O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. 
Come and show your people the way to salvation. 

The Israelites of the Old Testament had an idea of wisdom that was mainly about how to live successfully in the world. Not successfully as we think about it as North Americans, but how to navigate the twists and turns of life without breaking shalom – God’s intentions for human beings expressed in the Law and Prophets. In fact, our Old Testament contains five books in the middle (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) that are considered the pinnacle of Hebrew wisdom. The themes of the Israelite approach to wisdom are also woven throughout the other Old Testament writings. 

In the New Testament, the book of James picks up on the wisdom theme and connects it with Jesus. The New Testament writers agree that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s wisdom. So how does this relate to Advent and Christmas? When we pray this first O Antiphon, we’re agreeing with Christians who came before us that God’s greatest wisdom is bound up in the incarnation, in God putting on flesh and coming to us in human form. Advent is a time to welcome God’s wisdom into our lives. 

Questions for reflection or small group discussion

  1. What does our current culture esteem/value as wisdom? Who do we think “gets” life? How do people decide which “wise ones” to follow? 

  2. Pastor J-M said in his sermon, “the failure of human wisdom is that it isn’t connected to shalom.” That is, human beings have vast knowledge, but still fail in how best to apply it. We don’t use our knowledge with God’s values in mind. Do you agree? Can you think of some examples in our world today? 

  3. Isaiah chapter 40 expresses truths about God and how he relates to his creation. Read it together and summarize what God is and does that makes him the source of Wisdom. 

  4. In his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes this about Jesus: But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
    a) How is Jesus God’s “power” and “wisdom?” What is it about Jesus as God’s Messiah that expresses the power and wisdom of God?  
    b) How is God’s weakness stronger than all our human strength?  How was Jesus both powerful and weak at the same time?  Does this relate to God’s “strong yet tender” care expressed in this week’s O Antiphon? 

  5. The Hebrew approach to wisdom was knowing the correct thing to do at the right time (see the book of Proverbs).  
    a) Have you had an experience where you applied Biblical wisdom/Jesus’ teaching to a situation you found yourself in? What was the outcome? 
    b) What situation in your life right now needs the wisdom of God in Jesus? Where do you feel stuck and unsure about how to proceed? 

  6. James 1:5 states that God is generous with wisdom and that he’ll never say “don’t ask” when it comes to wisdom.
    a) Pray for one another’s situations (Q 5.b.) and ask for God’s wisdom. 
    b) Do particular proverbs, teaching/parables, stories from scripture seem applicable to any of the situations you are facing? Discuss how to apply God’s wisdom in your lives right now.  

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.