Collect (pronunced COLLect) for Advent 1
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
“Now” is the resonant word in this week’s collect. This tells us that Advent is a season focused on the present. Yet Advent focuses on the present through the twin lenses of the future and the past. The collect for Advent 1 drives this action-oriented present tense focus by harnessing the twin powers of trusting remembrance and hopeful expectation through a carefully crafted gift of prose and prayer.
The immediate need for constant help—or grace—leaps forward in the opening appeal: Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life . . . .
"Now" is when repentance and faith happen. And grace is the power by which they are carried out. We are saved by grace. Grace energizes the repentance and faith which are the preconditions for Holy Baptism, the practice of penitence, and the daily bread of the disciple’s heart. As Scripture exhorts us, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-13, ESV).
Temptation assaults the disciple daily. Indwelling sin confounds the disciple daily. Yet God’s grace trains the disicple through turnings and trustings, strengthening the believer’s new heart—itself a gift of grace—and forging the character of Christ through the crucible of struggle.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5, ESV).
The present moment or "now" of the disciple's faithful struggle is sustained by past accomplishment and example of Christ's humility. So the collect reminds us that Jesus "came to visit us in great humility." This fact guides our recollection not only to the humble events of his holy birth, but also the saving revelation of his passion and death. This total humility shapes our trusting response and growth in Christian character.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11, ESV)
Chirst’s current exaltation is hidden from from unbelievers. But there is coming a day when Jesus power and rule and truth and holiness will be irrefutable. So we pray for our present transformative struggle, supported by Jesus' past accomplishment, and preparing for his future return: “that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
The disciple’s destiny is to rise and reign with the risen, reigning Jesus. Advent prepares us for this. In this age, the disciple is training for reigning. We pursue daily strategies of penitence and prayer, faith and focus, remembrance and expectant hope.
Historically, the Book of Common Prayer directs the faithful to repeat the Collect for Advent 1 “every day, with the other Collects in Avent, until Christmas-Eve” (1662 BCP). This direction is also given in the American 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer, both of which clarify the repetition of the Collect for Advent 1 comes “after the other Collects in Advent.”
Entering into Advent, and guided daily by this prayer, “as long as it is called ‘today’”, let us pray in the present, pursuing transformation, supported by Christ’s past, accomplished salvation, and longing for our future destiny in Christ.