that our hymns stir the nations: ‘Hosanna in the highest.’