The Collect for The Second Sunday of Advent

Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance
and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Marion Hatchett wrote that this Collect, new for our present Book of Common Prayer, takes as its foundation the Collect for The Third Sunday of Advent in the Church of South India’s Book of Common Worship.  Hatchett notes the similarity to our BCP’s first Collect for The Nativity of Our Lord:  Christmas Day (BCP 212) and the 1662 BCP’s Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent.  These two Collects both refer to Christ’s second coming, not to his first coming.  Of particular interest to Hatchett (and to us) is a particular shift away from one element of the 1662 BCP’s Collect:  our Collect and that of the Church of South India place the responsibility of preparing for Christ’s second coming upon every member of the church together, not just the clergy on our behalf (Hatchett, 166).

The Preamble, “Merciful God,” orients us to God’s character and attitude toward us.  In a Collect with the theme of repentance and the second coming of Christ, both of which point to the coming judgment, remembering that God is merciful allows us to focus on the hope of meeting Christ with the joy that is in this Collect’s Aspiration.

The Acknowledgement, “who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation,” gives us information about both God and the prophets.  While we often think of prophets of the Bible as those who foretold the future, their primary role in the life of the community of God’s people was to help them understand how they were not living according to God’s prescribed way and to call them back to a life that will result in peace with God, self, neighbor, and the rest of creation.  

The Acknowledgement focuses on God’s activity for us:  in God’s mercy, God sends prophets to disclose how we are to cooperate in God’s mighty work of salvation.  How we are to prepare for our salvation is not kept as a secret.

In the Petition, “Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,” we ask for God’s assistance in doing what God’s messengers ask us to do.  The preaching of repentance is a call to live into the renunciations that precede the Baptismal Covenant in which we promise, with God’s help, to turn from all that separates us from God, each other, ourselves, and creation (BCP 302-3).  A fuller exploration of how we, in our day, are to heed the warnings of the prophets and forsake our sins is found in the Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence (BCP 267-9).

The emotional tone of the Aspiration, “that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer,” and the connection to God’s promises communicated to God’s people through the prophets is beautifully captured in Canticle 16, The Song of Zechariah (BCP 92).  While this Canticle (Luke 1:68-79) refers to Christ’s first coming, we continue to use this short biblical song to prepare ourselves for Jesus’s second coming.  This Collect, and this Canticle, provide us with an insight into our place in God’s unfolding plan of redemption:  just as the people of Israel in Jesus’s day were looking forward to the coming of their messiah in joyful expectation, we are invited to have the same joyful expectation of Christ’s second coming.    

The Pleading, “who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen”, increases our confidence in the unity of the work of the Trinity for our salvation – from the Holy Spirit’s work of revealing of God’s message to the prophets to the Father sending the Son to us, and the Son’s life, ministry, death, burial, rising, ascending, and ongoing priestly ministry—all are needed for our salvation and all are the work of our one God.   

Which of God’s messengers, past and present, are we most able to hear in our circumstances? 

What changes do we need to make in our personal lives and common life as a parish in order to respond to this call to repentance and prepare the way for our salvation?

Merciful God,
who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and
prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition. 
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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