Habakkuk 2:2b-3 10:37
“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. 3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
In much of the Western Church, Friday began the “O” Antiphons — antiphons used in evening prayer for the last seven days of Advent. Since at least the fourth century, these texts have prepared the faithful for the coming of Christ in the final week spent journeying towards the eve of his nativity. You can find these antiphons in various Lutheran sources: pp. 175-176 in the Lutheran Book of Worship; hymn #257 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship; hymn #357 in the Lutheran Service Book.
Each year, December 17 begins these seven striking descriptions of Jesus, and these “O” Antiphons have several beautiful features that enrich the faith practice of the church during this season. Each antiphon begins with the letter “O” followed by a titular name of God from the Hebrew Scriptures — each name also referring to an Isaian prophesy of the coming Messiah. Additionally, the first letter of these Messianic names (or titles): Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, Emmanuel — form a reverse acrostic of the Latin words ERO CRAS (“Tomorrow, I will come”), reminding us of both Christ’s first advent as well as his second. Especially significant for us today is that these antiphons also inspired the seven verses of the popular hymn we know as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” And so, today, as we contemplate the heavenly vision so long awaited in Habakkuk 2, as we reflect on the faithful promise that the “coming one will come” in Hebrews 10, as we read of Thomas’ incredulity that the risen Jesus had indeed come in John 20, as we are reminded in the great Advent psalm (146) that our hope and deliverance comes not from earthly rulers but from the Lord who will reign forever, and most importantly, as we look around us towards a conflicted, confused and hurting world, may these “O” Antiphons give us hope. May they instill in us the same yearning spirit from Mary’s hymn of praise (Luke 1:46-55). Ultimately, may they remind us — even when other persons, institutions and systems vie for the claim — of the one who is the true: Wisdom from on high, Lord of Might, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring, Desire of Nations, Emmanuel (“God with us”), the one whose name is Jesus and whose soon return fills us with holy anticipation and joy.