18 December 2022

Praying in Advent with Lichfield Cathedral
and USPG: Sunday 18 December 2022

Mary’s ‘husband Joseph [was] a righteous man’ (Matthew 1: 8-19) … the betrothal of Joseph and Matry, depicted in a window by Harry Clarke in Athlone (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent (18 December 2022), and Christmas is just a week away. This evening also marks the beginning of the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

The traditional counting of the ‘O Antiphons’ began yesterday (17 December) with ‘O Sapientia.’ The phrase O Sapientia appears in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer without explanation. For eight days before Christmas, the canticle Magnificat at Evensong has a refrain or antiphon proclaiming the ascriptions or ‘names’ given to God through the Old Testament.

Each name develops into a prophecy of the forthcoming and eagerly-anticipated Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God. O Sapientia, or ‘O Wisdom’, is followed today by ‘O Adonai’, then ‘O Root of Jesse’, ‘O Key of David’, ‘O Dayspring’, O King of the Nations’ and finally on 23 December ‘O Emmanuel’.

It is nine months ago today since I suffered a stroke in Milton Keynes (18 March 2022). Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church in Stony Stratford. In the evening, I hope to take part in the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols with the Church Choir in All Saints’ Church, Calverton, at 6 pm. But, before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

During Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, The reading suggested in the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced by Lichfield Cathedral this year;

2, praying with the Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

‘When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him’ (Matthew 1: 24) … … a mosaic in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar, Co Westmeath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 1: 18-25 (NRSVA):

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

‘Joseph … is a dreamer, and his dreams carry messages from God’ (Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar) … Joseph’s dream and the Nativity of Christ in a modern Orthodox fresco

The Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar:

Joseph, like Joseph in the Book of Genesis is a dreamer, and his dreams carry messages from God. He is troubled by Mary’s pregnancy and in his sleep, he sees God’s unfolding plan. Hold before God all the hints, intuitions and hunches that are part of life. Ask for true discernment that we may be led closer to God and take a part in doing his will.


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,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Heavenly Father,
who chose the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of the promised saviour:
fill us your servants with your grace,
that in all things we may embrace your holy will
and with her rejoice in your salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Eternal God,
as Mary waited for the birth of your Son,
so we wait for his coming in glory;
bring us through the birth pangs of this present age
to see, with her, our great salvation
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘International Migrants Day.’ This theme is introduced this morning with a reflection on International Migrants Day by Bishop Antonio Ablon, Coordinator of the Filipino Chaplaincy in Europe, part of the Philippine Independent Church. He writes:

‘Before the pandemic, thousands of people flew every day to seek jobs abroad. Now that Covid regulations are easing, similar numbers of job seekers are on the move again. They become migrants and workers in other nations because of poverty and war back home. However, many suffer racial discrimination in their host countries, struggling to live on low salaries and inadequate benefits and finding it difficult to access healthcare services, including mental health provision. The many problems they face have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the recent war in Ukraine. This situation challenges the churches to live out the Gospel mandate to love our neighbour by helping them ‘… just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me’ (Matthew 25:40).

‘Pastorally, the churches have welcomed strangers and migrants, especially those travelling without essential legal documents, offering them sanctuary, providing them with food and medicine, and even necessary documentation.

‘Prophetically, the churches have become the voice of the migrants, demanding that governments and institutions improve their rights and welfare provision, and that the laws of the land shall be for the good of the natives and migrants alike as there is only one human race (cf Exodus 12: 49 and Leviticus 24: 22).’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (Advent IV) in these words:

Child in a manger,
may we greet the uprooted
and those with nowhere to lay their head
with the same eagerness with which we greet you.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Joseph … is troubled by Mary’s pregnancy and in his sleep, he sees God’s unfolding plan’ (Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar) … ‘Joseph cares’ (Englewood Review of Books)

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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