Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 26 December (Matthew 10.17-22)

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, sovereign God,
creator of heaven and earth,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your living Word, eternal in heaven,
assumed the frailty of our mortal flesh,
may the light of your love be born in us
to fill our hearts with joy as we sing:
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Reading: Matthew 10.17-22

Jesus said to the twelve: ‘Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.’

Matthew 10.17-22 NRSV

Reflection 

Yesterday we focused on the way in which the Nativity of Christ challenges us to go out glorifying and praising God. Today, when the Church remembers and gives thanks for Stephen, the first Christian martyr, the mood changes. In today’s reading we hear Jesus painting a bleak picture for the twelve disciples, those who immediately responded when Jesus said: Follow me! Jesus speaks of the persecutions and punishments that many will have to endure because of their faith in the one who began his earthly life in a manger, in a stable, in the hilltop town of Bethlehem. But, despite the miserable future Jesus seems to be outlining for his disciples, his message in today’s reading is not without hope.

Jesus says: Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you …

So often, and especially when we sense any degree of injustice, we grasp at words and construct arguments with which to defend ourselves. Sometimes our arguments are effective and we experience feelings of victory and vindication. On other occasions we flounder and find ourselves crushed by the quicker thinking and greater fluency of our opponents. When it comes to defending our faith we often find it harder to muster our arguments, to put forwards a convincing account of the beliefs we hold so dear. The reason we struggle in such matters is rooted in our failure to trust in Jesus’ words; we forget his promise that: what you are to say will be given to you.

We live in a culture that celebrates self-sufficiency. We are proud of our ability to ‘take care of ourselves’. But, that self-sufficiency is rooted in a reliance on human, and not divine, wisdom, the sort of wisdom that will always let us down. Today Jesus is reminding us that, no matter how difficult and dangerous things may become, we just have to let go and trust in him. Jesus’ promise does not necessarily mean that we will avoid the persecutions and the punishments, the injustices and the oppression, but there are other words of hope in today’s reading: the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Throughout the gospels there runs a constant message of hope … the hope that true faith will be rewarded with eternal life in the nearer presence of God. We are never promised an easy journey through this life, but we are promised the greatest of rewards if we stand firm in our faith. Today we are urged to pray that we might trust in Jesus’ promise that he will always be with us, no matter what this world may throw at us. Today we are urged to pray that we might endure so that at the end we will be saved.

Prayers

To us a child is born, to us a son is given;
let us pray for the people he came to save.

Wonderful Counsellor,
you order all things with your wisdom:
help the Church to reveal the mystery of your love
and fill her with the Spirit of truth:
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Mighty God,
the government is on your shoulders:
guide the leaders of the nations
and bring in your kingdom of justice and righteousness: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Everlasting Father,
you call us to live together in unity:
protect by your mercy all your children,
bless our families and renew our communities: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Prince of Peace,
you bring reconciliation through the cross:
by your healing power give to all who suffer
your gift of wholeness and peace: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Let us commend the world, to which Christ came,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Lord Jesus Christ,
your birth at Bethlehem
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:
accept our heartfelt praise
as we worship you,
our Saviour and our eternal God.
Amen.

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us.

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.

Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one
things earthly and heavenly,
fill us with peace and goodwill
and make us partakers of the divine nature;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.