Collect Reflections: The Second Sunday in Advent
Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent
“Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Our Advent Collect continues a theme of retraining our attention on weightier matters of life, this time turning our hearts and minds toward Scripture. The value that this Collect places on Scripture is built on the testimony of the Bible about itself. Two Psalms are particularly well known for testifying to how precious Scripture is: Psalms 19 and 119. Psalm 19:10 reads, “More to be desired are they [the Scriptures] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, than the drippings from the honeycomb.” Psalm 119 echoes this twice, proclaiming, “The law of your mouth is dearer to me than thousands in gold and silver” and “For I love your commandments above all things, more than gold and precious stones.” Love of the Bible as a precious gift from God has been, and should be, at the center of Anglican piety.
The Preface to the English Standard Version of the Bible demonstrates the value that Anglicans have placed on Scripture: ““This Book [is] the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.” With these words the Moderator of the Church of Scotland hands a Bible to the new monarch in Britain’s coronation service. These words echo the King James Bible translators, who wrote in 1611, “God’s sacred Word . . . is that inestimable treasure that excelleth all the riches of the earth.”” The Bible is “the most valuable” thing we could ever own and it excelles “all the riches of the earth.” Why? Because, as our Collect reminds us, God “caused all Holy Scriptures to be written" for us. God himself wrote a book. For us. The Bible is no mere ancient collection of documents. It is God’s living and active Word, by which he speaks to his people, converting them, ruling them, and transforming them.
What should we do with such a precious gift? Our Collect has the answer. First, we should “hear” the Holy Scriptures, primarily through regular participation in the church’s worship. It is in our service of Holy Communion that God’s Word it read aloud and preached from. Second, we should “read”, “mark”, and “learn” them. The daily reading of Scripture is one of the foundational practices of the Christian life. The Bible does us no good left on a shelf. Take up and read! “Marking” Scripture refers to a diligent study of it. Some of our reading of the Bible should be done at a deeper level than merely glancing over the words to get through our daily devotions. We should slow down, seek out resources, and try to dig into Scripture to come to a deeper understanding of it. Our goal in this is “learning” Scripture: having a functional literacy in the Bible’s parts and its message as a whole. And this all should lead to “inwardly digesting” Scripture: letting God’s Word sink from our heads into our hearts, transforming us from the inside out, inflaming and enlarging our love of God and love of neighbor. This is the power that Scripture has when it is wielded by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. To neglect Scripture is to neglect one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and one of the most powerful means of grace that God uses to transform us into the image of his Son. Because that is where Scripture should ultimately lead us, and therefore where our Collect leads us: it is in Scripture that we come into contact with “the blessed hope of everlasting life” which is ours in Jesus, who is the sum and substance of all the Holy Scriptures.
The Person we encounter when we read the Bible is none other than Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and Lord of all the universe. And when we encounter him in Scripture, we are drawn deeper into everlasting life he has given to us. So, this Advent, let us renew our commitment to engaging with Scripture. Let us pray that we would value it as much as God does. And let us seek to encounter God Himself in its pages, for his glory. Amen.