The final Advent session focused on the last ‘O Antiphon’:
“O Immanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour. O come and save us Lord our God.
The first verse of ‘O come, O come Emmanuel is the one that goes with this antiphon:
O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears.
Having heard both we picked up the theme of exile, that appears here and in the commentary for the antiphon. We spilt into to groups. One thought about the story of the time in Egypt and the person of Moses. The other thought about the exile in Babylon. Each group recorded how they imagined the people of Israel might have felt in exile, unable to go home. These words were then shared with the whole group.
After this we split into groups again, this time looking at pictures of the Annunciation. We recorded what we noticed and what we heard in the gospel reading from Advent 4. Words were placed at the front next to the ones about the Exile. Some of the children made tableaux of the Annunciation, over which was read the reading from St Bernard from Advent 4, beginning “You have heard O virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son…The angel awaits an answer, it is time to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion.”
The last part of the session looked back over the 4 sessions. We heard again the questions we had heard each week: What is it like to wait for the one who gives you breath and sustains you? What is it like to wait for the one who frees you from captivity? What is it like to be lost and wait for the one who will find you? What is it like to wait in the darkness for the one who is the light? What is it like to be far from home, unable to return waiting for the one who will rescue you and be with you?
We watched an animation, which focused on God waiting in Advent, waiting for fruits to come to fruition in his people. Music was played, after this while people wrote down their responses to the whole course:
“In the dark, sometimes all we have to give us hope is a memory of the light. But the memory of the light is so beautiful and life giving we are sustained until the dawn.”
“God is waiting for us to respond to him. He always has and always will wait for us.”
“I started the course at a point of negativity both personal and to a degree spiritual. This has changed for me and I look forward with renewed hope in God’s promised son. Tonight I have a great feeling of calmness and peace.”
“Someone is coming to show us the way of life, someone who is like no other. We cannot wait for the time when he arrives, when will it be? Waiting, we are waiting for the time of the arrival. Time seems endless.”
“Are we waiting for God or is God waiting for us? ‘I stand at the door and knock.’ ‘Be a light to my path.’”
“It was difficult for Jesus and he was like any other in the struggles he faced.”
“Advent is a time for waiting for a baby who grew to be something amazing.”
God’s plan, stretching back over centuries; through creation and fall, slavery and release, through rejection and restoration, through trial and resolution. And now it is so close. Mary’s ‘Yes’ brings it to birth. And I, many years later wait for the fruition of the plan: the coming of the Saviour and his saving work in my life.”
“I feel joy inside my heart. I feel happy in myself. I feel like I know how God feels. I feel like I am breaking out of the darkness into the light! Will I ever go back into the darkness and never see the light again? Or will I stay in the light for ever?”
The final question was asked: What does it feel like for the waiting to be almost over? It is very, very close now. Mary has said ‘Yes”. With the session being on 23rd we could say “When the sun goes down tomorrow, it will be the Holy night when the Christ child is born.