Sunday, 13 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
15, Sunday 13 December 2020

‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John’ (John 1: 6) … inside the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

In addition, the Dean and clergy of Lichfield Cathedral are holding three vigils on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, 13, 14 and 15 December, from 7 to 9 p.m. each evening, ending with Compline. There is a variety of places to stop, think, look, and pray, with places to sit, stand, kneel or rest. The focus this evening (13 December) is ‘Light in the Darkness: a vigil for all facing a difficult Christmas.’

It’s a time to name hurts, losses and sadnesses silently before God and to pray for light, peace and healing for ourselves, our loved ones and families.

Sunday 13 December 2020:

Read Saint John 1: 6-8, 19-28 (NRSVA):

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord”,’
as the prophet Isaiah said.
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26 John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Reflection:

The mark of a true prophet is humility, which points away from self to God. How can we the Church draw attention to the ‘true light’?

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Sunday intercessions on
13 December 2020,
Third Sunday of Advent

‘Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy’ (Psalm 126: 2) … a sign in a cafĂ© in Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations’ (Psalm 126: 11):

Heavenly Father,
as we prepare for the coming of Christ
and to welcome the promises of the Kingdom,
we pray that truth shall spring up from the earth, and guide the rulers and nations of the world.

We pray for all nations torn and divided by war and strife,
and we pray for all peacemakers,
and all who defend democracy and human rights.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight’ (John 1: 3):

Lord Jesus Christ,
in these weeks of Advent,
as we may prepare for your coming,
we pray for the Church,
that we may ‘make straight the way of the Lord’ (John 1: 23)

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Falkland Islands
and for Bishop Timothy Thornton, Bishop to the Falkland Islands.

In the Church of Ireland,
we pray for this Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert
as we prepare to unite with the Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry,
and we pray for our bishop, Bishop Kenneth Kearon,
and for Bishop Patrick Rooke.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for the Roscrea Group of parishes,
the Rector, Canon Jane Galbraith
and the congregations of Saint Cronan’s Church, Roscrea,
Saint Burchin’s Church, Bourney,
Christ Church, Corbally, and Saint Molua’s Church, Kyle.

We pray for our own parishes and people and for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

The Spirit of the Lord sends us to bind up the broken-hearted,
to comfort all who mourn (Isaiah 61: 1-3)

Holy Spirit,
we pray for ourselves, for one another,
for those we love and those who love us,
and remember those who have brought love into our lives:

We give thanks for new life …
We pray for those in need and those who seek healing …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Sylvia … Alan … Margaret … Daphne … Declan …
Lorraine … Ajay… Ena … Eileen …
Simon … Ralph … Adam …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
we remember and give thanks those who have died …
and those whose anniversaries are at this time …
including Kate … Stephen …
may their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday:

Lord, you welcome the stranger
and urge us to be welcoming.
May we take your words to heart
and extend hospitality to those in need. Amen.

Merciful Father …

The Advent Wreath on the Third Sunday of Advent (The Pink Candle):

On the Third Sunday of Advent, the rose-coloured or pink candle on the Advent Wreath, symbolising Saint John the Baptist, and is lit alongside the two violet candles, symbolising the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

The first purple candle on the First Sunday of Advent recalls the Patriarchs and Matriarchs; the second purple candle represents the Prophets.

USPG suggests this prayer when lighting the third candle:

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.

Lighting the third, pink candle on the Advent Wreath in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry (Photograph: Barbara Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, on the Third Sunday of Advent, 13 December 2020

‘What can I give him,
poor as I am?’ Preparing
the way of the Lord

‘Snow had fallen, snow on snow’ … snow in the Rectory garden in Askeaton the year before last (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 13 December 2020

The Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday


9.30: The Parish Eucharist, Castletown Church, Co Limerick

11.30: Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

Readings: Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; John 1: 6-8, 19-28

There is a direct link to the readings HERE.

‘He has sent me … to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners’ (Isaiah 61: 1) … an empty prison cell in the former concentration camp at Sachsenhausen (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

This morning, we light the third, pink candle on the Advent Wreath, and our prayers and readings focus on Saint John the Baptist.

Today is also known as Gaudete Sunday, taking its name from the Latin word Gaudete, meaning ‘Rejoice.’

Rejoice in the Lord always;
again I say, rejoice.


Too often, we think of Advent as a time of penitence, as a time like Lent. But it is not. It is a time to rejoice, to prepare for the coming of Christ, a time of anticipation, waiting, preparation, and of rejoicing.

In many churches, that feeling of joyful anticipations is displayed in the rose-coloured vestments worn on Gaudete Sunday instead of the violet of Advent. In some Anglican traditions, ‘Sarum Blue’ is used instead as a colour that represents hopefulness.

Our first reading (Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11) provides verses (1b to 2) that are quoted by Christ when he begins his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth (see Luke 4: 18-19).

‘The year of the Lord’s favour’ refers to the jubilee year, a year dedicated to God, when all shall be free to return home to their families, and a year of rest when the land produces without being sown or worked.

Isaiah tells us that strangers or foreigners from all nations are to contribute to the restoration of righteousness on earth. They will be double blessed and have eternal joy, and God’s prmises will last for ever.

He looks forward to the time when all will rejoice because God has provided salvation and has healed their rift with God, and the people will praise God as an example for ‘all the nations.’

Advent should be a time of joyful preparation. As the Psalm this morning recalls: ‘Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with songs of joy’ (Psalm 126: 2). And, I know, we all need joy and laughter at the end of what has been a very dismal year for many.

In our Gospel reading (John 1: 6-8, 19-28), Saint John the Baptist calls on us to prepare ‘the way of the Lord’ (verse 23).

Saint John the Baptist is self-effacing about himself. He sees his role as one of waiting and preparing.

In this time of Advent, how are we preparing to welcome the coming Christ?

Decorating the house, sending cards, setting up the tree, enjoying the lights and the shopfronts … these all help build up our joyful anticipation and hope for the light of God coming into the darkness of the world … wrapping presents … making a list, checking it twice …

Is Christ on your list?

If Christ is on your list, what present would you bring him?

This question is asked by Christina Rossetti in her poem and hymn, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter.’ It was written almost a century and a half ago, in 1872, but still is one of the most popular and best-loved carols. Some years ago, in a BBC poll of some of the world’s leading choirmasters and choral experts, it was chosen as the best-ever Christmas carol.

This is no popular, cosy, comfortable Christmas carol. Instead, its images are harsh and bleak, and in today’s uncomfortable pandemic climate they are words that are challenging and demanding once again.

In the bleak midwinter (Irish Church Hymnal, No 162), by Christina Rossetti:

In the bleak midwinter
frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron,
water like a stone:
snow had fallen, snow on snow,
snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter,
long ago.

Our God, heav’n cannot hold him,
nor earth sustain;
heav’n and earth shall flee away
when he comes to reign:
in the bleak midwinter
a stable place sufficed
the Lord God almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for him, whom cherubim
worship night and day,
a breast full of milk
and a manger-ful of hay;
enough for him, whom angels
fall down before,
the ox and ass and camel
which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim
thronged the air;
but his mother only,
in her maiden bliss,
worshipped the beloved
with a kiss.

What can I give him,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man
I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him —
give my heart.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

(Listen to the Choir of Lichfield Cathedral singing In the bleak midwinter here)

Saint John the Baptist and the Baptism of Christ in a stained-glass window in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Dromcollogher, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

John 1: 6-8, 19-28 (NRSVA):

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord”,’
as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26 John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The Baptism of Christ at the entrance to the Baptistery in Florence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Violet (Purple) or Pink or Rose (Gaudete Sunday).

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

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 Advent Collect:

This collect is said after the Collect of the day until Christmas Eve:

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.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

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.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

Saint John the Baptist with Patriarchs and Apostles in a stained glass window in Truro Cathedral … from left: Noah with the Ark; Moses with the Ten Commandments; Saint John the Baptist; Saint Peter with the keys; and Saint Philip the Deacon with a pilgrim's shell also used for baptism (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Hymns:

134: Make way, make way, for Christ the king (CD 8)
135: O come, O come, Emmanuel (CD 8)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



Praying in Advent with USPG:
15, Sunday 13 December 2020

‘The Christmas television schedules will probably include at least one of the two blockbuster Paddington Bear movies’ … but ‘the world is full of real-life Paddingtons’

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later this month.

Today (13 December 2020) is the Third Sunday of Sunday, also known as Gaudete Sunday, and I am planning later this morning to celebrate the Parish Eucharist in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (9:30 a.m.) and to lead and preach at Morning Prayer in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (11:30 a.m.).

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for my own personal prayer, reflection and Scripture reading.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (13 to 19 December 2020) is ‘Reflections on Migration.’

Introducing this week’s theme, Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, writes:

‘The Christmas television schedules will probably include at least one of the two blockbuster Paddington Bear movies. For those not familiar with this fictional animated character, Paddington was forced to leave his home in Peru due to family circumstances and ends up at the eponymous train station in London, where he is rescued by the Brown family.

‘The world is full of real-life Paddingtons: men, women and children who are forced to leave their homelands due to war, persecution, climate change, poverty and now disease. The question is, how many will receive the warm welcome extended to Paddington? Are they more likely to be treated with apathy at best, or outright hostility at worst?

‘In a season we associate with ‘tidings of comfort and joy’, it is important to focus on those who will struggle to experience the peace, love and hope of Christmas. This is also a moment to hold in our prayers (and support) those Christian organisations working to provide sanctuary and hospitality to those in need of Christ’s care and compassion.

Dear Lord, we bring to you those who have been forced to flee their homelands for a variety of reasons. May they experience your protection on their journey, and receive sanctuary at their destination. Amen.’

Sunday 13 December (Third Sunday of Advent):

Lord, you welcome the stranger
and urge us to be welcoming.
May we take your words to heart
and extend hospitality to those in need.

The Collect of the Day (Advent III):

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 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.

John 1: 6-8, 19-28 (NRSVA):

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ 21 And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ 23 He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
“Make straight the way of the Lord”,’
as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ 26 John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org