Sunday, 16 December 2018

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(16): 16 December 2018

Saint John the Baptist (left) and Saint George in a stained glass window in the Chapel of the Hospital of Saint the Baptist in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent (Advent III). Later this morning, at 11.30 a.m., I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, and in the afternoon, at 3 p.m., we have a Carol Service for this group of parishes in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday, is the Sunday we traditionally remember Saint John the Baptist. The pink candle is lit on Advent Wreaths, and the liturgical colour changes in many parts of the Anglican Communion from violet (or purple) to pink, adding a hint or tint of the joy to come at Christmas.

Throughout the season of Advent this year, 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 for 2018 being used in 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.

USPG is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current USPG prayer diary (7 October 2018 to 16 February 2019), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

The USPG Prayer Diary this week prays with reflections from Bangladesh, and begins this morning with an article by Paul Senoy Sarkar, Programme Officer for Shalom, which is the development organisation of the Church of Bangladesh:

‘Puiln, 55 years old, lives in Ramdever Par village, close to Jobarpar. He and has family live on a small homestead with a vegetable garden, a small fish pond, and poultry in one corner. When we visited Pulin, he was busy collecting vegetables from his garden to take to market.

Last year, Shalom provided him training in vegetable cultivation, rearing hens and ducks, and fish farming. He was also put in contact with the local Agriculture and Fisheries Office, from which he can receive advice and instruction as he needs.

Now Pulin is able to get a good price when he sells his vegetables, fish, ducks and chickens at market, which means his family has security in terms of livelihood, food and nutrition. Pulin is even able to share vegetables with his neighbour.

Pulin said: ‘Shalom changed my life. I am very thankful to Shalom. Before I did not have proper training and practice in agriculture. But now I have trained in agriculture, especially how to make the most of the market, I get a fair price when I sell my produce. This makes me happy.’

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 16 December 2018:


O God who comforts the afflicted and heals the broken,
we pray that the work of Shalom in the Church of Bangladesh.
Through its work, may your kingdom of justice and peace
be established amongst the communities it serves.

John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming’ (Luke 3: 16) … a fresco in a church in the mountain village of Maroulas, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

Lichfield Cathedral’s Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar for 2018 suggests you light your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray. It suggests setting aside five to 15 minutes each day.

Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar. Each week there is a suggestion to ‘eat simply’ – try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough. There is a suggestion to donate to a charity working with the homeless. There is encouragement to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

The calendar is for not only for those who use the Cathedral website and for the Cathedral community. It is also for anyone who wants to share in the daily devotional exercise. The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests ‘Go to Church’ and today’s suggested reading is Luke 3: 7-18.

The reflection for today suggests:

As Christmas preparations intensify, pray to be taught the generosity, humility and justice of Jesus and the grace to practise these qualities.

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

Zephaniah 3: 14-20; Canticle Song of Isaiah (Isaiah 12: 2-6) or Psalm 146: 4-7; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 7-18.

The Collect:

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.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Father,
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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