24 December 2017

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(22): 24 December 2017

The large crib in the centre of Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican earlier this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, this evening is Christmas Eve. We have come to the end of Advent, and tomorrow is Christmas Day.

This morning I am presiding at and preaching at the Parish Eucharist at 11 a.m. in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick. This is a united service for the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. Later this evening, I am presiding at and preaching at the Christmas Eucharist at 8 p.m. in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, and at 10 p.m. in Castletown Church, Kilcornan (Pallaskenry), Co Limerick.

Tomorrow morning, on Christmas Day, I am presiding at and preaching at the Christmas Eucharist at 9.30 a.m. in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and at 11 a.m. in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Throughout this season of Advent, I have been 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 visits the Holy Land, and this theme is introduced by Salwa Khoury, who is based at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Nablus on the West Bank:

St Luke’s Hospital has been serving its local community with love and care since its inception in 1900. The hospital operates in a non-commercial manner to provide medical care for all who are in need, regardless of race, religion or financial status, reaching a local population of almost 200,000, with around 9,000 patients treated each year.

Our aim is to demonstrate God’s love in action by alleviating suffering, supporting the poor, and comforting the bereaved.

Nadia, 25, from Ballata village, had a traffic accident during her eighth month of pregnancy, which led to an early delivery of her baby Ammar by caesarean. But Ammar, being so premature, was struggling to breathe, so Nadia brought her baby to St Luke’s for urgent treatment. Mother and baby stayed for two weeks until Ammar had sufficiently improved and could be discharged.

Nadia is a Palestinian whose family struggles financially because her husband earns very little as a daily-paid worker. So Nadia’s medical fees were reduced to a minimum – and she expressed her deepest thanks to the hospital for her care, for paying the costs, and for giving smiles to her family by hanging balloons in her ward.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 24 December 2017:

Lord Jesus, mother Mary carried you in an occupied land.
We pray for mothers in the Holy Land today;
bless church-run hospitals that serve them and their children,
regardless of race, religion or financial status.

As we light our Advent candles in anticipation of the coming of the Christ Child, USPG is inviting us to pray for mothers and children who are served by the USPG in the world church in Tanzania, Ghana, Bangladesh and Palestine.

The first candle on the Advent Wreath was the Purple Candle recalling the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, our fathers and mothers in the faith, like Abraham and Sarah, and so on. The second purple candle represents the Prophets. The third, pink candle, which we lit last Sunday, represents Saint John the Baptist. This morning’s fourth purple candle represents the Virgin Mary, and she is the theme of our readings and some of our hymns and prayers this morning.

USPG suggests this prayer when lighting the fourth candle representing the Virgin Mary:

The Virgin Mary:

O God of promise,
whose mother Mary carried your Christ in an occupied land;
we pray for mothers in the Holy Land
who today live with restrictions and violence.
Bless the church-run hospitals that serve them and their children
regardless of race, religion or financial status.

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

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

Today, the calendar suggests reading Isaiah 11: 1-9.

The reflection for today offers this challenge:

As we begin the festivities, we remember the peace and joy God wants for us and his world. Offer yourself again so that he can reign in your life.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, Holy Communion, the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

II Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; the Canticle Magnificat or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38.

The Collect of the Third Sunday of Advent:

Collect (the Fourth Sunday of Advent):

God our redeemer
who prepared the blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son:
Grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour,
so we may be ready to greet him
when he comes again as our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 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:

Heavenly Father,
you have given us a pledge of eternal redemption.
Grant that we may always eagerly celebrate
the saving mystery of the incarnation of your Son.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yesterday’s reflection

Series concluded.

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