We obviously do not know the exact date of the Messiah’s birth. The church has celebrated his birth on December 25 for more than seventeen centuries, give or take a few years. It fits nicely into the liturgical flow of the year and helps us all "remember" the advent of the one who came to save the world. We can all stand a great deal more remembering these days.
My wife and I celebrated the birth of Christ in a lovely communion service where a number of old carols and hymns were appropriately sung as part of the retelling of the drama. The familiar texts of Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20 were also read. Perhaps the most moving portion of all was the benediction.
"May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever."
That prayer just about sums up all I desire for on this Christmas Eve, 2006.
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I went to a traditional Episcopal advent service with lessons and carols this morning. I enjoyed the words of hope and grace in it – they were very powerful.
This was the bidding prayer at the service I went to:
Dear People of God: In the Season of Advent, it is our responsibility and joy to prepare ourselves to hear once more the message of the Angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger.
Let us hear and heed in Holy Scripture the story of God’s loving purpose from the time of our rebellion against him until the glorious redemption brought to us by his holy Child Jesus, and let us look forward to the yearly remembrance of his birth with hymns and songs of praise.
But first, let us pray for the needs of his whole world, for peace and justice on earth, for the unity and mission of the Church for which he died, and especially for his Church in our country and in this community.
And because he particularly loves them, let us remember in his name the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed, the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and unloved, the aged and the little children, as well as all those who do not know the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, let us remember before God his pure and lowly Mother, and that whole multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in Jesus, we are one for evermore.
The Almighty God bless us with his grace; Christ give us the joys of everlasting life; and to the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all. Amen.