A moment of contemplation for yourself or on behalf of others on everything from the life-altering to the mundane.

Prayer: A conversation with The Higher Other who lives within each of us. An invitation to vent, to re-think, to ask, and to rest.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Prayers of the People: Going and Coming ~ 4th Sunday of Advent Yr A '19

For Sunday, December 22, 2019, Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80: 1-7, 16-18; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

       Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. [Isaiah 7:14]

      …stir up  your strength and come to help us. Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved…give us life, that we may call upon your Name. [Psalm 80:2b, 7, 17b]

       …Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace…to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles…including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ… 
[Romans 1:4b-6]

       ...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. She will bear a son, and you are to call him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." [Matthew 1:20b-22]

     The Season of Advent is nearly over once more, the 4th and final candle, signifying Love, is lighted. As the waiting time is going, the activity level in many households frenetically escalates in anticipation of the Coming. For young children, the anticipation of the coming is about Santa/Father Christmas, presents, colorful lights, sparkling decorations, and sugary delights. For many of us adults, the preparatory time is about the planning, the shopping, the baking, the cooking, and the celebration with friends and family, the post-Christmas cleanup, and exhaustion. Again, and again, we hear and we think we know, what Christmas is all about. And year after year we, who are so privileged, fall into the same traps of cultural, familial, and commercial expectations. We know of, and many of us contribute money, time, and gifts for, those far less privileged as we continue on with our “traditions” of celebration.
      Perhaps surprisingly, the appointed readings from Isaiah and the Psalm are not happy or merry. God tells Ahaz of Judah, the signs are all there, all he has to do is ask God for them. But the ever-Kingly Ahaz says "Oh-No-I-don't-want-to-test-God" with the false humility of a leader who is really saying, "I can't be bothered." Isaiah's frustration is palpable when he says, in effect, "OH PLEASE!  The Lord Himself is telling you that there's a young woman with child from the House of David, and you'll be out of here before he's old enough to know good from evil.” Isaiah foreshadows what later came to pass, the exile and scattering of the tribe of Judah.
      The Psalmist’s lament gives a clear plea to God to give us life and Restore us…and we shall be saved. Paul’s opening in the Letter to the Romans is definitively setting up Christ’s important Davidic lineage, and that both his and our call is to belong to Christ and spread the Gospel message.
       But I return to What is Christmas about – merely a birthday celebration?
       Quite a few years ago, a gentleman playwright, as an Artist in Residence, wrote a Christmas musical play for the parochial elementary school my daughters attended - sort of Our Town [the classic small town America play by Thornton Wilder] meets the True Meaning of Christmas - and all of the several hundred students were in the play, with a few having key roles, of course. I regret to say that I cannot recall the exact name of the play, or the playwright's name, but the message remains clear to me. For the moment we'll call the play Emily's Birthday [Emily is the central character in Our Town. Here’s a very quick summary by clicking here: "Our Town" summary]. The premise is that Emily's Birthday is a huge annual event. Emily, who has died, arrives not realizing that she has died, to participate in the celebration of the anniversary of her birth. She finds a grand occasion in the entire town, with glittering decorations, large scale family meals, and many gifts being exchanged, all because it's Emily's Birthday! As we see her in her own family home with each family member happily greeting each other and everyone with "Happy Emily's Birthday," Emily realizes that no one is thinking of her at all, there is no gift for her, nor is there a place at the table for her. While I'm convinced that this message was directed more to us adults, the kids - without any blatant or obvious statement in the script - GOT IT: What is this Birth Day celebration really all about? It's time for all of us to "get it" again. 
      Joseph got quite a message in his dream in Matthew’s Gospel about who was coming into his life. With but a few days left, let our going concern be more about the Coming. Emmanu-el, whose name means "God (El) is with us," who is our Christ - anointed one/Messiah - Jesus, will shine His light upon us and we shall be saved. Let us revel in the Hope, the Peace, the Joy, and the Love that these four Sundays of Advent represent. And then let us truly celebrate by preparing ourselves for and remembering the significance, especially in these times, of the Birth of Jesus, the only true GIFT, God's Love Incarnate for our salvation. CHRISTmas is Coming! Then we must be going about His business in the life we have been given to live.


~ Lord our God, restore our souls with fresh anticipation for the birth of the Holy Child, our Messiah, Christ. Release us from the frantic activity that distracts us from this waiting time to savor the last few moments in child-like anticipation, opening us to receive the only Gift we will ever need.

                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
RESPONSE:                  O Come, let us adore You

~ Lord our God, shine forth upon those who govern in this World, in this Nation, and in this Community, that we all shall be saved. Stir up Your strength and help them to seek Divine truth and pursue justice with compassion, tolerance, and mercy. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
                                                       O Come, let us adore You

~ Lord our God, relieve all who suffer from pain, loneliness, and fear, and renew the energy of those who attend to their needs. We now join our voices to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
                                                       O Come, let us adore You
~ Lord our God, walk with those weighed down with sorrow as You joyously welcome all who live again with You, where suffering and grief are no more. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
                                                       O Come, let us adore You

~ Lord our God, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials, aloud or silently… add your own petitions
                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
                                                       O Come, let us adore You
~ O Lord God of Hosts, grant special grace to those who are anointed in Your Name to lead us in Your Church. With their help and together may we re-dedicate ourselves to the obedience of faith and accept the call to belong to Jesus Christ. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                       O Come, O Come Emmanuel
                                                       O Come, let us adore You

The Celebrant adds: Lord our God, as we quietly breathe into the present moment, prepare us again to be Christ-Bearers of the One with us and within us, as through His Life we are given life to share His love and light to all we meet. We ask through Jesus, the Incarnation of Love; the Holy Spirit, our Divine Wisdom; who together with You are One God, now and forever. Amen. 

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