Midweek Devotion 17/12/20

St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 17th December 2020
Led by Rev Douglas A O Nicol

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ (St. Matthew 1: 23)

Let us worship God.

Scripture Reading: St. Luke 1: 46-55

Mary said:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
     Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
     and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
     he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
he has filled the hungry with good things,
     and sent the rich empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,
     in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
     to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Reflection

The Season of Advent is a time of expectant waiting, and it gives us the opportunity of reflecting on the incredible event we will celebrate on Christmas Day, and on our response to it.

St. Matthew’s quotation from the words of the prophet Isaiah help us appreciate the significance of this time: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ During Advent we are looking forward to affirming the wonder of God Himself becoming a person, to share the joys and the pains of human life that we might have an example to follow, a Saviour and a Risen Lord.

The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer spelt out the significance of this meaning in his memorable quote: ‘If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man, how could he help us?’ The child born in Bethlehem was both – ‘God is with us’ – and so we celebrate His birth at the dawning of a new era for humankind.

And when Mary learnt that she was the one chosen to be the mother of ‘God is with us’ she offered the words of our Scripture reading – a hymn of praise which has resounded through the centuries since.

Enthralled by these words, we are left asking about our response to the arrival of Jesus – ‘God is with us’. For the Jesus born at Bethlehem is the One who calls us to follow Him in a life of love committed to peace and justice. At this Advent Season we can each re-affirm our commitment to follow … and to display that in action. Just imagine that if each of us offered one unplanned act of service to others during Advent the way in which a ripple of His love would be felt in the world!

Such a commitment to follow is summed up simply yet profoundly by the
19th Century hymn writer, Christina Georgina Rossetti, when she wrote the closing verse of her well-loved hymn ‘In the bleak midwinter’:

‘What can I give him,
poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
if I were a wise man,
I would do my part, –
yet what I can I give him,
give my heart.’

May we all travel in hope this Advent Season, and then with hearts full of joy and committed service celebrate our Saviour’s birth!

Prayer

Let us pray:

God of eternity,
when the voice of the prophet was silent
and the faith of your people low;
when darkness had obscured light
and indifference displaced zeal:
you saw that the time was right,
and prepared to send your Son.
Set us free from fear and faithlessness
that we may be ready to welcome him
who comes as Saviour and Lord.

Let us pray to the Lord
for the peace of the world,
the welfare of the Church,
the unity of all people: (silence)

Let us pray to the Lord
for our Queen and her governments,
for the leaders of the world,
and all with responsibility in our generation: (silence)

Let us pray to the Lord
for those who are oppressed,
or destitute, or hungry,
and for all affected worldwide by Coronavirus: (silence)

Let us pray to the Lord
for those whom we love, at home or far away,
neighbours and friends and colleagues through work,
all those whose lives are closely linked with ours: (silence)

For the glory of your name, O God,
turn us from all that is evil,
and grant us grace
to put our whole trust and confidence
in your loving purpose for the world.
Strengthen us by your Spirit
to serve you with a willing heart
and a cheerful spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, in 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, and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever,
Amen.

Benediction

Look forward in hope
to the coming of your Saviour,
prepare the way for Christ your Lord;
welcome him with love and faith
when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
be among you and remain with you.
Amen.

Organ Music
Flor Peeters Aria