Reflection for the first Sunday of Christmas

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.

Reflection

Well, this is going to be a strange Christmas. How many times have you heard that said in recent days? It certainly is strange and different as we adapt yet again to the changing circumstances regarding the COVID-19 virus. For many people, it has been particularly difficult. Family members have not been able to come home for Christmas; travel is restricted; many businesses have had to close their doors; and, of course, our churches too have had to close to public worship until further notice. These are difficult, sad and strange times indeed.

When we think about it, the first Christmas was very strange for the family at the heart of it. A young, engaged couple had to leave their familiar surroundings and close family to make a three-day journey to a strange town. The young woman was pregnant, which undoubtedly presented great difficulties in the tightly knit community of Nazareth. Were tongues wagging when they set off to Bethlehem?

The journey, either on foot or by donkey, must have been hard for Mary in her condition. Then there was the stress of finding somewhere to stay when they arrived at Bethlehem. They had to make do with a stable – hardly ideal conditions to give birth to her first child. A humble animal’s feeding trough made do for a cradle.

While they coped with difficult circumstances and far from ideal accommodation, at the back of their minds must have been the wonderful but disturbing visions of angels, which promised that their newborn would inherit the throng of their royal ancestor King David and would be called the Son of God. What could all this mean for their future lives?

And then a group of ecstatic shepherds came inquiring about their baby and declared that they too had seen a vision of angels who had informed them of his birth, saying that he was the Messiah. So overjoyed were these shepherds that they went all around Bethlehem sharing this strange and wonderful news.

It was into this extraordinary set of circumstances, where the miraculous met the mundane and humble people caught a vision of heaven that God’s Son was born. From the very start, He experienced human life in all of its vulnerability and uncertainty. There is nothing that we face in this life that Our Lord himself has not experienced. He journeys with us into a future, which to us is uncertain, but that future rests in his hands.

A strange Christmas, perhaps, but the true meaning of Christmas has not changed. May you know the peace and presence of Christ this Christmas.

Collect for the first Sunday of Christmas

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
Grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Glory to God in the highest, to our God who is incarnate among us and daily meets us in human form. Lord God, we give you thanks and praise for your wonderful gift of yourself. Help us to know your presence in our lives and in our homes.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We rejoice with the whole Church in celebrating your love for us in Jesus. We pray for this diocese, its people, and Pat our bishop. Bless all who preach the word and celebrate the sacraments and all who are called to ministry in your church. We remember those who are unable to join with us in our worship.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We give thanks for your eternal promise of peace and goodwill on the earth. We pray for all who are caught up in war or violence; we remember the world’s poor, the homeless, and any who live in fear or anxiety. We pray for all who feel neglected or unwanted.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

Lord Jesus, we thank you that you knew the life of an ordinary family, that you experienced childhood in an ordinary home. We ask your blessing upon our loved ones and friends, especially the children, and we remember all who are presently separated from their homes and loved ones.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who are ill or unable to enjoy life. We remember those who are fearful for their future or who are unable to cope with the present. Lord, may they know your love and care for them. We pray for our health service and for all who are working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Protect all frontline health workers as they care for others.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

We give thanks that you unite our worship with the worship of heaven. We remember our loved ones who have died. Lord, grant that we may come with them to the gift of life and joy eternal.

Lord hear us: Lord graciously hear us.

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.

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