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The First Sunday in 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.
“Behold, thy King cometh unto thee,” proclaims the Prophet in today’s gospel (B.C.P., p.96). This announces Advent’s principal theme: the coming of the Lord, which stirs in us a sense of expectation. We await the coming of the Lord, who is our salvation. The epistle sounds this same note of urgent expectation, that “now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer” (p.95). Expectation of his coming leads to preparation for his coming. “Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (p.96). 

Penitence and prayer are the elements of our preparation. The works of darkness which we must cast off or repent of are the “lusts of the flesh” (p.96), that is, our wills as turned towards the world rather than to God. Today’s gospel illustrates this in Christ’s casting out of the money-changers and merchants from the temple of God (p.97). We repent of our sins so that we may become the temple of God. The casting off is followed by the putting on. The armour which we put on is Jesus Christ: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ” (p.96). His coming means both his great humility in putting on our humanity and his glorious judgement upon our darkness which he has overcome. The collect gathers all these themes together. We pray this collect every day throughout Advent. 

The office readings for this week enlarge upon our expectation and our preparation in the light of the Lord’s coming in humility and in judgement. The Old Testament lessons are taken from the Book of Isaiah; Isaiah is our Advent prophet. Through the prophet, God makes man aware of sin, and of the divine righteousness which overcomes sin. The prophet’s vision extends beyond Israel to all the nations of the world (chapters 13-23). The expected salvation will be universal (49.6). That salvation ultimately means the coming of Emmanuel —God with us — who comes both in humility and in judgment (7.14-17). 

The second lessons at Mattins for the season of Advent are taken from St. Mark’s Gospel. Here we begin to see what Christ’s coming to us means. The preparation ror his coming in John the Baptist, the inauguration of his public ministry by his baptism, the call of the disciples, the casting out of demons, the healing of the sick, his teaching throughout all Galilee, show us the coming of our Lord to establish his kingdom of righteousness and peace. “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1.15). 

With the opening of the seals, we continue our reading of the Book of Revelation at Evensong. The seals are opened to reveal a vision of the judgement of God upon all time, all history, and all creation. The Lamb of God alone can open the seven-sealed Scroll containing the eternal purposes of God, for he is the Revelation of God and the Redemption of mankind. The opening of the seventh seal reveals the final consummation of all things in the judgement of God. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11.15). Through the Lamb of God, "the temple of God in heaven was opened” (Rev. 11.19).