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 14, 2020

Prayers of the People: Be Not Afraid ~ 4th Sunday of Advent '20 Yr B

For Sunday, December 13, 2020, Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Canticle 15/Song of Mary - Luke 1:46-55, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38

     Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you. [2 Samuel 7:3]

          My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior; for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant. [Canticle 15, Song of Mary/Luke 1:46-48]

    ...the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery...now disclosed, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! [Romans 16:25b-26]

      The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And...you will bear a son, and you will name him Jesus...For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." [Luke 1:26-38]

       As we continue to wait on this 4th Sunday of Advent, the excitement and anticipation build, but do we stop and remember why we are waiting? Or are we just in the midst of the excitement and sparkle of the lights and music and holiday planning? Are we more filled with anxious questions such as: do we have that thing, or the other thing, and the third thing? Is the wrapping done, do we have all the food? Especially in this year of Pandemic, are we extra-stressed and worried about having or going to gatherings or about those who will be alone on Christmas, some perhaps for the first time in their long lives? 
      And what about those who are suffering physically, emotionally, economically because of this terrible disease and other life-issues?
       Let us take a breath, and stop for more than just one moment this week, to re-evaluate what our coming Christ-Mass is all about. 
      First, to say Jesus is the Reason for the Season sounds casually trite, and it isn't altogether true in a non-Christian context. In the 4th century, the newly Christianized Emperor Constantine, appropriated the Winter Solstice festivals of the sun and other deities from pagan religious traditions ~ the Celts and Egyptians among others ~ for the wholly Christian commemoration of Christ's birth. Perhaps he assumed that if they're going to party anyway, he would mandate a different reason. After all, none of the birth narratives in the Bible tell us a date or even a season when Christ was born. December 25th became the official date for the celebration everywhere in the Church under Pope Julius I, not long after   Constantine's decree. [By the way, the December Winter Solstice only applies in the northern hemisphere.] But after well over 2 millennia, the whole world is accustomed to "Christmas" on December 25th, though I suspect there are still quite a few Christians that celebrate the Winter Solstice, too. [December 21]
     Second, today we light the candle of Love on the Advent Wreath as we light again the candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy. This last Sunday of Advent is also a moment, rare in Episcopal/Protestant theology, to celebrate the crucial role of Mary in our Salvation ~ not merely as the Theotokos, God-Bearer ~ but even more so because she "...found favor with God." [Luke 1:30a] She was chosen because this favor acknowledged her devotion, because she heard God's word and believed, because she was faith-filled and faithful. God’s call to her was to bear and deliver to us the fulfillment of God's ultimate Promise, Jesus, whom Paul says, is the revelation of the mystery...now disclosed
     The Love of God was to become human flesh through pre-natal development and physical birth through a mother who would willingly accept her vocation and have some understanding of its meaning. The Angel Gabriel brought Mary the message of God’s call, as she, young and certainly fearful of such an apparition and request, still was able to ask How can this be? Mary would have known the story of her Hebrew people and likely some of the prophecies of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. She would have had a quick rush of emotion recognizing the importance and the trials of a mother of a great leader of faith for God’s people. She could have humbly refused. God offers a call yet never forces us to obey. Mary, even more humbly, accepted.
     Third, we can discover what Christmas and Christ really mean to our everyday lives when we spend some time with ourselves. Dig deep and listen, examine the promises we have made in moments of true devotion and in times of crisis, the promises kept and the ones we meant to keep in the moment they were made. How do we allow Mary's example of Let it be with me according to your word to manifest in our lives? It is time to begin again to find the Christ within us and let his light shine through us; to believe again, or for the first time, the angel's words, For nothing will be impossible with God. 
       In just this one week, we journey from the Annunciation to the birth of our Christ, the Son who forever outshines the sun. Do not be afraid to stop, listen, think, and pray in hope, peace, joy, love, and faith. 


 Leader:  ~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, purify our souls and grant us the humility to live according to Your Word and Will. Awaken our hearts to be eager in child-like anticipation for the coming celebration of this Holy Infant, our Hope and our Redeemer. 

                                                O Lord Most High                                        
RESPONSE:             Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust        

~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, keep us vigilant, consistent, and insistent as we advocate constantly for the causes of compassion, peace, and cooperation among all who govern in our World, in our Nation, and in our Villages, Towns, and Cities. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                O Lord Most High
                                                Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust

~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, comfort and heal those who suffer with devastating illness, serious depression, or any life-limiting circumstance, and give respite to all who give love and support.  We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

                                                O Lord Most High
                                                Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust      

~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, release us all from fresh and remembered grief as our loved ones arise to boundless joy in everlasting life with You. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

                                                O Lord Most High
                                                Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust

~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

                                                O Lord Most High
                                                Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust           

~ God Almighty, Great and Merciful, grant continuing renewal and energy to all who have answered Your call in the model of Mary, and have inspired us by their example in faithfulness, worship, and pastoral care. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

                                                O Lord Most High
                                                Fill us with Mary’s Wonder, Hope, and Trust

The Celebrant adds: O God of Love and Glory, detach us from earth-bound noise to listen deeply and experience the true Birth of Christ within and through us. Infuse us with the obedience of faith that will guide us and sustain us as we follow the path of our Messiah. We ask through the imminence of the Incarnate Christ, and the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who together with You are One God, our Strength and our Salvation, forever and ever. Amen.

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