The second Advent Antiphon is O Adonai. ‘Adonai’ is a title, meaning ‘Lord’ or ‘master’ and given to God in the Jewish tradition; it is a grammatical plural in form (i.e. literally ‘Lords’), which has particular significance for Christians, who believe that God is ‘One God in three persons’ (Trinity).
Throughout Advent, an Advent Ring sits on our dining-table: four candles surrounding a central candle. Some years we have placed a decorative wreath around the ring; this year we have not. The central candle represents Jesus, the light who is coming into the world, whom we wait for. The four surrounding candles, lit accumulatively on the four Sundays of Advent, represent the Patriarchs, the Prophets, John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mary. In this way, we prepare for Christmas by telling the story of God’s salvation, framed in a particular way:
that God called one man, Abraham, from whom he would call-forth a people, through whom he would bless all peoples;
that in his commitment to his plan of salvation God sent prophets to call his people back into relationship with him when they went astray – including messages of promise that God would send one who would save his people;
and then, fast-forwarding towards the main event, that God sent John to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming;
and that God called Mary to be the one through whom the Lord would be born into the world - through whom a people would be re-gathered, through whom all peoples are to be blessed...
It is a story of faithful obedience to God’s call, of faithful response, of believing that all things are possible for God acting in covenant partnership with human beings (for a start, there are three miracle births in this telling: Abraham and Sarah’s son and John the Baptist are both born of mothers too old to ovulate; Mary’s son born of a virgin – literally, a girl who is yet to ovulate). It is a story in which we are invited to place ourselves, to find our place, to write our chapter.
The O Adonai Antiphon recalls the fire of the burning bush, and calls on the Lord to come bringing light to our darkness – by redeeming us with an outstretched arm – and so I set this prayer at the Advent ring.
I like to light the Christ-candle throughout Advent, and to light the other candles from it.
O Adonai, the leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush,
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Advent: making room for Jesus – at the Advent ring.