St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 23rd December 2021
Led by Rev Professor Kenneth Boyd
Welcome to online devotion with St Giles’ Cathedral, today Thursday the 23rd of December 2021
Scripture Reading Luke chapter 1, verses 67-79
67Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us
74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break uponus,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
In today’s reading, the priest Zechariah blesses God and addresses his own recently born son, who will become John the Baptist. Zechariah’s words were to become one of the first hymns or canticles sung in worship by the early Christians. It is still sung in many churches, where it is known as The Benedictus, a Latin translation of Luke’s Greek word ‘eulogetos’, both words signifying ‘speak well of’, or ‘praise’. In English this became ‘blessed’, which was used to translate the Old Testament Hebrew words both for ‘praise’ and for ‘happiness’. Why was the same word ‘bless’ used both to praise God and to wish another person happiness? It may be because while the word ‘happiness’ comes from the older word ‘happ’ meaning chance or luck, the word ‘bless’ comes from another older word ‘bledsian’ meaning ‘to sprinkle with blood’ or ‘to consecrate’. To bless another person is to wish them not the kind of momentary or exciting happiness that comes and goes with luck or chance, but something deeper, calmer and more enduring, flowing from the living heart of all things, whose love and goodness we bless. To bless God and to bless one another are inextricably interwoven: for ‘those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.’ [1 John 4.20] As Christmas approaches, when the Love at the heart of all things appeals to our all-too-human hearts in the face and form of a helpless infant, let us remind ourselves that this is yet another opportunity to learn to love one another – and then when we have failed to love, to pick ourselves up and try again. For failing in learning to love, is worth more than succeeding in anything else; and so, in learning to love, may God whom we bless, bless us, every one.
Let us pray.
Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits.
For the promise of Advent we bless you, Lord,
the promise that we shall know even as we are known,
that nothing remains hidden to the everlasting justice and the infinite mercy,
that the poor and all who never had a chance will be satisfied,
that the lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them,
that you have prepared such good things as pass our mortal understanding,
for us and for all, we bless you, Lord.
For the coming of Christmas we bless you,
for the light of hope in the darkest days.
Bless, we pray, our families, our friends and neighbours,
our fellow citizens living with this pandemic,
and especially those in many countries
who lack vaccines and medicines.
Bless with energy and patience,
the scientists, doctors and healthworkers
who seek to make a difference.
Bless with wisdom and courage,
the politicians and managers.
who make difficult decisions.
Bless us all and help us learn
how to love one another
and bear one another’s burdens.
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 them 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.
And now may the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
bless, preserve and keep us and all God’s children,
in the joy, simplicity, and compassion of the gospel. Amen