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Daily Devotion for December 17, 2010
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.
This lovely ancient Russian Orthodox hymn, Agni Parthene, has a very Christmas feel to it. In keeping with today's scripture, it emphasizes Mary.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
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.
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.
Despite the many times angels appear in the Bible, only two of them are given names: Gabriel and Michael. Michael, but not Gabriel, is called an "archangel" in most Protestant churches, whereas both are called archangels in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The reason for this is that they use different Bibles. Gabriel is called an archangel only in the Book of Tobit; this book is part of the canonical Bible in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, but part of the non-canonical Apocrypha in most Protestant churches. (If you find yourself terribly concerned about whether Gabriel is an archangel or just an angel, I suggest you volunteer to serve enough hours in local soup kitchen or other charity that the ranking of angels seems less important.)
Another difference in emphasis between Catholic/Orthodox churches and Protestant churches is the degree of importance placed on the veneration of the Virgin Mary, especially in Orthodox churches, where Mary is known as "Theotokos", which is 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.
I would like to take a minute to emphasize the fundamental principle of this website. Our emphasis is on the community of all persons who profess faith in Jesus Christ and His Holy Word. We try to be as careful as possible that all prayers, readings and statements will be helpful to, and usable by, all Christians regardless of denomination.
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 celebrate Christmas or even realize that it had occurred!
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".
I hope everyone who reads this page will join me 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.