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.
Collect for the second Sunday of Advent, BCP p 211.
The Advent wreath is relatively recent in terms of church traditions, presumed to have first appeared in the Lutheran church in Germany during the 1600s. Many traditions involving the Advent Wreath have evolved around the lighting of four (or 5) candles that mark out time during the Advent season. Consequently, there is no shortage of practices, reflections, and prayers to accompany the lighting of each candle from week to week. Many of us are probably familiar with one where each candle represents either hope, love, joy, and peace. However, in another interpretation, perhaps based on the Collect from above, the second week focuses on the Prophets of ancient Israel (It can be confusing as another interpretation calls the first candle the prophet’s candle.)
The collect and this advent wreath practice invite us to focus on the historic prophets during the second week of Advent, but only in seeking to heed their warning in our current circumstances, to forsake our sins. As we light the second candle, we should be asking ourselves how the prophets’ voice resonates today.
Interestingly, in the daily office lesson appointed for today from Amos Ch. 8, vv. 1-14, the prophet reminds his hearers that the people on the margins matter. God does not withstand those that seek only to protect or further their own wealth. The image of a basket of summer fruit is used, but the words indicate that while that fruit looks beautiful, it is all about to go bad.
Perhaps in praying this collect today, we can look for those things in our life that appear beautiful, that seem healthy, but serve only to shield us from those on the margins.