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01 December 2019 6pm

The Church has always kept Advent as a season of great solemnity - a time in which to meditate upon the ultimate issues of death, judgement, hell and heaven. Advent, though, is also a time of great rejoicing. For Christ will come, not only as Judge, but also as Saviour, and usher in the Kingdom of God.

In the Middle Ages the observance of Advent became highly developed reflecting these themes, and therefore provided a vivid preparation for Christmas. Processions from west to east, and the use of lights, spoke of the Church's hope in the coming of Christ - the Light of the world - to banish sin and darkness. Antiphons were sung, calling upon God to deliver his people, and readings from the Old Testament were seen as pointing to the fulfilment of God's purpose in Jesus.

This service aims to recapture something of that Advent longing and hope. It begins in darkness with the Advent Prose. The remainder of the service is structured around the Advent Antiphons, known as the Great 'O's. These were sung originally as antiphons to the Magnificat at the Evening Office from 17 to 23 December, and have provided a rich source of devotional imagery in Advent. The readings and music serve to complement the Antiphons, and help us reflect on the theme of the Christ who comes to judge and save his people. The Antiphons are gathered together in the final hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel, which is sung as the procession withdraws. The service ends in quietness, but in confident hope in the One who is to come. Even so come, Lord Jesus.