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.
Ascribe to the Lord, you families of the peoples;
ascribe to the Lord honour and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the honour due to his name;
bring offerings and come into his courts.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.
Tell it out among the nations that the Lord is king.
He has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
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.
There was a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.
All parents want the best for their children. We want them to grow up into balanced, sociable and successful adults. We hope that they will avoid the mistakes we have made and that, in time, become good parents in their own right. We all want the very best for our children. But … do we share a common awareness of what ‘the very best’ might look like?
In today’s reading, which comes just after Simeon’s encounter with the baby Jesus, the prophet Anna, began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel. Such language would probably make little sense if it were used of our children, but why?
None of us know what the future holds for the children we cherish and hold so dear. In the 12th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of the ‘spiritual gifts’ that come from God. He speaks of wisdom, faith, healing and the working of miracles. He speaks of some being apostles and others being prophets, some being teachers and others being gifted in communication through the speaking and interpreting of different tongues. These gifts come to us from God as we surrender ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. None of these ‘gifts’ involves social acceptability and financial success. The true gifts of God are rooted in acts of faith.
When we wish the best for our children we would do well to nurture them in the life of faith, just as we promise in the service of Holy Baptism. Rather than teaching them to nurture their skills in ‘coming out on top’, we should be helping them to fan the flame of faith that will fill their hearts with the true joy that comes from God alone.
We know little of the childhood of Jesus. But, at the end of today’s reading we hear these words: the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him. As we seek to provide the best for our children, let us pray that we might not focus on that which is of this world, but on that which is of God. Let us pray that they might grow in strength, in order that they might become true and faithful disciples and apostles. Let us pray that they might be filled with wisdom in order that they might discern the gifts that have been bestowed upon them by God. Let us pray that the favour of God might be upon them for the whole of their earthly lives.
Prayers of intercession
Unlooked for, Christ comes. To shepherds, watching their sheep through the long, dark night, he comes with the glory of the angels’ song and in the humility of the manger. Loving God, we pray for our community. In the midst of our everyday lives, surprise us with glimpses of your glorious, humble love, at the heart of existence.
Searched for, Christ comes. To the wise and powerful, star-led to Bethlehem, seeking a king, he comes, child of Mary, crowned with meekness, worthy of every gift. Loving God, we pray for the leaders of the world. Guide them with your light to seek wisdom, justice and peace.
Longed for, Christ comes. To Anna and Simeon, whose days are lived in faithful expectation, he comes, a new life to the old, a living prophecy of hope. Loving God, we pray for the Church in all the world. Unite us by your Spirit, and make us faithful witnesses to the hope we have in you.
Prayed for, Christ comes. To men and women, girls and boys, crying out in darkness, pain and loneliness, he comes, at one with us, our Saviour, healer and friend. Loving God, we pray for those whose lives are hard and painful or whose existence is sorrowful, bitter or empty. In their need, may they know your healing touch, reaching out to comfort, strengthen and restore.
Unlooked for and not searched for, longed for and prayed for, loving God, you come to us now as you have come to your people in every age. We thank you for all who have reflected the light of Christ. Help us to follow their example and bring us with them to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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.