Sharp About Your Prayers

the challenges, absurdities, and joys of an urban faith

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An Advent Resolution

November 30th, 2017 · No Comments · Faith and the City

What are you thinking? What’s been going through your head the last few minutes?

Got it?

Okay, now a follow-up: Did you decide to think about this subject? Did you intentionally choose to pay attention to some specific thing? Or did it just happen? Did a story on the radio, or a note from your doctor, or an email in your inbox, or a news alert on your smartphone launch your mind on a journey?

Do we direct our own thoughts? Or do powerful and random forces blow our thoughts hither and yon like a leaf in the wind?

I ask this, good friends, because it is Advent. We are entering the season when Christians prepare ourselves (our homes, our hearts and our minds) for the coming of the Messiah. In this season, we seek to quiet our minds and discipline our thoughts. But it is difficult — very difficult — not to get distracted.

In the early church, as early as the 600s, members of monastic communities embraced this challenge. To help focus their thoughts during Advent, Benedictine monks would sing the “O Antiphons.” An “O Antiphon” is simply a name for the Messiah and an appeal that God’s Chosen One would break into the world and heal our brokenness. We echo the “O Antiphons” in the most famous Advent hymn of all, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

O come, Thou Day-Spring
Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here…

The monks sang these short songs throughout the day. They sang them while they were baking bread, tilling the garden, washing their clothes. They sang them in the hope that God (and not some other, random thing) would shape their thoughts and their hearts in this precious season. To encourage each other, the monks would greet each other in the hallways with the jovial exhortation, “Keep your O!”

I extend the same challenge to you. Keep your O!

Fill your hearts and minds with the antiphons this Advent. The clergy and musicians at FAPC have planned a series of beautiful worship services to help you. For this to work, of course, you cannot be passive. For Advent to seep into your soul, you need to control what you are putting into your head. You need to think about what song is on your lips.

This December, make yourself a promise you will not regret. Resolve to “Keep your O!”

See you in worship,


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