This year, my congregation in Sharpsburg, Georgia, went old-school for the first Sunday of the Church Year: we had hosannas in Advent.
The Christian Worship (CW) lectionary appoints Matthew 24:36-44 as the Gospel for Advent 1: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” The theme for the Sunday is preparation for Jesus’ return at the end of time. This message is much needed and fits well in the season of Advent. But there are challenges for the worship planner.
“It feels like eight weeks of Advent!” The Scripture Committee fielded many such comments regarding the transition from Christian Worship’s season of End Time to the beginning of Advent. Even though the Church at one point did have an eight week Advent season, for many respondents to our surveys, the themes of these Sundays seemed quite similar.
This year for Advent 1, my congregation tried something different, something old-school. The historic one-year lectionary of the Lutheran Church for many centuries has used Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9) as the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent.
Changing the appointed Gospel to this historic selection redefined the focus of Advent 1 from Christ’s second coming to the question of the Palm Sunday crowd, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:10) Who is this that will be the center of our worship for the next year? Who is this that will be the hub and hinge of our faith?1 The Psalm of the Day answers: “Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty--he is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24) That the Coming One is both Son of David and Son of God means he is the answer to our cry, “Hosanna (which means, Lord, save us!).”
I wondered how it would feel to have Advent hosannas. Would a Palm Sunday reading feel out of place? As we planned for worship, we noted how well our Advent hymnody fit with this new theme--precisely because many of our Advent hymns were written during the time of the historic lectionary when every First Sunday of the Church Year, God’s people heard this text.
Did you use the following hymns this Advent? Consider how well they fit with the triumphal entry as the Gospel for Advent 1:
God’s people see him coming: Your own eternal King! Palm branches strew before him! Spread garments! Shout and sing! God’s promise will not fail you! No more shall doubt assail you! Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s Word. (CWS 702 Prepare the Royal Highway)
Hosanna to the coming Lord! Hosanna to the incarnate Word! To Christ, Creator, Savior, King Let earth, let heav’n hosanna sing. (CW21 Hosanna to the Coming Lord)
The season of Advent has had hosannas for many centuries, because it is the season when we celebrate three advents of Christ: He came in the flesh; he comes daily in Word and Sacrament; he will come again. Each of those advents leads God’s people to say, “Hosanna! Lord, save us!”
So what do you think? The Scripture Committee is considering appointing the triumphal entry as an alternate Gospel for Advent 1 ABC. Would you like some Advent Hosannas? We would welcome your thoughts.