The Season of Advent 2016 (Year A)

Notable Feast Days this Week:

December 12 - Finnian, Bishop of Clonard, 549
December 12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531 (Roman Catholic)
December 14 - John of the Cross (Lutheran and Roman Catholic)
December 16 - The Prophet Haggai (Eastern Calendars)

Liturgical Color - Purple/Blue

Revised Common Lectionary

Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

--- The Fourth Sunday in Advent --- December 18, 2016 (Year A)

Sources of Grace
"The prophet Isaiah foretold the conception and birth of Jesus as a miraculous sign to us (Isaiah 7:10-16), the way in which God would restore us to salvation (Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19). God gives us grace through Jesus Christ, his Son (Romans 1:1-7), who was born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25)."

- Thomas Oden in Ancient Christian Devotional

Christmas is coming...
The air is thick with expectation. This week's reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks of the coming of Immanuel (God with us). This prophecy is fulfilled when Mary conceives the Son of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. We enter this story with awe and hope. What we anticipate is being formed within us. We are preparing for God's presence among us.  

The "O" Antiphons
Many Western Christian traditions make use of the "O" antiphons during this final week of Advent. These prayers are recited beginning on December 17. Each prayer addresses God using different names like "O Radiant Dawn" and "O Wisdom." The Advent hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" contains words from each of the "O" antiphons. The tradition of singing and reciting these prayers has been with the church for well over 1500 years.

In addition to this liturgical tradition, many churches will be decorated in green this Sunday. The "greening" of the church anticipates Christ's arrival. The winter of sin and doubt is thawing and signs of eternal life are beginning to appear. 

Los Posadas
Hispanic cultures in Mexico and the USA take time this week to re-enact the story of Mary and Joseph as they search for lodging and a place to give birth. A couple may dress up and go door to door in their neighborhood asking for a place to board for the night. They knock on the door and are then turned away after requesting posada ...a place to stay. This drama ends at a home designated to let them inside. Upon entering, carols are sung and the story is read from the Bible. Sorrow begins to turn to joy, even as all are reminded that the Savior was turned away before his birth.   

Advent Resources

The Biola University Advent Project
Daily Advent reflections with art, poetry, and music.  

Free "Jesus Storybook Advent Activites" for Children
Calendars and Devotional ideas from Sally-Loyd Jones, speaker and author of The Jesus Storybook Bible.

A Choral Service for Advent
Listen to a recording of the 2016 Advent Carols service lead by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge

Christian Year Calendar (Year A):
Download a free single sheet liturgical calendar for 2016-2017. This resource was created by San Fransisco artist Barbara Lyon. Many thanks for her permission to use this wonderful resource.

Download with dates and descriptions
Download with dates
Psalm of the Week
Scripture Readings

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock.
You who sit enthroned
between the cherubim,
shine forth before
Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Awaken your might; come and save us.

Restore us, O God;
    make your face shine on us,
 that we may be saved...
Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
 Then we will not turn away from you;
    revive us, and we will call on your name.

Isaiah 7:10-16
A virgin will concieve and give birth to Immanuel.
Romans 1:1-7
Jesus is the descendant of David and Son of God. We belong to Him.
Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph has a dream about Immanuel and takes Mary as his wife. 

Daily Readings
Revised Common Lectionary

Daily Readings
Book of Common Prayer

The Entire Bible in One Year
Daily Advent Readings
Monday --  Genesis 17: 15-22 (God promises Sarai a son)
Tuesday -- Genesis 21:1-21 (God saves Hagar and Ishmael)
Wednesday -- Matthew 1:1-17 (Matthew's genealogy)
Thursday --  Genesis 37:2-11 (Joseph dreams)
Friday --  Galatians 3:23-4:7 (Paul tells of Jesus' birth)
Saturday -- Luke 1:46-55 (Mary's song)
Practicing Prayer
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 
-from The Book of Common Prayer
Contemplative Prayer (View and Download)
Daily Prayer (View and Download)
Audio Prayer Meditation - Pray As You Go
Psalm 80 Spotify Playlist
More Spotify Psalms Playlists...
Singing Psalms and Hymns
Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25
"Do not speculate beyond the text. Do not require of it something more than what it simply says. Do not ask, “But precisely how was it that the Spirit accomplished this in a virgin?” For even when nature is at work, it is impossible fully to explain the manner of the formation of the person. How then, when the Spirit is accomplishing miracles, shall we be able to express their precise causes? Lest you should weary the writer or disturb him by continually probing beyond what he says, he has indicated who it was that produced the miracle. He then withdraws from further comment. “I know nothing more,” he in effect says, “but that what was done was the work of the Holy Spirit.” -Chrysostom
More Historic Commentary (View and Download)...
Music for Listening (Advent)
Kneeling for the Dawn: Songs for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany from Canadian Singer-Songwriter, Steve Bell. Stream the entire album over at Steve's Soundcloud page. 
Advent: Songs of Longing from Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, CA. Produced by Worship Director Eric Gilbert and featuring musicians from their local congregation. Stream the EP over at Bandcamp. Also, check out their other Advent EP titled Come Lord Jesus (Songs of Advent), both EP's can also be found on Spotify.
Thematic Art 
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