FRIDAY THE NINTH OF DECEMBER, 2016
Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work;
I give you my feet to go your way;
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words;
I give you my mind, Lord, that you may think in me;
I give you my spirit that you may pray in me.
Above all, Lord, I give you my heart
that you may love in me your Father and all humankind;
I give you my whole self that you may grow in me
so that it is you, Lord Jesus,
who live and work and pray in me.
Lord Jesus, I give you my spirit that you may pray in me;
I give you my heart, Lord,
that you may love in me. Amen.
The wingèd herald of the day
proclaims the morn's approaching ray:
and Christ the Lord our souls excites,
and so to endless life invites.
Take up thy bed, to each he cries,
who sick or wrapped in slumber lies;
and chaste and just and sober stand
and watch: my coming is at hand.
With earnest cry, with tearful care,
call we the Lord to hear our prayer;
while supplication, pure and deep,
forbids each chastened heart to sleep.
Do thou, O Christ, our slumber wake:
do thou the chains of darkness break;
purge thou our former sins away,
and in our souls new light display.
All laud to God the Father be,
all praise, eternal Son, to thee;
all glory, as is ever meet,
to God the holy Paraclete.
( Aurelius Prudentius )
MEDITATION by Tim Madsen
“Ox and ass before him bow, and he is in the manger now.”
As I grew up, I was always fascinated by the crèche my mom and dad would set up in our home before Christmas. It wasn’t an expensive one, and I’m glad it wasn’t, because like many children, I would play with the figures in the crèche, moving them around, playing pretend. Having grown up in a large city, I didn’t know much about farm life, so I always took the animals in the crèche for granted. The camels were the most exotic, and, of course, the little sheep. I knew those parts of the story. But then there were the ox and the ass. My mother never quite figured out what to do with them. If she put them inside the stable it seemed too crowded for Mary, Joseph, and the child. Put them outside the stable, and they didn’t seem that important.
I never questioned their presence. They were farm animals, I supposed, so they must’ve been there, even though I could remember no part of the Christmas story that included them. I was happy to sing the children’s carol “The Friendly Beasts” and let it go at that.
It wasn’t until much later, as a seminary student, when I first learned why the ox and the ass were in my crèche. There it was tucked away in the opening verses of the "Book of Isaiah," easily missed compared with the many passages of the book which have shaped our very understanding of Jesus. Right there in "Isaiah," chapter one, verse three, where we find the words: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
Yes, I thought to myself, what a wonderful metaphor for the human race, carrying on its day to day business, and scarcely giving a thought to the work God was doing right under our noses. How much do we really understand today? What kind of saviour do we continue to search for, when the genuine messiah is in the manger? How wonderful scripture can be when an obscure verse can germinate inside our fertile imaginations, to produce the ox and the ass for the family crèche! Let the children have the sheep and the camels, you keep the ox and the ass for yourself, as a symbol for how much you have yet to learn about the being we name “God.”
Scripture. In "Psalm Thirty-Two," verses nine and ten, we read:
"Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD."
... for peace in the world.
... for the people of Tanzania who celebrate Independence Day today.
... for the people of Yemen caught up in a bloody civil war.
... for children who self-harm.
... for those who have died and for those who mourn their passing.
... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.
... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.
... for ourselves.
THE LORD'S PRAYER
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
From "Being Christian" by Rowan Williams:
There are many stories about Jesus and hospitality in the Gospels, but there is one in particular that tell us something very crucial about the Eucharist. It is the story in Luke of Jesus' arrival in Jericho and his meeting with Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus the tax collector is worried that he will be unable to see over the heads in the crowd, so he climbs a tree, hoping that nobody will notice. Jesus stops underneath the tree and looks up. You can imagine several thousand pairs of eyes looking up at the same moment towards a scarlet faced tax collector perched on a branch, and the collective intake of breath when Jesus says to him, "Aren't you going to ask me to your home?"
In other words Jesus is not someone who exercises hospitality; he draws out hospitality from others. By his welcome he makes other people capable of welcoming. And the wonderful alternation in the Gospels between Jesus giving hospitality and receiving hospitality shows us something absolutely essential about the Eucharist. We are the guests of Jesus. We are there because he asks us, and because he wants our company. At the same time we are set free to invite Jesus into our lives and literally to receive him into our bodies in the Eucharist. His welcome gives us the courage to open up to him. And so the flow of giving and receiving, of welcome and acceptance, moves backwards and forwards without a break. We are welcomed and we welcome, we welcome God and we welcome our unexpected neighbours. That, surely, is one of the wonderful and unique things about the holy Eucharist. We invoke Jesus and his Spirit, we call him to be present and we are able to do this only because he has first called us to be present. His way of welcoming Zacchaeus, and his
way of welcoming us, is to say, "Aren't you going to ask me to your home?"
The giving and receiving of welcome is central to the way in which Jesus' ministry is portrayed in the Gospels. But it is not just an agreeable personal habit that Jesus has and it is not a decorative addition to the main business of his ministry, a sort of pleasant extra. It is the actual, visible way in which he engages in remaking a community.
Who are the real people of God now? The ones who accept Jesus' invitation. Not the ones who fulfil all the cultic demands,
not the ones who score highly on the scale of piety, but the ones who are willing to hear him say, "Aren't you going to
ask me home?"
It is as simple as that. The meals that Jesus shares in his ministry are the way in which he begins to recreate a community, to lay the foundations for rethinking what the words the people of God mean.
Lord of All, there is so much in our world that confronts and confounds us. Help us to entrust to you all that troubles us, all that confuses us. Draw us to the crib of Christ your son, and hold us steadfastly there, by the power of your love; through the same Jesus Christ your son, our saviour and lord. Amen.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
NOW LIGHT A CANDLE
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