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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Prayers of the People: Hark, the Herod Agents Seek ~ Second Sunday after Christmas '21 Yr B

For Sunday, January 3, 2021, Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Ps 84, Eph 1:3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

         Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. [Jeremiah 31:13]

       For the LORD God is both sun and shield; he will give grace and glory; no good thing will the LORD withhold from those who walk with integrity. O LORD of Hosts, happy are they who put their trust in you. [Ps 84:10-12]

       I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ...may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation...so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know...the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance...the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.  [Ephesians 1:17-19a]

      [A]n angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” [Matthew 2:13]

       We are in an unusual space of time having a rare opportunity to experience and celebrate a second Sunday after Christmas. Normally we are taken over by the close-in-time celebration of the Epiphany, and in fact, our Gospel reading takes place after the Three Kings left for their own country by a different road.
       In a dream, Joseph is warned by an angel that Herod wants to destroy the child Jesus and so they flee to Egypt. Joseph had many dreams of Angels guiding him as did another Joseph long before.
       But let’s take a quick look at the message of Jeremiah. The prophet spoke of the complete hope that he trusted would come to pass, even though in his time the King and chief citizens of Judah had been carried off to Babylon in exile, while others escaped to Egypt. Yet God’s promise was fulfilled, the people survived the exile and returned with their identity as a nation still intact.
       The Psalmist’s message come to us from before the Exile, yet, is a perfect Christmas message of hope – in the midst of our own current exile from the usual “reality” in terms of this year of pandemic, political angst, and turmoil. Will we recover our identity? As the Psalmist says, Happy is everyone who trusts in you, O Lord. A wise person once said that faith is something we have in varying levels or perhaps none, whereas trust is something we choose to do, or not. While “happy” means a variety of things to different people, the Psalmist is, I believe, referring to the spiritual happiness of hope and trust in God. We can choose to trust, and even to work on our level of faith.
       Paul affirms the fulfillment of God’s promise when he says that we are to have great spiritual blessings, not only on earth but in heaven. These are the riches of [Jesus’] glorious inheritance… God is always working in and through the circumstances of our lives. If we allow and accept – or, trust – that God in Christ and the Spirit is always within, our whole perspective in life can be changed. We won’t see magic but we are inwardly strengthened and comforted when we are intentional, conscious, and regularly attending to our relationship to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We will continually seek and recognize those “coincidences,” “synchronicities,” or “little miracles” that suddenly appear. Another wise person once said, “There are no coincidences, only minor miracles in which God chooses to remain anonymous.”
      This piece of the Gospel of Matthew gives us a reminder of the historical significance of Egypt in the history of the Hebrew people. There were atrocities there before the Exodus and now Herod was plotting another. Yet amidst the pain and terror, just as the other earlier Joseph’s ability for interpretation of dreams provided a means of redemption for him, so too, did an angel in a dream provide the warning that saved this Joseph and his family, as well as allowing them to return from their own exile, intact, to settle in Nazareth.
      The history of the Hebrew people is long and interrelated, interconnected, and ultimately brings us to Christ, God’s Eternal Purpose, to this very day and well beyond us. Hope, Trust, and Faith are the hallmarks of our own life’s purpose and we are to pray, as Paul says, for our hearts to be enlightened that we may know what is the hope to which we are each called. Then we work to discover how to allow, accept, and live into our inheritance in Christ. Yet we are forewarned that we are to listen and heed the message of our better angels: Hark, the Herod Agents of our own time Seek to undermine our hope, and our trust, and our faith. Yet God’s promise will be fulfilled again and again and again, if we hope, and trust, and have faith.   


Leader:  ~ O God, our Sun and our Shield, guide us on the pilgrims’ way with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, and gather us all as does a shepherd, and defend us as Your flock.

O Lord of Grace and Glory
RESPONSE:             We put our trust in You                           

~ O God, our Sun and our Shield, grant us a spirit of wisdom to turn the hearts and minds of those who govern on this Earth, in this Nation, and in our Community. Incline them to integrity in leadership with compassion, justice, and especially the health and safety of all Your children. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

O Lord of Grace and Glory
                                    We put our trust in You

~ O God, our Sun and our Shield, reveal Your presence and Your consolations to all who are suffering in the desolate valleys of sickness, fear, and depression; and lighten the hearts of all who give them care.  We now join our hearts together to pray for those in need… add your own petitions

O Lord of Grace and Glory
                                    We put our trust in You

~ O God, our Sun and our Shield, turn our mourning into joy and our sorrow into gladness for all who now light up the high vault of heaven, rejoicing in life everlasting. We pray especially for… add your own petitions

O Lord of Grace and Glory
                                    We put our trust in You

O God, our Sun and our Shield, we pause in this moment to offer You our other heartfelt thanksgivings, intercessions, petitions, and memorials… add your own petitions

O Lord of Grace and Glory
                                    We put our trust in You          

~ O God, our Sun and our Shield, lavish special favor upon the wise women and men who lead us in Your Church, as they prayerfully bring us Your words, works, and the spiritual blessings in Christ on our journey toward Redemption. We pray especially for: add your own petitions

O Lord of Grace and Glory
                                    We put our trust in You

The Celebrant adds: Most Holy Christ, God’s Eternal Purpose, You call us to the optimism of hope as the riches of our faith inheritance. Quicken our desire to know and reflect the immeasurable greatness of Your Power and Presence, in every facet of this mortal life, in all that we are and all that we do. We ask through our Creator God, the Lord of Hosts; and the Holy Spirit, Counselor to our Souls, who together with You are One God, now and beyond forever. Amen.


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