Each evening in these final 7 days of Advent, we are putting the finishing touches to our Christmas tree in the church using symbols which help us tell the story of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. These use ancient texts used at Evening Prayer since at least the 8th century, the Advent Antiphons.
Today, on 18th December, our text is ‘O Adonai’, which means ‘Master’ or ‘Lord’.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm. (Cf Exodus 3:2, 24:12)
The name of God is holy in the Bible. When Moses first encounters God, this takes place at the burning bush – depicted in this bauble, our illustration and decoration for today. Here Moses receives his commission to liberate the people from slavery. Not entirely convinced of this plan, Moses asks who he should say has sent him. With that God reveals his name as “I am”. ‘Say “I am” has sent you’. That name is so holy that the writers of the Bible used ‘The Lord’ as a way of writing it instead.
‘I am’, ‘the Lord’, is the one who needs no further explanation and none is given. God is the one who just is. “Before the world was made, I am.” After everything has come to an end “I am”. In the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible, God is said to be the beginning and the end, the first cause and the last hope. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last letter of the alphabet in Greek, or in English – the A and the Z.
To call Jesus ‘Master’ and ‘Lord’ links him with the divine name. In John’s Gospel there are the great “I am” sayings, when he makes the connection directly. Some respond with outrage, picking up rocks to throw at him. Some bow down in awe and wonder, adoration and praise. This deeper meaning is reflected in today’s antiphon as we say ‘O Adonai’ calling Jesus ‘Master’ and ‘Lord’.
We celebrate today, on 18th December, God who just is, the Great I am. Because of God, we are. This is the deepest meaning that there is and it comes to Moses in a burning bush that is not consumed and that is the decoration in this bauble that we will hang on our tree. It comes to us in Our Lord Jesus Christ
O Adonai, Master, Lord of all,
we bow before the magnificence of your holy name.
Forgive us when we abuse it or misuse it
in our speech and through our actions.
Make us worthy to stand
before the fire of your presence made manifest.
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, 18th December 2020.