Introduction: Each of the three Advent midweek sermons will be structured aground Luther’s famous triad. Utilizing the Service of Prayer and Preaching in the Lutheran Service Book (LSB, pg. 260-267), the services will also incorporate the Introduction and first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer:
Midweek I Oratio – First Petition
Midweek II Meditatio – Second Petition
Midweek III Tentatio – Third Petition
If you plan on using this series, we suggest you read Luther’s "Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther's German Writings, 1539" (AE 34:279-288) and Praying Luther’s Small Catechism by John T. Pless, pp. 51-77 prior to the workshop. It will also benefit you to have a copy of the Lutheran Service Book so you can follow the order of the Service of Prayer and Preaching.
-Prof. John T. Pless
WEEK 1: ORATIO (PRAYER)
Oratio is prayer grounded in the Word of God. “When we use His Word to pray, we pray by the Spirit” (Kleinig, 172). Like David who was given the words of the Lord and so prays that God who lead and guide Him so our mouths are opened to call upon God for all that He promises. The oratio is embodied in the Introduction and First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism. We can call God “our Father” because He has given us His Son. The Holy Spirit has brought us to faith in the Son through the Gospel. It is in this faith that we know that it is most certainly true that God is our Father.
The three articles of the Creed are also reversible. It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to Christ Jesus, our Lord who has made us His own by His innocent suffering and death. We are located in His Kingdom, where we live under Him, serving Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness even as He is risen from the dead to live and reign for all eternity. In Him we have boldness and confidence to enter into the presence of His Father.
The blessed One who comes in the name of the Lord gives us access to His Father. Luther reminds us that God’s name is certainly holy in itself but we pray that it may be kept holy among us. This is done when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and we as His children lead holy lives according to it. Notice here how the Catechism’s explanation resonate with the words of Psalm 119 where we implore God to “Deal bountifully with your servant that I may live and keep your word” (Ps. 119:17) and again “Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous work” (Ps. 119:27). God’s Word is heard and pondered in this Psalm so that “Petition and confession again and again modulate into praise and thanksgiving” (H.J. Kraus, Psalms II:415). This modulation is also reflected in many of the hymns of Advent. For example:
“Fling wide the portals of your heart; Make it a temple set apart from earthly use for heav’n’s employ; Adorned with prayer and love and joy. So shall your Sov-‘reign enter in and new and nobler life begin. To God alone be praise for word and deed and grace!” (340:4 LSB)
“Enter now my waiting heart, glorious King and Lord most holy. Dwell in me and ne’er depart, thought I am but poor and lowly. Ah, what riches will be mine when Thou art my guest divine! Hail! Hosanna, David’s Son! Jesus hear our supplication! Let Thy kingdom, scepter, crown, Bring us blessing and salvation, that forever we may sing: Hail! Hosanna to our King.” (350:2 & 4 LSB).
Also “O Savior, Rend the Heavens Wide”-355 LSB, especially stanzas 6-7.
The posture of Advent is prayer, calling out to the Lord who has come, who comes to us now in His Word, and fill come again at the end to take us to Himself. In the meantime we wait not as those who live in confusion and uncertainty but as dear children of God who have learned and continue to learn that God is our true Father and we are His true children so that we might make our petitions to Him as dear children coming before a dear father “with boldness and confidence.”
The Lord has come to us. He is the Word made flesh. The Scriptures which His Spirit inspired prophets and apostles to write testify to Him. It is in and through the Holy Scriptures that Christ Jesus gives Himself to us. Without the Holy Scriptures we would not know Him whose words are “spirit and life” (John 6:63). We listen to the Scriptures read and preached so that we might know Christ and His benefits. His words of promise give us the courage to call upon Him
Dietrich Bonhoeffer asserted “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart” (Psalms, 15). It is for this reason that the Psalmist confesses his delight in the Lord’s words (Ps. 16) and implores God to give him understanding that he may mediate on the Lord’s wondrous works.
Our Advent oratio is ever “Come, Lord Jesus.” He is near to all who call upon His name and He has promised to hear us and save us.
Everything about Advent announces that the Lord is present to redeem and rescue His people. He has given us His holy name that we may call upon Him and live holy lives here in time and thereafter in eternity.
- God’s Word gives us His Name
- With His Name we Have His Promise: All Those who Call Upon His Name will be Saved
- God’s Name is Kept Holy When we Call Upon His Name with our Lips and Honor it in Lives of Faith and Love
The Catechism reminds us that God’s holy name is given to us that we may call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. For the Christian, Advent is much more than a hectic season of preparation for the festivities of Christian. Advent is the Christian life in miniature. It is listening to the words of the Lord and learning ever again from His Word that we are His holy children blessed with His name in Baptism. With His name on our lips, we call upon Him in the midst of this world’s chaos, with our own lives lacerated by sin, and in the face of death, trusting only in His promises for the sake of the Son He sent to be our Brother and Savior. Call upon Him now in this day of trouble. He will you and you shall glorify Him.
SUGGESTED ORDER OF SERVICE:
The order of service for this series is the Service of Prayer and Preaching (LSB, p. 260).
Midweek I: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”-357 LSB
OPENING VERSICLES FOR ADVENT p. 260
OLD TESTAMENT CANTICLE:
“Sing Praise to the God of Israel”- 936 LSB
READING FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE
Midweek I: Psalm 119:12-16, 26-27
RESPONSORY FOR ADVENT p. 263
Ten Commandments/Apostles’ Creed/Lord’s Prayer
Midweek I: Introduction/First Petition p. 323 LSB
“For the Joy Thine Advent Gave Me” 548:3 LSB
Midweek I Oratio
Midweek I: “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”- 334 LSB
PRAYER p. 263
COLLECT OF THE WEEK
Midweek I: Collect for Advent I
COLLECT FOR THE WORD p. 265
Midweek I: Catechism Prayer for “Introduction” (Pless, Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, p. 54) and Catechism Prayer for “First Petition” (Pless, p.56)
EVENING PRAYER p. 267
“Arise, O Christian People”- 354:4 LSB
BLESSING p. 267
Click the links provided for the second and third installments of this series.