25 December 2016

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(1): 25 December 2016

The first Christmas … the Nativity scene in an icon in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas Day has arrived. Throughout Advent, I have been praying each morning using for my reflections the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and I have decided to continue to use this prayer diary for my morning prayers and reflections today, Christmas Day, and during the Twelve Days of Christmas that follow.

This week, the prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary focus on the needs of mothers and children in Palestine and Israel.

In an article in the prayer diary, Johannes Zwig, a former USPG mission companion in Jerusalem, and now a lecturer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a Holy Land tour leader, writes:

‘Mohammed’s eyes are big and black. His ears stick out a bit. While laughing, two small teeth appear. He is indeed a cute boy. But his mother is really concerned about the health of her ninth child. At birth his weight was only 2kg and, a year later, he was still severely under-weight.

‘His parents decided to travel from their home in Dura, near Hebron in the West Bank, to Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem, a distance of about 40k. The journey is not a huge enterprise, but in an area under military occupation, with many army checkpoints, this can be an undertaking of two or more hours.

‘At the hospital, close to the Israeli separation wall, Mohammed underwent many tests. Food intolerance has been excluded. Now the doctors are waiting for more results before providing treatment.

‘Caritas Baby Hospital, founded in 1952, provides 82 beds. There are 240 Christian and Muslim employees making the hospital the second biggest employer in Bethlehem. The Christian institution treats more than 30,000 children each year – mainly for diseases related to poverty. ‘The hospital is a place of hope,’ according to former member of staff Reto Mischler.’

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 25 December 2016, Christmas Day:

Lord, today you were born homeless and laid in a manger.
Fill is with compassion for all in need today.
Help us to respond to your most generous gift,
of Jesus Christ, with loving service to others.

On this day, we also light the fifth and final candle in the centre of the Advent Wreath, marking the birth of Christ in Bethlehem:

Holy God, your only son was born with no home and laid in a manger;
fill us with compassion for all in need today.
Bless your church as it works for dignity, healing and peace
across the world, and give us generous hearts
to respond to your most generous gift,
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2: 1-14 (15-20).

The Collect of the Day:

Eternal God,
who made this most holy night
to shine with the brightness of your one true light:
Bring us, who have known the revelation
of that light on earth,
to see the radiance of your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer

God our Father,
in this night you have made known to us again
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him
until the day dawns
and Christ the Morning Star rises in our hearts.
To him be glory both now and for ever.

Continued tomorrow

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