Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1940.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Season of Advent is a season of penitential preparation for the Festival of the Nativity of our Lord, commonly called Christmas Day. Advent is a season of expectation. We are waiting for the coming of God's only-begotten Son to take our nature upon Him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin. We pray that we being regenerate, and made God's children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this season our devotion is a commemorative one. We are commemorating an event which has taken place. That event, the Coming of the only-begotten Son of God, took place in time, yet it is timeless. He came out of eternity. He came to liberate us from the limitation of time to raise us up into eternity.
A thousand years, in God's sight, are but as yesterday, seeing that which is past, and that which is to come, as a watch in the night. So we in our day and generation are, in time and in fact, one with those who kept watch in the holy night in which the Holy Child was born.
We renew and perpetuate the mysteries of which angels sang. We make haste with the shepherds who saw, and heard, and made haste to adore the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a Manger, the Saviour which is Christ the Lord, God visiting us in great humility.
From commemorative expectation the Collect raises our aspirations to the expectation of the second Coming of Our Lord in the last day, when He shall come again in His glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead. We pray that on that day we may rise to the life immortal, through Him who liveth with the Father and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.
So we are one with all the waiting multitude, through all the years that have gone, and through all the years that are to come. For this multitude there is no past, no future, only an eternal present. The Manger is the open door through which we pass into the ante-chamber of Heaven.
The path of approach is the path of penitence. Penitence illuminates its own path. It reveals our insufficiency. It convinces us that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves. It opens our eyes to see ourselves as we are.
Penitence is the key which unlocks the door to self-knowledge. It brings a shock to the most complacently self-satisfied. It abases us to our true level. We see that we cannot come to God. Yet it intensifies our longing for Him. When that longing becomes unendurable we are driven to cry, "Whom have I in Heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. And yet I cry, I cannot come." It is at this moment that we hear the answer, "Lo, I come."
That answer is the message of Advent. That answer is the revelation of God who loved us before we loved Him. That answer is the promise of all answers, to all questions, to all supplications, of all people, in all circumstances, in all places. Our answer to this answer is, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus." This is our Advent prayer. It is our prayer as we practise our sacramental and prayer life, in the working out of our own salvation. It is our prayer as we widen prayer life into intercession, in which we stand between those for whom we pray and the evil from which we cannot defend.
It is our prayer as we pray for our country, and yet possess so little wisdom, and lack so much power. It is our prayer as we pray for our world, uncontrolled grid uncontrollable. Is there no one, anywhere, who can govern it? And the Advent Voice speaks, "I have overcome the world. Surely I come quickly."
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Affectionately in Our Lord,