20 December 2020

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

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