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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Daily Devotion for December 20, 2013

<i>The Annunciation</i>, Henry Ossawa Tanner ca. 1898.
The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner ca. 1898. Tanner was an African-American so talented as to find international recognition in a day when his race faced enormous obstacles to acceptance. Among the many brilliant depictions of the Annunciation, this one might give us the most realistic imagining of how the scene might have looked in real life.



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lessons and scripture

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 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.


Lord of All Hopefulness

Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy, whose trust, ever child-like, no cares can destroy, be there at my waking, and give me, I pray, your bliss in my heart, Lord, at the break of the day.

Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe, be there at my labors, and give me, I pray, your strength in my heart, Lord, at the noon of the day.

Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace, your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace, be there at my homing, and give me, I pray, your love in my heart, Lord, at the eve of the day.

Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm, whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm, be there at my sleeping, and give me, I pray, your peace in my heart, Lord, at the end of the day.

(Jan Struther, 1931)

An Advent Prayer

God, grant me the grace to be patient and vigilant in watching, waiting, and listening attentively, so that I won't miss Christ when he comes knocking at my door. Remove whatever hinders me from receiving the gifts which the Savior brings — Joy, peace, justice, mercy, and love. And let me always remember that these are gifts that are only received by giving; let me remember, during this season and throughout the year, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the outcast, the prisoner, the weak, and the defenseless, with my prayers and with my substance.

In the name of Christ I pray,



Now to Him who has given me grace in accordance with His gospel, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for many ages past, but now revealed and made known by the command of the eternal God, so that all mankind might find the obedience that comes from faith; to the only God, the God of wisdom and truth, be glory forever through His only son, Jesus Christ.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

endless knot

Starting Where We Are

"We think we must climb to a certain height of goodness before we can reach God. But if we are in a hole, the Way begins in the hole. The moment we set our face in the same direction as His, we are walking with God."

    ~ Helen Wodehouse

Blue Latin Cross

Luke 1:39-44

Mary Visits Elizabeth

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.

And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

Notes on the Scripture

Luke's story of Mary and Elizabeth is, unfortunately, short and incomplete, for many people would love to know more of the details of both their lives. But they were unimportant people, not the sort of people anyone paid particularly great attention to at the time. Mary was a rather quiet teenager from a blue-collar family, who lived in the backwater town of Nazareth. Although she had caused a stir among her close friends and family, historians and scholars of the day would not have even noticed her.

Zechariah had a bit more standing in the community, since he was a priest of the Temple, but the Temple had many priests. As we learn in 1 Chronicles 24, there were 24 groups of priest who served for one week, in rotation; and considering the size of the Temple, there would have been numerous priests in each cycle. Although we don't know Zechariah's occupation, he lived in a hill town in Judah, as we learn from today's passage; so he was not a great personage, either.

Nor do we have any idea how Elizabeth knew so much about Mary. We might speculate that Mary's family was eager to spread the story of her visitation by Gabriel, since they would have wanted to explain the pregnancy of their teenage daughter. Although she was betrothed, betrothals lasted at least a year. Girls were betrothed very young — 13 was the rule — and were expected to remain chaste during the period. Joseph, especially, would have needed convincing.

This is a sweet story; Elizabeth and Mary seem to be close and affectionate, despite living so far apart. Certainly they had met at the frequent feast days, during which devout Jews would travel to Jerusalem. And she accepts Mary's story without reservation, crediting her jumping fetus to the sanctity of the child Mary is carrying. (Elizabeth would have been near delivery, as she had been six months pregnant when Mary conceived.) Of course, Elizabeth herself had already seen proof of one miracle, namely, her own pregnancy.

The little scraps of information in this passage would become the basis for enormous reverence in centuries to come; the (mental and physical) image of Mary, especially in Catholic and Orthodox churches, has been the source of comfort and hope for millions of people, male as well as female, over the centuries.

<i>The Visitation</i>, Mariotto Albertinelli c. 1503.
The Visitation, Mariotto Albertinelli c. 1503.

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Today in Daily Prayer

Memory Verse

Luke 2:10-12 (ASV): And the angel said unto them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.”

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