Podcast Worship

Prayer for 1 January 2021

Listen to or read a service of Prayer for Friday 1 January 2021, the Festival of Naming and Circumcision of Jesus, and New Year’s Day

The celebration of this scriptural festival marks three events: firstly, the naming of the infant; secondly, the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham ‘and his children for ever’, thus Christ’s keeping of the Law; and thirdly, traditionally the first shedding of the Christ’s blood. The most significant of these in the gospels is the name itself, which means ‘Yahweh saves’ and so is linked to the question asked by Moses of God: “What is your name?” “I am who I am,” was the reply, thus the significance of Jesus’s words: “Before Abraham was, I am.” This feast has been observed in the church since at least the sixth century.


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


Almighty God,
whose blessed Son was circumcised
in obedience to the law for our sake
and given the Name that is above every name:
give us grace faithfully to bear his Name,
to worship him in the freedom of the Spirit,
and to proclaim him as the Saviour of the world;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Psalm 8

O Lord our governor,
how glorious is your name in all the world!

Your majesty above the heavens is praised
out of the mouths of babes at the breast.

You have founded a stronghold against your foes,
that you might still the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What is man, that you should be mindful of him;
the son of man, that you should seek him out?

You have made him little lower than the angels
and crown him with glory and honour.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands
and put all things under his feet,

All sheep and oxen,
even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea
and whatsoever moves in the paths of the sea.

O Lord our governor,
how glorious is your name in all the world!

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

Reading: Luke 2.15-21

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


As we begin a new year, let us ponder the lesson we can learn from the shepherds in today’s reading. Down the years many things have been said and presumed about the shepherds in Luke’s account of Christ’s Nativity. Many of the things that have been said have been negative and disdainful. For example, the shepherds have often been described as outcasts from decent, God-fearing society. But … they do play a significant part in the Lucan account of the Nativity. The angels did bring the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds on the hills surrounding Bethlehem, a moment we recall every time we say or sing the Gloria in our services of Holy Communion. The shepherds did journey with haste to see the child lying in the manger. And, the shepherds did return glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

It is true that the shepherds were peasants. They may have been fortunate enough to have some sort of small holding of their own, but they would still have needed to work long, antisocial hours if they were to survive in a harsh economic environment. However, despite their lowly social and economic status, it was to these humble peasants that the Good News was sent. As in Mary’s great song of praise (the Magnificat) it was the lowly who were lifted up, and not the rich and powerful. Similarly, the angels declared God’s glory in a field, and not in the grandeur of Temple or Palace. Surely there could be no doubt that a new day was dawning, and that a new world was coming.

Throughout Luke’s account of the Nativity we are given the immediate responses of those who were visited by angels. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, expressed unbelief. Mary, the mother of Jesus, embraced God’s plan and declared herself to be God’s servant. Then came the shepherds on the hillside … they followed the sign they had been given. Like Mary they responded in haste. They testified to all they had heard and seen and, finally, they returned glorifying and praising God.

As we stand at the gateway of a new year, a moment that is shrouded in so much uncertainty, we are being challenged by the role model of the humble shepherds. In recent days we have heard the good news, now we have to decide what to do with it. Are we going to shrug it off as nonsense, the responsibility of others? Or, are we going to travel in haste with the shepherds, testifying to all we meet as we glorify and praise God?

Prayers of Intercession

That all things may be made new by his grace, let us pray to the Lord.

Direct and strengthen the Church, in which we are your children by adoption. Send your people forward into this new year, bearing the name of Jesus for the salvation of all.

In the year that lies before us, grant peace in all places of strife. Inspire with wisdom and mercy those who bear authority, that justice may prevail and wrongs be righted. May your love shine graciously on all the world.

We pray for our families, friends and neighbours, that this year may be one of peace and blessing. Shield with your loving care all babies and young children in this community and guide those who care for them.

Have mercy on all who face the future without hope. At this time draw near with comfort to those who suffer in body, mind or spirit. Give them new confidence in the name of Jesus.

We give thanks for all who, having confessed the name of Jesus in this world, are now at peace. Grant them life eternal in the kingdom where there are no beginnings or endings but all is held in one perfection of being.

We make our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, the Name above all names.

Prayer for the New Year

God, bless the coming year,
and give us in your mercy
time for the task,
peace for the pathway,
wisdom for the work,
and love to the last;
for Jesus’ sake.

The Lord’s Prayer

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.

The Grace

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.


Angels from the realms of glory,
wing your flight o’er all the earth;
ye who sang creation’s story
now proclaim Messiah’s birth:

Come and worship
Christ the new-born King,
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born King.

Shepherds in the field abiding,
watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing;
yonder shines the infant Light:

Come and worship
Christ the new-born King,
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born King.

Though an infant now we view him,
he shall fill his Father’s throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down:

Come and worship
Christ the new-born King,
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born King.

James Montgomery (1771–1854)
from Iris, 1816, and The Christmas Box, 1825