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advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauMy long-time readers will remember that several years ago I wrote about the O Antiphons, which are Bible readings in the run-up to Christmas.

The posts are listed below and even though I am a bit late in listing them, as they start on December 17, those looking for extra meditations before Christmas Day may find them useful:

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2013)

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 18 (2013)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 19 (2013)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 20

The O Antiphon for December 21

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

I wish everyone well in their Christmas preparations, materially and spiritually.

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Hello, everyone!

Christmas is nearly here, and I have a few items to share of both a secular and a religious nature.

O Antiphon for Christmas Eve

First, the final O Antiphon, the one for Christmas Eve, is Matthew 1:18-23, detailed in the following two posts:

Christmas Eve — Matthew 1:18-25 (with commentary from Albert Barnes)

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

The Christmas 1968 Bible reading from space

On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 orbited the moon. Listen to the astronauts on board read from Genesis:

The Christmas message from Outer Space

‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ — a delightful reading

Children might need a distraction while grown-ups are preparing for Christmas.

What better than listening to a reading of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’?

Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has done a cracking job of reading the story in his remarkable baritone:

Those who listened to it loved it. This is just one of the many compliments on his voice:

Christmas traditions — religious or not?

The trend over recent years, possibly a reactionary one, is that certain Christmas traditions that have evolved since the 19th century are either too secular or too pagan.

That said, some of these traditions can be said to have religious overtones.

The history of the candy cane is an intriguing one and one that could be used in Sunday School for its symbolism about Jesus:

Candy canes: useful for a Nativity lesson in Sunday School

There is a religious reason why we give each other gifts at this time of year. We recall John the Baptist’s ministry in preparing the way for our Lord:

John the Baptist, charity and Advent

He advocated giving as one way of preparing. Luke’s Gospel records John the Baptist’s words about charity (Luke 3:10-11):

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

This is how seasonal giving developed over time:

Christmas gifts — a history

As far as greenery is concerned, St Boniface transformed the fir tree into a Christian symbol in Germany during the early 8th century:

The Christmas tree — a history

Christmas cards were highly secular and of a facetious nature. They did not become religious until much later:

Bizarre Christmas cards from the 19th century

Louis Prang, a Prussian who emigrated to the United States, made Christmas cards popular there, beginning in 1873. Hallmark did not come along until 1910:

Louis Prang — father of the American Christmas card

I hope these give everyone a few spiritual talking points along with some fun during the countdown to Christmas!

We are now in the octave before Christmas.

Centuries ago, special Bible verses — antiphons — were read on each of the days from December 17 through to the Christmas Eve devotions on December 24.

These were known as O Antiphons, as each of them began with the letter ‘O’. Each corresponds to a certain divine aspect of our Lord.

The O Antiphons are best encapsulated in the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

The verses for December 17 — the ‘S’ — are from Isaiah 11:2-3:

2And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
   the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
   the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

You can read more about that verse below in my 2013 post:

The O Antiphon for December 17

Another selection for this day is provided in the next post, from 2014:

The O Antiphon for December 17

More O Antiphons follow below for the days ahead, including relevant Bible commentary.

December 18

The O Antiphon for December 18 (2013)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 19

The O Antiphon for December 19 (2013)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 20

The O Antiphon for December 20

December 21

The O Antiphon for December 21

December 22

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 23

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 24

I will be closing the Octave with Lectionary readings for Christmas Eve.

The O Antiphons really put one in a good frame of mind spiritually for Christmas. With all of the last minute rushing around involved at this time, they provide needed refreshment for the soul, reminding us of the Reason for the Season.

Starting on December 17, for centuries the Church had what were called O Antiphons with corresponding Bible readings which ran through Christmas Eve, spanning eight days.

My longtime readers will recognise these, as I have been running them since 2013. Each day has a different O Antiphon for our consideration and meditation.

The Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel has verses which relate to the O Antiphons, as you will see below.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means:

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows (emphases mine):

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

What follows are the O Antiphon readings for the next eight days.

December 17

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2013)

The O Antiphon for December 17 (2014)

December 18

The O Antiphon for December 18 (2013)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 19

The O Antiphon for December 19 (2013)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 20

The O Antiphon for December 20

December 21

The theme for this day, Winter Solstice, is light:

The O Antiphon for December 21

Some traditionalists omit December 21 because it is St Thomas’s feast day:

Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31

Doubting Thomas: When seeing is believing

There is no reason one cannot combine the two!

December 22

The O Antiphon for December 22 (2013)

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 23

The O Antiphon for December 23 (2013)

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

December 24

Christmas Eve affords us time to examine the Nativity story, either through Jesus’s lineage (Matthew) or through His birth (Luke):

Christmas Eve — Matthew 1:18-25 (with commentary from Albert Barnes)

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

The Christmas story according to St Luke

The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

I have found that these readings enhance the anticipation of Christmas Day and the significance of our Saviour humbling Himself to be among us.

I hope that you find comfort and inspiration from these as well.

The following are O Antiphons for December 23.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

If those phrases seem familiar, the ancient Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to the O Antiphons.

So far, I have posted on the S (here and here), the A (here and here), the first R (here and here), the C, the O. and the second R.

Two posts follow for the final letter — ‘E‘ — signifying Emmanuel:

The O Antiphon for December 23  (Isaiah 7:14 and surrounding verses for context)

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day (Isaiah 33:21)

I hope that these verses help to further prepare us for the celebration of Christ’s humble birth here on Earth — and make us all the more grateful for His subsequent humiliating Crucifixion as the one true propitiation for our sins.

For now, let us rejoice in the imminent arrival of our Saviour.

As we are in the week before Christmas, I have been posting each day’s O Antiphon.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

If those phrases seem familiar, the ancient Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to the O Antiphons.

So far, I have posted on the S (here and here), the A (here and here), the R (here and here), the C and the O.

Today’s theme is Rex — King — as mentioned in Isaiah:

The O Antiphon for December 22 (Isaiah 9:6, upon which Handel based Messiah)

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (Isaiah 2:4)

Each of the two posts has a full exposition on the respective verses.

Ero cras was no doubt turned into SARCORE as each letter builds on the last. Yesterday’s focus on the Key of David — the key being one of office — brings us neatly to the theme of Christ the King in today’s meditation.

As we are in the week before Christmas, I have been posting the O Antiphons for each day.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

If those phrases seem familiar, the ancient Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to the O Antiphons.

So far, I have posted on the S (here and here), the A (here and here), the R (here and here) and the C.

Appropriately, the O Antiphon for December 21 — Winter Solstice — is all about light, the coming Light of the World. You can read an exposition of Isaiah 9:2 below:

The O Antiphon for December 21

The theme is about living not only in a physical darkness but also in a spiritual one.

When the O Antiphons were read and meditated upon regularly, some people preferred to focus on St Thomas’s feast day instead.

Surely, one can do both.

In closing, I extend my prayers and best wishes to anyone born on this special — and shortest — day; may you have a celebration free from combination gifts (birthday-Christmas)!

We are now into the Octave before Christmas.

With each day through to and including Christmas Eve, special readings have been designated to help Christians consider the meaning of Jesus’s birth.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

If those phrases seem familiar, the ancient Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to the O Antiphons.

‘The O Antiphons’ page of Hymns and Carols of Christmas tells us that these Bible verses have been used in this context since the fifth century, although they did not begin to become widespread until the reign of Charlemagne in the eighth century. By the 11th century, they were in common use in monasteries:

… two 11th century copies can be found in manuscripts in the British Museum and the Bodleian [Oxford]. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance.

So far, I have posted on the S (here and here), the A (here and here) and the R (here and here).

Today’s O Antiphon relates to the C — Clavis David, Key of David — mentioned in Isaiah 22:22:

The O Antiphon for December 20

That post has a full explanation of the significance of what this key means and how it relates to Christ Jesus.

We are now into the Octave before Christmas.

With each day through to and including Christmas Eve, special readings have been designated to help Christians consider the meaning of Jesus’s birth.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

If those phrases seem familiar, the ancient Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel refers to the O Antiphons.

‘The O Antiphons’ page of Hymns and Carols of Christmas tells us that these Bible verses have been used in this context since the fifth century, although they did not begin to become widespread until the reign of Charlemagne in the eighth century. By the 11th century, they were in common use in monasteries:

… two 11th century copies can be found in manuscripts in the British Museum and the Bodleian [Oxford]. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance.

The following posts have readings and a discussion of the O Antiphons for the ‘S’, the ‘A’ and the ‘R’:

The O Antiphon for December 17 (Isaiah 11:2)

The O Antiphon for December 17 (Isaiah 28:29)

The O Antiphon for December 18 (Isaiah 11:4-5)

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day (Isaiah 33:22)

The O Antiphon for December 19 (Isaiah 11:1)

December 19: a second O Antiphon for this day (Isaiah 11:10)

As we approach Christmas, we are called to turn from sin and casual faith to embrace an omnipotent, omniscient, sovereign God via Christ Jesus. Although it appears to be an outmoded attitude towards God, in that it is absent from most pulpits, Scripture provides us with eternal truths and proves the fulfilment of God’s promises to mankind.

Posts so far this week have focused on the O Antiphon readings for the Octave before Christmas which began December 17 and runs through December 23.

December 24 is the eighth day, and Christmas Eve Vigil readings are used in anticipation of Christmas Day.

If you have missed them, so far, this week’s posts have covered December 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Each day has an O Antiphon connected with it: verses from the Old Testament that foretell the birth of the Christ Child. The O Antiphons date back centuries before the Reformation — to the reign of Charlemagne. That said, Protestants will also find these verses useful in contemplation of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

Two verses that focus on Jesus as King of the nations are Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 2:4, discussed respectively in the following posts for December 22:

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

On December 23, we consider Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us, dwelling among us’. Two pertinent verses are Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 33:21, explained respectively in the posts below:

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day

I hope the O Antiphon verses and expositions have helped increase our anticipation of Christmas and, more importantly, knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

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