Sunday, December 30, 2001
Offered by John H. Boyle, Parish Associate
God of mercy and hope, you have given us the gift of remembrance by which we can call to mind the experiences of the past. Though what we remember may sometimes renew past pain and sorrow, we are nevertheless grateful for the remembrance of things past that remind us of your goodness and grace in the world and in our lives. When in the midst of our memories of hurt and suffering we are tempted to forget how you have blessed us in the past, deliver us from such amnesia of spirit, and restore our awareness of your presence and our faith in your steadfast love.
God of the mundane and the marvelous, you call us to contemplate both the promise and the peril of this season of Christmastide. We give thanks to you for the promise of hope in the midst of despair, of light in the midst of darkness, of life in the midst of death, and of your abiding presence with us in the midst of life’s dangers as well as its joys.
We confess that we are not inclined to contemplate the peril that Christmas also brings, O God. Not everyone is happy with the coming of your love to the world, embodied as it was and is in the person of Jesus Christ. The enormity of the threat he poses is not lost on those whose lust for power is the core of their existence. We’re not inclined to contemplate that some love darkness so much that the coming of the Light of the world cannot be tolerated. We’re not inclined to contemplate the peril to us of his coming, for we too have our fair share of lustful ambition at times that runs roughshod over others, and we would just as soon not have the light of your truth and righteousness shine too brightly on the dark recesses of our souls where lurk our prejudices, our greed, our hatreds, and our shadowed thoughts.
Yet do we praise you, gracious God, for the promise that in the coming of your Beloved is our salvation ensured, in him are we forgiven, in him are we your kin and kin to one another, and in him do we experience your loving care.
We pray for those who suffer privation and oppression, for the sick and the sorrowing, and for all whose need of your healing grace is urgent. Especially do we remember the people of Afghanistan in their hunger and poverty and in their efforts to endure the ravages of drought and the devastation wrought by war. We continue to remember and to pray for all whose families and lives have been shattered by the destructive power of terrorist grandiosity and rage. In the bleak midwinter of their lives, grant them healing mercy and the consoling presence of your love in their lives.
In a culture that sometimes celebrates irreverence, teach us and the leaders of the nations of the earth how to revere one another, your world, and especially those who are strangers in our midst. Help us and them to bear the agony that results from tenaciously held ideals that cannot be fulfilled in any age. And at the same time that we decry the arrogance of power, save us from substituting for it the arrogance of a morality without mercy.
With a new year looming before us, dear God, transport us by your Spirit past shallow securities and easy optimisms, past fear and despair, to the faith that “neither life nor death, nor any other creature” can separate us from your love. Touch the time of each of us with your timelessness, our insufficiency with your sufficiency, and our need with your grace, so that at any moment that we find ourselves discouraged, thinking all is lost, we shall remember to be lost in wonder, love, and praise that long ago you walked down the stairway of heaven with a baby in your arms.
We pray in the name of that baby, who grew to be our Lord and Savior, and with the words he taught his disciples to pray, saying, Our Father . . .
Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church