A bidding prayer for Christmas, A. D. 2017

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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...

The bidding prayer was written by Eric Milner-White, dean of the chapel of King's College, who introduced the Lessons and Carols service there on Christmas Eve 1918. Jeremy Summerly describes the prayer as "the greatest addition to the Church of England's liturgy since the Book of Common Prayer."

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, but they seem to have been restored in recent years. 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. As he wrote those words, Milner-White, who had served as an army chaplain in the Great War before his return to King's College, must have had in mind the 199 men of King's and the hundreds of thousands of his countrymen who never returned home from the trenches of Europe.

This year many Tulsans who knew him will hear that phrase and remember David Rollo, who, as Holland Hall's music director, developed the musical tradition of the school's annual Lessons and Carols service at Trinity. David's friends and family miss him greatly, but he celebrates Christmas this year free of all the pains and physical limitations that plagued him in this life.

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:

The history of the Lessons and Carols service is presented in this 15-minute BBC program, Episode 8 of the series "A Cause for Caroling." Edward White Benson, first Bishop of Truro, originated the service of Nine Lessons and Carols in 1880. It was published in 1884 and began to be used more widely.

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 then-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.

This year's broadcast of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College Cambridge will be available for the next four weeks on the BBC website. You can download the booklet for the service here. (Direct link to PDF.)

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.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 25, 2017 10:11 PM.

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