Sunday, 20 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
22, Sunday 20 December 2020

The Annunciation depicted on a panel in the altar piece in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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.

The last week of Advent is special: at Evensong (Evening Prayer), a special antiphon is sung or said before and after the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat. Each begins with an ‘O’ and relates to some facet of Christ’s nature and ancestry.

17 December: ‘O Sapientia’, Wisdom
18 December: ‘O Adonai’, Lord of Israel
19 December: ‘O Radix Jesse’, Root of Jesse (Jesse was the father of King David)
20 December: ‘O Clavis David’, Key of David
21 December: ‘O Oriens’, Morning Star rising in the East
22 December: ‘O Rex Gentium’, King of all nations
23 December: ‘O Immanuel’ Immanuel – ‘God is with us’

As the week draws us to Christmas, so the note of longing love intensifies.

Sunday 20 December 2020 (‘O Clavis David’, Key of David):

Read Saint Luke 1: 26-28 (NRSVA):

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection:

Mary’s life was intricately connected with the larger community. Her son’s life would enrich and complicate that connection. How can our faith response change our lives and affect others?

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

SERVICE of NINE LESSONS and CAROLS

The Christmas Crib outside Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, last year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

SERVICE of NINE LESSONS and CAROLS

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton,
3 p.m. Sunday 20 December 2020

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Welcome (and important notes):


1, Please wear your facemask throughout this service;
2, Please leave your name and number (to be used for contact and tracing purposes only);
3, Please listen to, but do not join the hymns;
4, Please leave from the back seats first, without gathering in the church.


Opening Hymn: 177,
‘Once in royal David’s city’
(CF Alexander; melody, HJ Gauntlett).

Bidding Prayer:
(Canon Patrick Comerford)

Beloved, be it this Christmas Time our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child; and let us make this Church, dedicated to Mary, his most blessed Mother, glad with our carols of praise:

But first let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our land, Ireland:

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and those who mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven, in the words which Christ himself has taught us:

Our Father …

Carol 1: 155, Ding Dong! merrily on high (George Ratcliffe Woodward; melody Thoinot Arbeau).

Lesson 1

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. … All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee … to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

Carol 2: 135, O come, O come, Emmanuel (tr John Mason Neale; melody, Thomas Helmore).

Lesson 2

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Carol 3: 133, Long ago, prophets knew
(F Pratt Green; melody, Piae Cantiones).

Lesson 3

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

Carol 4: 174, O little town of Bethlehem (Philips Brooks, melody arranged by Vaughan Williams).

Lesson 4

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

Carol 5: 160, Hark! the herald-angels sing (Charles Wesley and George Whitefield; music, Felix Mendelssohn).

Lesson 5

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Carol 6: 164, It came upon the midnight clear (EH Sears, traditional melody, Arthur Sullivan).

Lesson 6

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Carol 7: 158, God rest you merry gentlemen (English traditional).

Lesson 7

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every first-born male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

Carol 8: 152, ‘Come and join the celebration’ (Valerie Collison).

Lesson 8

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout … Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God … And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Carol 9: 149, Away in a manger
(WJ Kirkpatrick).

Lesson 9

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age … At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Hymn: 162, In the bleak mid-winter
(Christina Rossetti; music, Gustav Holst).

Collect and Blessing:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Let us pray.

O God, who makes us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your only son, Jesus Christ: Grant that as we joyfully receive him for our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly,
grant you the fullness of inward peace and goodwill, and make you partakers of the divine nature;

and the blessing of God Almighty,
+ the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

Hymn: 172, O come, all ye faithful (Adeste Fideles), translated, Frederick Oakeley; melody John F Wade.

Part of this afternoon’s retiring collection is being divided among a number of agencies and funds supported by the parish. They include: The Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal Fund, Christian Aid, the Leprosy Mission, Limerick Protestant Orphan Society, Rathkeale No 2 National School, and the United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG).

Christmas Eucharist:

Thursday 24 December: 6 p.m., Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert); 8 p.m., Castletown Church (please note revised times).

Christmas Day, Friday 25 December: 9.30 a.m., Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton; 11 a.m., Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Sunday 27 December (Christmas 1, Saint John the Evangelist):

11 a.m., United Parish Service, Rathkeale (Morning Prayer with Siobhán Wheeler, Parish Reader)

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.

Sunday intercessions on
20 December 2020,
Fourth Sunday of Advent

An icon of the Virgin Mary found in an antique shop in Rethymnon … the fourth candle on the advent wreath recalls the Virgin Mary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘God has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation’ (Luke 1: 50, Magnificat):

Let us pray:

‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’ (Luke 1: 37):

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.

‘He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1: 33):

Lord Jesus Christ,
as Advent comes to a close,
and as we may prepare for your coming,
we pray for the Church,
that we may be signs of your coming kingdom.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for mission agencies
and their ministry throughout the Anglican Communion,
including the Mothers’ Union around the world.

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 Kenmare and Dromod Union of parishes,
the Rev Michael Kavanagh
and the congregations of
Saint Patrick’s Church, Kenmare,
the Church of the Transfiguration, Sneem,
Saint Michael and All Angels’ Church, Waterville,
and the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Valentia.

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

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’ (Luke 1: 35):

Holy Spirit,
we pray for ourselves, for one another,
for those we love and those who love us,
and we 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 …
Ajay … Ena … Eileen … George … Louise …
Ralph … Cait …

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 for those who have died …
and those whose anniversaries are at this time …
including Kathy … Kate … Stephen …
may their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the Fourth Sunday of Advent:

Lord, thank you for seeing us through a very strange year.
As we celebrate the birth of your son Jesus Christ,
may we strive to live at peace with each other. Amen.

Merciful Father …

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

On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the fourth, purple or violet candle on the Advent Wreath, symbolising the Virgin Mary, is lit alongside the two purple or violet candles, symbolising the Patriarchs and the Prophets, and the third pink candle, symbolising Saint John the Baptist.

USPG suggests this prayer when lighting the fourth candle:

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.

Lighting the fourth candle on the Advent Wreath, representing the Virgin Mary (Photograph: Barbara Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, 20 December 2020

‘And is it true? For if it is,
… God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine’

The Annunciation by Adam Pomeroy in Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, Ennis, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 20 December 2020, the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Advent IV)

11:30: The Parish Eucharist, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry

The Readings: II Samuel 7: 1-11, 16; the Canticle Magnificat; Luke 1: 26-38

There is a link to these readings HERE.

The words of the canticle Magnificat carved on the wooden screen at the west end of the monastic church in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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

The choice of the Canticle Magnificat to accompany this morning’s readings illustrates Mary’s anticipation of the challenge after she says ‘Yes’ at the Annunciation.

She praises God and she proclaims:

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
– Luke 1: 52-53.

In our world today, despite financial and economic problems and banking and trading scandals, are the proud and the powerful still on their thrones?

Are the lowly still waiting to be lifted up?

Are the hungry waiting to be filled with good things?

Do the rich still find themselves still walking away with all they want?

Do the promises of this Advent, of every Advent, of the coming Kingdom, offer hope in this time of the Coronavirus Pandemic, as we face another, post-Christmas lockdown?

What are the promises and prospects for a child who is born among us this Christmas?

We live in a world where the survival chances of a child depend on the financial and economic situation in which a mother lives.

The American blogger and theologian Sarah Dylan Breuer points out that this is a world in which one more child dies every three seconds from extreme poverty; where 300 children die during an average Sunday sermon in an Anglican church; and where 1,600 children die during each celebration of the Eucharist.

Yet, the readings throughout this Advent have been telling us repeatedly that God’s promise is that through Christ the hungry will be filled with good things.

We might ask, with Mary: ‘How can this be?’

We too may ponder these things in our hearts. But how does that help us to move from the anticipation of Advent to the promise of the Incarnation?

We too are called to bring the Good News of liberation to the prisoners, of food for the hungry, of dignity for those regarded as lowly.

We too are called to do that not just in words or song, but like the Virgin Mary, by giving flesh to God’s hope, God’s peace, God’s justice, and God’s love for the world.

The young, unmarried teenage Mary found the courage to face her father, her family, her potential husband, her friends, her village, despite the risk of pointing and whispering … and even stoning to death. As TS Eliot writes, ‘There would be a birth … and there would be another death.’

But I decided this morning to read Christmas, a poem by John Betjeman that brings us through that gap between the end of Advent and the true significance of Christmas Day, expressed too in our celebration of the Eucharist this morning:

Christmas, by John Betjeman:

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

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

The Annunciation depicted on a panel on the triptych in the Lady Chapel in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford / Lichfield Gazette)

Luke 1: 26-38 (NRSVA):

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

A depiction of the Annunciation in the Rose Room in the Kairos Centre in west London … the venue for a recent residential meeting of USPG trustees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Violet (Purple), Advent, Year B

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:

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 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:

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.

Blessing:

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

Hymns:

119, Come, thou long–expected Jesus (CD 8)
712, Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord (CD 40)

The Annunciation depicted in the East Window in the Church of the Annunciation, Bansha, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

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:
22, Sunday 20 December 2020

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem … ‘Christians … have maintained this site as a place of pilgrimage’ and ‘honour it as a living place of worship’ (Photograph: Neil Ward / Wikipedia)

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 next week.

Today (20 December 2020) is the Fourth Sunday of Sunday, and I am planning later this morning to celebrate the Parish Eucharist in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry (11:30 a.m.) and to lead a Carol Service this afternoon in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (3 p.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 (20 to 26 December 2020) is ‘Christmas in the Holy Land.’

Introducing this week’s theme, the Very Revd Canon Richard Sewell, Dean of Saint George’s College, Jerusalem, writes:

‘Christmas in the Holy Land is a shout of joy and a cry of pain. Christians of all denominations take the opportunity to come out of the shadows and show the wider community that though they are small in number they are present, and they have something to share.

‘From early in December until late in January, Christmas lights bedeck churches, Christian schools and homes. In Israel and Palestine these are not simply brightening the dark nights as they might do in more secular parts of the world; they do really show that the light of Christ has come and is coming into the world.

‘Christians here are aware that the world turns its eyes towards Bethlehem on 24 December. The Basilica of the Nativity and its celebrations become an opportunity to show that Christians who have maintained this site as a place of pilgrimage for many centuries also honour it as a living place of worship.

‘At Christmas, the joy to the world is declared but a cry of pain of the current suffering of Palestinians’ thwarted hopes can also be perceived. Christians everywhere should not celebrate the former without remembering the latter.’

Sunday 20 December 2020 (Fourth Sunday of Advent):

Lord, thank you for seeing us through a very strange year.
As we celebrate the birth of your son Jesus Christ,
may we strive to live at peace with each other.

The Collect of the Day (Advent IV):

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 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.

Luke 1: 26-38 (NRSVA):

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34 Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ 35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

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