A bidding prayer for Christmas, A.D. 2014

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Edited from the version originally published on December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to anyone who happens by BatesLine today.

As a Holland Hall high school student, I attended and sang in the annual service of Christmas lessons and carols at Trinity Episcopal Church, modeled after the annual Christmas Eve service from the chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

At the beginning of the service, after the processional, Father Ralph Urmson-Taylor would read the bidding prayer. Confessing Evangelical has it as I remember it. It's worth a moment of your time to ponder.

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us: Our Father, which art in heaven...

(In some versions, the prayer for "all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love" is dropped, perhaps because of political correctness and religious timidity. I was happy to hear those words on today's broadcast from Kings College. Who needs prayer more than those who reject the Way, the Truth, and the Life?)

The phrase "upon another shore, and in a greater light" always gives me goosebumps as I think about friends and family who are no longer with us, but who are now free from pain and delighting in the presence of the Savior they loved so dearly in this life. Especially this year, I think about my mother-in-law, who left us in March 2013 after a two-year battle with cancer and my sister-in-law, who succumbed to cancer this January. As my wife said back on her first Easter without her mom, "For her, it's Easter every day."

I think, too, of others we lost too soon. Steve Arnold was felled by a heart attack less than a month ago. Steve was an early Tulsa blogger, starting a blog called Tulsa Chiggers back in 2006, with a focus on education. In recent years, Steve traveled to Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia with the organization Grace Notes to teach and train Christian pastors and teachers. He was a man of deep convictions and irenic temperament, and it was a blessing to have known him. His family will spend their first Christmas without him, but Steve will spend his first Christmas rejoicing "upon another shore, and in a greater light."

Which brings us to the final verses of the Epiphany hymn, "As with Gladness, Men of Old":

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

MORE:

On December 8, 2013, Holland Hall celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Lessons and Carols service, and I was among the alumni privileged to join the Holland Hall Chorus in two of the anthems under the baton of retired director David Rollo and current director Steve Dyer. You can watch the entire Holland Hall 50th Anniversary Lessons and Carols online. Here is a six-minute "trailer" of Lessons and Carols.

If you're reading this on Christmas Eve, you can listen to a replay of the annual Lessons and Carols service from Kings College Cambridge at 10 p.m. Central Time on KWTU 88.7. This year's broadcast will be available for the next four weeks on the BBC website. (Here's a direct link to the WMA stream, courtesy iplayerconverter.co.uk, should you want to use VLC to download for offline listening.)

Michael C. Morgan ponders the meaning of "A Charlie Brown Christmas": "Christmas in a Minor Key."

John Piper explains what Christmas is all about in 115 words:

Christmas means that a king has been born, conceived in the womb of a virgin. And this king will reign over an everlasting kingdom that will be made up of millions and millions of saved sinners. The reason that this everlasting, virgin-born king can reign over a kingdom of sinners is because he was born precisely to die. And he did die. He died in our place and bore our sin and provided our righteousness and took away the wrath of God and defeated the evil one so that anyone, anywhere, of any kind can turn from the treason of sin to the true king, and put their faith in him, and have everlasting joy.

Mark Steyn offers "a cornucopia of Yuletide delights from the Santa Steyn grotto - carols and lessons, movies and memories" in articles from his wide-ranging archives. Some links are light-hearted (e.g., an article about Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside," but he reminds us of our suffering brethren in the Middle East. He first wrote these words in 2011, but the situation is even worse today:

On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the "Arab Spring" is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 24, 2014 5:47 PM.

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