O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
The necessity for watchfulness
Jesus said: ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Today we are entering a time of preparation. As the secular frenzy associated with Christmas moves up a gear we are called to pray, to engage with scripture on a daily basis, and to mark the season with some form of self-sacrifice (fasting). These rituals of preparation are commonly associated with Lent, the time that precedes our celebration of the great victory of Easter. As Lent is a time that leads us towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, so the season which begins today invites us to make suitable preparation for the celebrations with which we will mark the beginnings of that life-changing journey.
As we contemplate four weeks of spiritual discipline we begin with Jesus’ call for watchfulness. Throughout the gospel narrative Our Lord reminds us that our human plans and machinations count for nothing unless they are rooted in faith. In today’s reading we are reminded of the transient nature of our human existence; we are also reminded of the need to be in perpetual readiness for God’s summons into his eternal presence.
It is a fact that we forever find ourselves daydreaming, struggling to remain focused on Jesus’ command to: Keep awake. No matter how strong our resolve at the beginning of each day, we soon find ourselves being distracted by the demands of the hectic, unrelenting secular world. Every day we find ourselves susceptible to the changes and chances, the vagaries and serendipities that distracted those who allowed the thief to deprive them of all that is truly precious.
Let us pray that, amidst the distractions of the next four weeks, we might remain steadfast as we prepare for the intense joy of the Incarnation.
Watchful at all times, let us pray for strength to stand with confidence before our Maker and Redeemer.
That God may bring in his kingdom with justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may establish among the nations his sceptre of righteousness, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may seek Christ in the scriptures and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may bind up the broken hearted, restore the sick and raise up all who have fallen, let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of God’s coming may dawn on all who live in darkness and the shadow of death, let us pray to the Lord.
That, with all the saints in light, we may shine forth as lights for the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us commend the world, which Christ will judge, to the mercy and protection of God.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the
light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Uniting our prayers with the whole company of heaven,
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.
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon us,
scatter the darkness from before our path,
and make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.