O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

This second O Antiphon prayer focuses on God’s plans for Israel: he called Moses as a special prophet, he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he met with them on Mt Sinai and gave the people his law, the nation Israel found its identity in their unique relationship with the God of their ancestors through Moses.  God revealed himself to Moses in an extraordinary way in everyday, ordinary circumstances: at the roadside where Moses was with his flocks as a shepherd.  God knew the plight of his people (Ex 3:7-8) and had a plan to save them.  The people returned to Sinai with Moses and God gave them the Law.  The law was intended for the people to live differently, to be a “light to the Gentiles.” 

What does all this have to do with Christmas?  Christians read the Old Testament scriptures and see that God has the same plan, but fully realized in Jesus Christ, born of Mary.  God reveals himself in an extraordinary way in ordinary circumstances: a stable, a manger.  God knew the plight of the whole creation and had a plan to save it through his Son (Jn 3:17).  Jesus’ teaching points to what the prophets called the “law being written on our hearts” – life in the Spirit (Ez 36:26; Je 31:33; He 8:10).  In Jesus, someone greater than Moses has come to us.  God’s plan is now extended to all the families of the earth, not just the Israelites.  Jesus calls his followers to be “the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). 

Questions for reflection or small group discussion

  1. How would you describe God’s plan for the world?  Can you do it in 1 or 2 sentences? 

  2. Do you find it hard to read and understand the Old Testament?  Why or why not?  

  3. “In Jesus, someone greater than Moses has come to us.”  How does this statement help us to make sense of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament? 

  4. The call for Jesus’ followers to be “the light of the world” is a huge one.  How have Christians lived up to this calling?  How have we failed? 

  5. Pastor J-M spoke on Sunday about God’s plan extending even to individuals and families.  That is, God’s intention for us is to set us free from the things that enslave us, to write his law on our hearts, and to bring us into his family.
    a) What is enslaving you at this time in your life?  How might God be calling you “out of slavery” and into life lived in the freedom of the Holy Spirit?  Is there a dream you are chasing that is something other than God’s plan for you?
    b) What help do you need to come into the freedom of life in the Spirit?
    c) In what ways do you identify as a member of God’s family (adopted into the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)?  How has God’s family created through Jesus been real in your life?
    d) Pray for one another about what arises from your discussion together. 

The “O Antiphons” 

This year, we have several Sundays and meetings leading up to Christmas Day, and we will use 6 of the 7 traditional prayers called the “O Antiphons” that were traditionally prayed in the week leading up to Christmas Eve. These prayers are invitations for God’s presence which focus on a different name or theme from Scripture related to Jesus. You may be familiar with themes of these prayers because they were made into the verses of the Christmas carol “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Below is an English translation of these prayers (originally written in Latin) which are concise statements of deep truths about God’s working in history for the salvation of his creation. 

First antiphon 
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God (Sir. 24:3), you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care (Wisd. of Sol. 8:1). Come and show your people the way to salvation (Isa. 40:3-5a). 

Second antiphon 
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel (Exod. 6:2-3), who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush (Exod. 3:2), who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free (Exod. 6:6). 

Third antiphon 
O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples (Isa. 11:10; Rom. 15:12); kings stand silent in your presence (Isa. 5:15); the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid (Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37). 

Fourth antiphon 
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven (Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7): come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom (Isa. 42:7; Ps. 107:14; Luke 1:79). 

Fifth antiphon 
O Radiant Dawn (Isa. 58:8), splendor of eternal light (Heb. 1:3), sun of justice (Mal. 4:2): come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79; Isa. 9:2). 

Sixth antiphon 
O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart (Hag. 2:8); O Keystone (Isa. 28:16) of the mighty arch of man (Eph. 2:14): come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust (Gen. 2:7). 

Seventh antiphon 
O Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14, 8:8), king and lawgiver (Isa. 33:22), desire of the nations (Gen. 49:10), Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. 

Click HERE to watch the full sermon.