17 December 2017

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(15): 17 December 2017

Student nurse Deepa Roy at the USPG-supported Bollobhpur Hospital, with a patient, Kumodini (Photograph: USPG/Leah Gordon)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent, and as next Sunday is both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve, today marks the beginning the last week of Advent this year.

This morning’s theme, as we light the third, pink candle on the Advent Wreath in many churches is ‘Saint John the Baptist.’ This theme may also run through the readings, hymns, prayers and sermons in churches.

Later this morning [17 December], I am preaching and presiding at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry at 11.30, and in the afternoon leading the Carol Service in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, at 3 p.m.

As we light the third, pink candle on the Advent Wreath, the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) suggest this prayer:

O God of justice,
whose servant John prepared the way for Jesus’ coming;
we pray for the medical mission of the Church of Bangladesh
as it prepares the way for prematurely born children.
Bless the babies from different faiths who share the warmth
of a common incubator.
May their world become a fair and just home for all.

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies. This week, it continues with reflections and prayers from Bangladesh.

The Prayer Diary today includes an article by Sister Gillian Rose, a former USPG mission partner, who oversees the USPG-supported Bollobphur Hospital, which is owned by the Church of Bangladesh. She writes:

Despite political unrest that upset the country and horrific terrorist activities, here at Bollobphur we remain a little oasis of peace. Families of different faith backgrounds – Muslim, Hindi and Christian – live and work together in peace and harmony..

Indeed, tiny babies of different faith backgrounds share together the warmth and comfort of the incubators. Our largest incubator often has three babies growing up together. I always say these tiny babies do better if they have a companion – and, indeed, they keep each other warm when a sudden power cut shuts off the electricity supply to the incubator.

Also, before the programme, whenever I bought fruit and vegetables from the market, I wasn’t washing them. But not I wash them with a soap and salt solution before I use them to prepare food.

During the year, a total of 573 babies were born at Bollobphur. Of these babies, 38 were tiny and premature. The majority are very tiny on arrival, weighing only 800g, 900g or 1kg Several mothers brought tiny twin babies to us to care for. Our student nurses care for them, feeding them every two hours, day and night – and what a joy it is when the mother is able to take the baby home, weighing over 2g.

Your parish can directly fund this health programme through USPG’s Partners in Mission scheme. Visit www.uspg.org.uk/pim

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 17 December 2017, Third Sunday of Advent:

O God, whose servant John prepared the way for Jesus’ coming,
we pray for the medical mission of the Church of Bangladesh.
Bless the premature babies there, sharing a common incubator.
May their world become a fair and just home for all.

‘A Cathedral Illuminated’ returns to Lichfield Cathedral tomorrow, running from 18 to 23 December, featuring artwork by Luxmuralis (artists Peter Walker Sculptor and David Harper). Film by David Harper

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

Today, the calendar is headed ‘O Sapientia,’ referring to the first of the O Antiphons in the final week of Advent.

The ‘Late Advent Weekdays,’ 17 to 24 December, mark the singing of the Great Advent ‘O Antiphons.’ These are the antiphons for the canticle Magnificat at Evensong, Evening Prayer or Vespers day and mark the forthcoming birth of the Messiah. They form the basis for each verse of the popular Advent hymn, O come, O come, Emmanuel.

These antiphons, all beginning with ‘O ...,’ were sung before and after the Canticle Magnificat at Vespers from 17 to 24 December, the seven days before Christmas. They are addressed to God, calling on him to come as teacher and deliverer, and woven through with scriptural titles and images describing God’s saving work in Christ. This tradition was developed in the Sarum Rite in mediaeval England, and was reflected in The Book of Common Prayer, where the Anglican Reformers retained the title O Sapientia (‘O Wisdom’) as the designation for 16 December.

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests going to church and reading Matthew 1: 8-24.

The reflection for today suggests:

As we read the story of Joseph seeing the truth of what was happening to him in a dream, pray for insight to see beyond the superficial.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary):

Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 or the Canticle Magnificat; I Thessalonians 5: 16-24; John 1: 6-8, 19-28.

The Collect of the Third Sunday of Advent:

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow.

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