Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
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I'm Waiting for a Great Big God

By Mother Laurie Garramone-Rohr,
Christian Education Coordinator for the Diocese of Albany

What are you waiting for? If Advent means 'to wait', then what are YOU waiting for? We often focus on that little tiny baby in the traditional Christmas pageant-we're waiting for the Christ child! We're also waiting for something more, and Advent is a great time to combine the reality of this tiny baby with the concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God who created the universe, and who has fulfilled the hope and prophecy of his people-a Great Big God.

One of the ways we can do this is by reciting the O Antiphons during Advent. They began as a prayer recitation as early as the 5th century in monasteries, but came into more common use in the 8th century. They have two purposes: prophecy and fulfillment. Prophecy: this is what we wait for; fulfillment: This is how we got what we waited for.

The coming of the Messiah was prophesied in the book of Isaiah, which is where the O Antiphons are taken from, and they highlight both a prophecy from the Old Testament and a title for the Messiah we know as Jesus Christ. Here's the list in Latin and English, with the scripture reference included:

Liturgically, these are sung in our churches during the final Octave-or eight days-before Christmas, from the 17th through Christmas Eve. How would you know if you were singing them? Ever heard of the hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"? That's the most commonly used musical setting for the O Antiphons. (See-you already knew all this, but no one told you!)

Soooooo....how about singing a verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" during the last week of Advent as your family sits down for dinner, or simply reading the very short scripture verses from Isaiah? Can you do this as you light your family Advent wreath each Sunday night, or better yet, encourage your church to sing one or two verses each Sunday during the lighting of the parish Advent wreath? Maybe use these as simple bedtime devotions with your children so they begin to connect the little baby with the Great Big God of creation, or incorporate them into your own daily devotions from December 17th until Christmas.

The O Antiphons are names for Christ which comfort us, remind us, inspire us, bless us and prepare us not just for the little tiny baby, but for a Great Big God as well. And while I love that little baby, I'm waiting for a Great Big God too!

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