Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 31 December (John 1.1-18)

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: John 1.1-18

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. 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 

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 testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. 

John 1.1-18 NRSV

Reflection 

He came as a witness to testify to the light … the true light which enlightens everyone.

Today we say goodbye to the old as we prepare to enter into the new. At midnight bells will be rung, fireworks will crackle into life and resolutions will be made. There will be parties, embraces and the sharing of memories and hopes for the future. In the year ahead there will be both optimism and apprehension, excitement and uncertainty, joy and sadness. Then, after this universal moment of celebration as one year moves into another, for so many, it will be back to ‘business as usual’. The party spirit will be packed away until the next cause for celebration comes along, the bonhomie will be packed away as we don our usual attitude of suspicion and self-interest, and those resolutions will quickly be forgotten. The coming of a new year, with all its excitements and opportunities, will be celebrated like a birthday, a once-a-year event that is fun while it lasts but its shelf-life is very short indeed.

This may sound a rather bleak way of looking at the beginning of a new year, but it is the reality for most. It is this reality that is being challenged by the words with which I began this reflection: he came as a witness to testify to the light … the true light which enlightens everyone. In the famous opening to John’s gospel we hear of Jesus, the Word of God that became flesh and lived among us. We also hear of the herald of the Word, John the Baptist, the prophet who came as a witness to testify to the light, that is the light of Christ that now shines in this world.

As we read these inspired and inspiring verses we also read of a world whose people did not accept him, that is the Word that was in the beginning with God. These words recognize that in the hearts and minds of many, the notion of God coming into this world to revitalize his covenant with humanity, and to bring redemption and hope to all, is too difficult a concept because it challenges the ‘comfortable’ lifestyles and routines we have created for ourselves.

As we leave the old year, and as we stand at the gateway to a new year, we are being given yet another opportunity to step out with new resolve. Not a trivial resolve that is centred on weight loss, healthier habits or our need to be ‘nicer’ people, rather a resolve to be more resolute in the way we live out and share our faith in Jesus Christ.

The shortest day of the year is now behind us and we are moving forward into new times. As the days lengthen we are being challenged to join John, and all who have followed him, testifying to the light … the light, which will, with our help, enlighten everyone.As our feeble self-serving resolutions fade into oblivion, let us pray that our resolve to be better disciples and apostles may be strengthened every single day of the new year that is opening for us at the end of this day.

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.