23 December 2018

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(23): 23 December 2018

The Visitation … a panel in the 19th Century neo-Gothic altarpiece from Oberammergau in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and we have almost reached the end of the Advent season this year. Later this morning [23 December 2018], there is only one service in this group of parishes, and I am presiding and preaching at the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) at 11 a.m. in Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick.

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 begins this week prays with a reflection on Anglican Heritage by Bishop Dato’ Dr Charles Samuel, Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of West Malaysia:

‘Anglicanism in Malaya (now Malaysia) began with the arrival of the British India Company in 1786. Construction of the first Anglican church, Saint George the Martyr in Penang – was completed in 1818 – and the first service was held on Christmas Day. At first, church services were mainly attended by prominent British families and army personnel. However, SPG [now USPG] and other Christian organisations took an interest in spreading the gospel and the church opened its doors to the community, so that Anglicans became a living denomination.

‘The early pioneers did not know what would come of the seed they had planted. But now see how that seed of faith has grown and spread so that today we have a thriving Anglican presence not only in Malaysia, but throughout East Asia and South East Asia.

‘The Anglican Church and the other traditional denominations are the better known churches in Malaysia and they are well respected. And, in a country where Christians face forms of silent persecution, it is important to note that the Christian community is united, which is a testament to our faith and an acknowledgement that we are a family in Christ.’

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 23 December 2018, the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Loving Father, as we celebrate the birth of your Son,
Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus our Saviour,
So we pray for Christians the world over.
May we be renewed in faith, hope and love.

‘The Visitation’, by James B. Janknegt

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’s reflection is headed ‘O Immanuel’, referring to the seventh and last of the seven O Antiphons in the final week of Advent:


O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster


O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God

Today’s suggested reading is Luke 1: 39-45, which is familiar as the canticle Magnificat, recommended in the Revised Common Lectionary as a canticle today [23 December 2018, Advent IV] and as part of the longer version of the Gospel reading.

The reflection for today suggests:

Pray to become a messenger of hope, give thanks for all who encourage us and help us live life fully.

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

Micah 5: 2-5a; the Canticle Magnificat or Psalm 80: 1-8; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45 (46-56).

The Collect:

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.

The 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.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.

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