Daily Devotion for December 18, 2012
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 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, forever and ever.
Not your usual Christmas carol! This lovely hymn is an old Slavonic Orthodox work, "O Virgin Pure", which exalts Mary as the Mother of Christ.
Rejoice, O song of Cherubim.
Rejoice, O hymn of angels.
Rejoice, O ode of Seraphim,
the joy of the archangels.
Rejoice, O peace and happiness
the harbor of salvation.
O sacred chamber of the Word
flower of incorruption,
Rejoice, delightful paradise
of blessed life eternal.
Rejoice, O wood and tree of life
the fount of immortality.
Prayer of Thanks for God's Creation
O Lord God of Israel and God of the nations, you are the only God in heaven above or the earth below. I walk before you with all my heart. I bless your name in the morning when I rise and in the evening when I sleep, and all the day when your creation fills my eye. Bless me to remember you this day. When I see and hear the thousand miracles of your creation, let me see them anew, recalling that you have made them, and no other; that I may live in your presence among the common miracles I take for granted. Through Christ I pray,
O blessed Christ, my teacher, my savior, my God: You have commanded me to love others as myself. Yet it is so often easy to see the faults in others, for I see their outside and compare it against what is inside me. I have inflated my goodness and importance in my own mind, but have judged others for the smallest shortcoming, and I am filled by foolish pride.
I vow by this prayer that I will strive to follow your Word, to forgive all who have injured me, to turn loose the petty resentments and grudges that poison the world with hatred, and to overlook the faults of others; and I ask to be pardoned wherever I have done injury to my brothers and sisters, who are your beloved children even though they, like me, are sinners. And I vow, when I fall short of your commandment, to seek out and confess my wrongdoing. Forgive me, Holy Christ, and help me to ever amend my life; this I pray, with faith in the grace you have promised to the penitent sinner.
Now unto him that is able to keep me from falling, and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Psalm 98:1-6 (NSRV)
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Christ's Birth Announced to Mary
Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, for you are highly favored. The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have never known a man?"
And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible."
Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Notes on the Scripture
The passage today is termed "The Annunciation" and is celebrated as a feast day in many churches. The celebration takes place around the spring equinox (in Orthodox churches, it is always March 25 and is extremely important). The Gospels, however, place it directly before accounts of the birth of Christ, and so it is also, in terms of narrative structure, part of Advent.
As with Zechariah, the angel Gabriel acts as God's messenger. The Catholic/Orthodox churches and Protestant churches differ in the degree of importance placed on the veneration of the Virgin Mary. Orthodox churches know her as "Theotokos", Greek for "the bearer of God". They place more emphasis on Christ's conception, as opposed to His birth, being the moment at which the salvation of humanity begins.
How a person worships is a very personal matter; some Christians place great emphasis on the Annunciation as the moment when the Good News was first told; some place great emphasis on Christmas; and at the opposite extreme, the Pilgrims did not even celebrate Christmas. Reacting to the debauchery of the holiday in Great Britain, in 1659 the Puritans of Boston formally banned this "great dishonor of God and offense of others"!
And yet their core belief of this fundamental point is identical; God came to save humanity from sin in the person of Christ, who was born as a male baby named Jesus, to a betrothed virgin named Mary, "to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish, but have eternal life".
Let us join together during the Christmas season in celebrating the unity of all Christians; setting aside differences to emphasize the common beliefs of all who confess Christ to be their Savior.