O Wisdom – An Advent Reflection for 17th December

IMG_6219Over the next 7 days, I’m going to be reflecting in a series of videos on some ancient texts. These are known as the Great Os, because each of them begins “O” – ‘O Wisdom’, ‘O Emmanuel’, ‘O Key of David,’ and so on. They are antiphons or little themed texts placed before and after the Magnificat, the song of Mary, at Evening Prayer. No one knows when they were written or by whom, but they were already in use by 8thcentury.

These are little parcels of rich spiritual reflection. Each is addressed to God, using scriptural titles and pictures that describe something of Christ’s saving work. Over each day, I am going to use a Christmas Tree decoration as a symbol of these, explain them briefly, and then, while I hang the decoration on our tree here, we will listen to a piece of music – either a well-known carol or a more contemporary song. I’ll then end our time with a prayer.

Today, we begin with ‘O Wisdom’.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.  (Cf Ecclesiasticus 24:3; Wisdom 8:1)

The decoration I have is this small bible. It actually is a bible. If we open it up we will find the text in very tiny print inside.

The Wisdom literature of the bible looks to all wisdom coming from God. The creation is brought into being by God’s intention and one of the ways of seeing Wisdom is the dove, the Spirit which moves over the waters of creation in the first creation story in the book of Genesis. Wisdom inspires prophets and dreamers. It brings visions of awe and wonder, a sense of purpose and direction, and moral guidance. It is this divine purpose and active presence that John’s gospel says came among us in Christ – when “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth”.

So today, we give thanks for the holy wisdom that is the source of our life, guides our steps and in Jesus Christ brings hope. We place Wisdom on our tree, the first decoration in the form of a Bible.


O Wisdom,

whose Word brings all into being

and whose Spirit brings life and peace,

come upon us with your potency.

Inspire our vision and make us expectant

for more than we would otherwise dare dream possible.

Come to our salvation

Come, Lord Jesus.

Advent Antiphons from ‘Common Worship: Daily Prayer’ is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2005.

 Prayers taken from Ian Black ‘Intercessions for the Calendar of Saints and Holy Days’ (2005, SPCK)

Text of an Advent Reflection, streamed online for Peterborough Parish Church, 17th December 2020.

About Revd Canon Ian Black

Ian is Vicar of Peterborough and Canon Residentiary of Peterborough Cathedral in the Church of England Diocese of Peterborough. He served as Rural Dean of Peterborough for 5 years. Prior to moving to Peterborough, Ian was in Leeds for 10 years in Leeds, as Vicar of Whitkirk and as a member of the Chapter of Ripon Cathedral. He has also worked in Kent in Maidstone and as priest-in-charge of a group of parishes 10 miles north west of Canterbury. He was a Minor Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, a prison chaplain and Assistant Director of Post-Ordination Training for the Diocese of Canterbury. Prior to ordination Ian had a career in tax, both with the Inland Revenue as a PAYE Auditor and a firm of Chartered Accountants as a Tax Accountant. Ian was born and grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and is a former head chorister at Shakespeare's Church - Holy Trinity. He studied in Canterbury, Lincoln Theological College and has a Master of Divinity degree from Nottingham University. He is married with two sons. Publications include three books of prayers: Prayers for all occasions (SPCK 2011), Intercessions for Years A, B & C (SPCK 2009) and Intercessions for the Calendar of Saints and Holy Days (SPCK 2005). His most recent book, 'Follow me: living the sayings of Jesus', was published by Sacristy Press in 2017. There is a hymn based on this 'Christ the Saviour'. He has been writing online since the mid 1990s. Ian is a keen photographer and these frequently appear in his posts and on social media.
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