Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 5 January (John 1.43-51)

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 1.43-51 

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ 

John 1.43-51 NRSV

Reflection 

Nathanael said to him: Where did you come to know me?

In Psalm 139 we read these words: O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away … Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. These powerful words offer an answer to Nathanael’s question to Jesus, just as they offer us a reminder of the omnipotence and omnipresence of God in this world.

In earlier times, I used to teach Philosophy and Ethics. One of the modules I taught was entitled The Nature of God. Within that module students were invited to consider God in terms of four ‘omni-’ words: omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence and omnipresence. Omnipotence referred to God as being all-powerful; omniscience considered God as being all-knowing; omnibenevolence invited reflection upon the all-loving nature of God; omnipresence reminded us that God is present everywhere at all times.

Today’s reading is a powerful reminder of reality of those four  qualities of God. Having added Philip to the growing company of disciples, Jesus then reveals an acquaintance with Nathanael that is bewildering to Nathanael himself. He would have known the words of Psalm 139, but here are those words in action. In his amazement, and confusion, Nathanael proclaims: Rabbi, you are the Son of God! Then, Jesus promises that he, and all who commit themselves to a life of discipleship, will see greater things.

As we prepare to leave the liturgical season of Christmas and move into Epiphany, which begins with the coming of the wise men, let us pause and consider the message of recent days. On Christmas Day we celebrated the Nativity of Jesus, the Son of God. That miraculous birth was celebrated by the company of heaven, in the form of angels, and by ordinary people, the shepherds on the hillside. We have also seen the first disciples stepping out of their ordinary lives and trusting Jesus’ call to follow him. Already we are witnessing the omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence and omnipresence of God through the words and actions of Jesus Christ.

Let us pray that we might learn the absolute truth of the words of Psalm 139 as we place our lives in the hands of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world … the one who is the Son of God.

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.