O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God in Trinity,
eternal unity of perfect love:
gather the nations to be one family,
and draw us into your holy life
through the birth of Emmanuel,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 96.1, 11-13
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
Let the fields be joyful and all that is in them;
let all the trees of the wood shout for joy before the Lord.
For he comes, he comes to judge the earth;
with righteousness he will judge the world
and the peoples with his truth.
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.
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.
As we come to the end of the year we are brought back to the idea of beginning. As 2021 slips away, and as we celebrate the dawning of 2022, we have much upon which we should reflect. Another wave of the Covid pandemic has swept across the world. Our ‘normal’ lives have been disrupted once again, if only by an increased sense of caution. Our aspirations for the coming year have been tempered by the disappointments of the last two years. And yet, despite our apprehension and caution, time rolls on and a new year is dawning.
Today’s reading, the opening of John’s gospel, has become most closely associated with our Services of Lessons and Carols. It feels odd to hear these majestic words outside that context. Yet, here they are again, speaking of beginning, of the Word that was with God and that was God. As the old year is transformed into a time of new opportunity we are reminded that All things came into being through him. Then, later in the reading, we hear of the one who was sent from God … as a witness to testify … that all might believe through him.
These opening words of John’s gospel are timeless. They contain so much that should inspire and strengthen us as we journey through our earthly lives. We are reminded of the power of Jesus (the Word who was in the beginning with God), just as we are reminded of the light of Jesus that the darkness does not have the power to overcome. They also remind us of our role, not only as disciples of Christ, but also as apostles of Christ, as messengers who are sent, like John, to testify to the light, so that all might believe.
New Year, like Christmas, gets wrapped up in nostalgia and emotion. We think back to earlier times as we create a false memory of love, peace and plenty. Rather than learning from the reality of the past in order that we might play our part in building a better future, we deceive ourselves into believing there was a ‘golden age’ which it should be our aim to re-create. We fail to use this time as a time to arm ourselves with the armour of light, love, peace and service, in order that the true message of Christmas might be taken into our dark, troubled and divided world.
Let us pray for a new resolve, that the coming year might be one of Christian ministry and mission. Let us pray that we might be granted the strength to play our part in bringing the story of Christ into the lives of others. Let us pray that, no matter what the unknown future might bring, we might face the days to come in the light of Christ, the light which cannot be extinguished.
Prayers of intercession
Rejoicing in the precious gift of the Son, let us pray to the Lord.
Grant to the Church, illuminated by the eternal light, the grace to shine as the servant of Incarnate God. May the simple faith of the shepherds, the adoration of the angels and love of the Holy Family be the ground of our worship and witness now and at all times.
Son of God, taking our human nature so that all broken humanity might be made new, look with mercy on a world which has not heeded the angelic message of peace. Bring to the nations knowledge of the love which has been from the beginning and which no sin can extinguish or folly destroy.
May the love that shone from the blessed manger bed be ours today. In every heart, every home, every workplace, may the grace and truth of God dwell with us and draw us into his holiness, and empower us to tell out the tidings of great joy.
Light of God, come into the darkness of pain and suffering. In the new day that has dawned, may the sick find healing, the sorrowful comfort, the despairing hope, and the dying assurance. Bring the wanderers and the homeless to shelter. Shield the newly born and the mothers waiting for the time of birth.
Grant to the departed the peace that unites earth and heaven. The life that was in Christ, the life of all that was made, be theirs in the greater light of his eternal glory.
We offer our prayers through Christ, the Word made flesh for our salvation.
Prayer for Christmas
Holy Child of Bethlehem,
born in a stable, laid in a manger,
no place is too low or mean for you to enter.
Come to us this Christmas time,
dwell in our hearts and homes,
and fill them with your love,
now and always.
The Lord’s Prayer
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 of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.