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The Sunday Next Before Advent
excerpt from
COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary
Volume 1: Sunday Next Before Advent to Epiphany VI 
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

“The Lord our Righteousness”, prophesied by Jeremiah (B.C.P., p.259), sums up the season of Trinity and turns us toward Advent. The gospel of the Sunday Next Before Advent concludes with the finding of the Righteous One: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth." This righteousness is what we have sought in Trinity season through the practice of Christian virtue.  By following daily the teaching and example of Jesus and by the nourishing grace of the Holy Spirit, we have endeavoured to grow up in the Righteous Branch, and so to "plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works."

"Christ our righteousness" brings us to the cost of the goodness we have from God and so points us toward Advent. To make us righteous Jesus had to bear our unrighteousness and accept the judgement on our sins. The Christ must die; he is "the Lamb of God". So John the Baptist, the Advent prophet, proclaims. The sacrifice of Jesus is the beginning of all the goodness we have, just as his perfect life is the example of the ideal we seek. He comes to be our judge because he has first come in great humility to be our Saviour. Advent begins in the longing for righteousness, and so we start by praying God to stir up our wills. Advent goes on to the humiliation of Christ coming to die for our sins, and proceeds to that judgement in which all unrighteousness is consumed and those who are in Christ arrive home to dwell with God.

The Office readings for the week of the Sunday Next Before Advent confront us with the righteousness we seek in the "Sermon on the Mount" from the Gospel according to Matthew. Yet God does not send Jesus to condemn the world by the standard of an impossible perfection, but rather to save it by raising us into the very righteousness of God present in his Son. We read the Book of Wisdom as a First Lesson because it concerns the Word of God which in creation and providence runs mightily from one end of the earth to the other and orders all things well (Wisdom 8.1).

The Book of Revelation presents fearsome judgement in order to bring us to the Lamb who begins and ends not only this Book but all things. Revelation begins with "Alpha and Omega, who is and who was and who is to come" (1.8) and ends with the word of Jesus that

I am Alpha and Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end. (22.13)