Christmas morning

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
– Philippians 2:5-11

O God our Father,
whose Word has come among us
in the Holy Child of Bethlehem,
may the light of faith illumine our hearts
and shine in our words and deeds;
through him who is Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

God and man today become
More in tune than fife and drum,
So be merry while you play,

Tu-re-lu-re-lu,
Pat-a-pan-a-pan,
So be merry while you play,
Sing and dance this Christmas day!

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Christmas Eve – at night

I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day a Saviour, Christ the Lord.
-Luke 2.10-11

Eternal God,
this holy night is radiant
with the brilliance of your one true light.
As we have known
the revelation of that light on earth,
bring us to see the splendour of your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Therefore let our gathering
Now sing in brightness
Let it give praise to the Lord:
Greeting to our King.

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 24th

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. – John 1

We live in turbulent times. The newspapers are filled with stories about war, political scandal, famine, natural disasters. There is poverty and discord in our cities and in our homes. But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Goodness is stronger than evil. “There have been tyrants, and murderers,” said Ghandi, “and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.” The message of Christ is similar to this. In the long view of history, the way of God – the way of love, always prevails.

O that birth for ever blessed,
when the virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bare the Saviour of our race,
and the babe, the world’s redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Friday, December 23rd

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1

The uniqueness of Jesus is that He is at once fully God and fully human. We do not worship a god who is far away, but the One who is near to us in our human glory and frailties, who walked among us in the flesh. It is in Him that our everyday lives are lifted up and become sacred places. Our jobs, our relationships, our hobbies, our occasions for celebration and mourning all become infused with holy meaning because Christ is the bridge where the mundane encounters the divine. What does it mean to you that God has reconciled the world to Himself in Christ?

Of eternal love begotten,
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega,
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Thursday, December 22nd

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah, Here is your God!
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep. – Isaiah 40

In our competitive society today, values like love, care and compassion tend to be perceived as signs of weakness as opposed to strength. And yet, this joyful passage tells us that almighty and powerful God tends lovingly and gently to His sheep. True strength comes from the lifting up of all peoples: from solidarity, from love and from compassion. What would our society look like if we sought after power in this way? How would it change our politics, our workplace, and our relationships?

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Wednesday, December 21st

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
Come, my heart says, seek his face!
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27

It is so easy to get distracted. We want to do the good and right thing but our attention is pulled in another direction and the opportunity passes. This passage pulls us back to our true desire, bringing us back to our search for God “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” We are encouraged to hope for the goodness that we long for, to take courage during the wait for better times, and to rely on the strength of God in the meantime. Waiting, as we do during Advent, can give us the time and opportunity to retreat inward, growing closer to ourselves and to God, and to let distractions fall away.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 20th

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
You are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you. – Isaiah 43

Advertising works very hard to make us believe that we are not good enough. T.V. commercials and beauty magazines brag of the benefits of the latest anti-wrinkle cream, hair growth formula or weight-loss fad. We push ourselves to achieve at work, because our status depends on our productivity. But this is not how God measures our worth. We are precious in God’s sight for no other reason than that we are created in God’s image, and God loves us. Meditate on this passage, keeping in mind that God is speaking to you personally, and means every word.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Monday, December 19th

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ – Luke 1

Mary is rejoicing because she has been entrusted with bringing Christ, the Son of God, into the world. The Eastern Orthodox Church calls her the theotokos, the “God-bearer.” She is truly blessed with the sacred responsibility of this task. Like our sister, Mary, we too are “God-bearers,” entrusted with bearing Christ into the world. What does it mean to bring forth the light and goodness of our lives? How can we accomplish this?

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional – Love

What is this? For more information, read the introduction here.

And finally, love, our fourth Advent theme. “The greatest of these is love” writes St. Paul, and few of us would disagree. At the deepest level of our longing is surely our longing for love, our elemental need to be loved and to love. Hope, peace, and joy, or any other good thing in life is likely to feel empty and unfulfilling, without love. Look at the cult of romantic love in our culture: pop songs, Hollywood movies, dating sites, all hold up finding the right partner as salvation, the one essential key to a happy life. How blissful it can be when these hopes are fulfilled – and how bitter when they are disappointed. The yearning this cult of love points to is genuine, and it is profound, at the very core of our being.

It is the yearning, first of all, to be loved: to be truly known by another, known without masks, for who we really are, and treasured in that knowledge. It is the experience of being affirmed in our identity: of being told, in the midst of billions of other people, and an unimaginably vast and empty universe, that we are of unique, irreplaceable value. This is what love, and only love can give us, whether the love of friends or partner, parents or children. Equally basic is the instinct to love another, to delight in their irreducible particularity. The ability to give and receive love is what gives our life meaning and purpose.

At the heart of the Judeo-Christian faith is the conviction that this longing within us finds its answer in the very structure of the universe – the belief that the creative force that gave shape to the universe is not indifferent or even hostile to its creation, but delights in it and treasures it. “God is love”, the Scriptures tell us – and this love that is God is not simply an abstract idea of love, but a living and active force, delighting in and treasuring each of us, and calling us to respond in love to the universe and to one another.

This is a conviction that speaks through all of Scripture: in the accounts of the God’s relationship with Israel, in the engaged and passionate prayer of the Psalms, in the jealous and tender words of the prophets, in the vision of a community of radical love set forth in the Epistles. But for Christians it is of course especially the birth, life and death of Jesus sums up all Scripture: in him we see the force that underlies the cosmos face to face, and his face is tenderness and compassion. God’s love is so great, that God chooses to be Immanuel, “God with us”, chooses to share our daily lives in the intimacy of human flesh. The Christmas story is so familiar to us that we can miss the radical ingenuity of the final twist: that when God comes to be with us, it is, incredibly, in the form of a helpless baby – loving us, yes, but also calling forth all our instincts to ourselves love and cherish the child.

Fourth Week – Sunday December 18th

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands. – Isaiah 49

We live in troubled times: news of famine, war and natural disasters across the world fill our television screens. There is poverty and illness in our own cities, in our homes, and we wonder why God does not act. Thomas Aquinas talked about the “hidden God” to describe the times we cannot sense God’s presence or discern His activities. But God reminds us that although we may think He has forgotten us, He is with us in our suffering. This is our comfort: that God has compassion on us, and suffers with us. We are forever in His memory, “inscribed […] on the palms of my hands.”

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Much thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 17th

(Wondering what this is? For more information, see the introduction.)

See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.
The Spirit and the bride say, Come.
And let everyone who hears say, Come.
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. – Revelation 22

Visions of God throughout history and even in the past week’s readings can be challenging and even frightening at times. There is a popular image of God as fearsome judge who is out to condemn all of humanity. This image of Jesus at the end times, however, speaks to us a different word. While Jesus is the one with the authority and power to judge, his speech to the world, echoed in the church, is always: “come”. It is always an invitation to draw nearer to him, to seek him out and to make our home in God, receiving the gift of the water of life. Sit with this word for a while and listen to the call of God in your life.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
dispel in glorious splendour
the darkness everywhere;
true man, yet very God,
from sin and death now save us,
and share our every load.

This Advent devotional is intended to help you enter into the season of advent. We hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to the Rev. Paul Jennings for his help putting these reflections together.