Day Five — Saturday 30 December 2017

The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. O come, let us worship. Alleluia

Readings

1 John 2.12-17 | Psalm 96.7-9 | Luke 2.36-40

Virgin

Justin O’Brien (Australia, 1887-1966). The Virgin enthroned (1950-51).
National Gallery of Victoria.

Reflection

It is part of the Christian tradition that Christ was born in the night. The life-giving truth often comes to human beings in some kind of mental night as they endure and try to understand it. The night is the dark side of life in which the familiar shape of our world dissolves and we lose some of our usual confidence, can indeed lose our way. In this unnerving darkness is set the gift of sleep, a gift because we have to receive it without any exertion, without any taking, we have only to let it come. The night is God's daily reminder that we are creatures with many limitations who can stand even sanity only so long and must after sixteen or seventeen hours of it give up.

The night is not only a realm of helplessness and fear. It is the dispenser of healing, restoration, and insight as well. It is this positive and congenial aspect of night that is present in the implications which Christians draw from the tradition that the definitive coming of the truth and love of God was in the night. All our human darknesses contain not only the formidable but, somewhere, hidden and needing some search and identification maybe yet nevertheless there, that which is for us, on our side. The darkness is not meaningless. It is the divine presence making clear our need of that broadening and relaxing of the self to which Christ points the way.
— J. Neville Ward, "The Nativity" in Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy (New York: Church Publishing, 2005).

Prayer

O God, your passionate Word to our warring and divided world is Jesus who, arms stretched upon a cross, breaks down all walls of division and hostility and holds all people and all creation in a fierce embrace of unyielding and unconquerable love. As we celebrate his birth, give us eyes to see that the One who lies in the manger is more than a baby: he is our peace. May Christ find room in our hearts anew to love the world through us "for the healing of the nations. This we pray in the name of the One who reconciled all things to you and is source and ending of our life, Jesus, Emmanuel.
—Frank Griswold

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956). In Terra Pax, Op. 34, part 1 (1954). Winchester Cathedral Choir, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

A setting of two verses from Robert Bridges' poem, Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913, combined with words from Luke's gospel.

May the Lord, who has called out of darkness into his marvellous light, bless us and fill us with peace. Amen.