Churchyard Christmas by Charles Wysocki, ca. 1982.
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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.
Preparation for Prayer
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly-minded. For with blessings in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to command.
~ from the Liturgy of Saint James
Thanks for Christ’s Birth
God of every nation and people, from the beginning of Creation you have made known your love through the gift of your Son, who bears the name Emmanuel, “God with Us.” In the fullness of time the Christ-child came to be the Good News to all who would receive him.
Grant that I may remember every day the blessing that this season represents, to me personally and to all Christians throughout the world; and especially, to those who have not yet received the Word, but may find Christ in the future. Thank you, Lord, for your great blessing to us all.
Prayer to Resist Temptation
Holy God, You know the temptations that I am facing today. But your Word promises that I will not be tempted beyond what I can bear.
Help me, heavenly Father, to stand up against sin, to resist whatever temptation I may encounter this day, in whatever form it may come. Your Word promises that you will provide a way out of any temptation, and I pray to be able to find it and to have the wisdom to use it, and to walk away when temptation arises. All thanks be to you, O Lord, for you are a faithful deliverer; and I can count on your help in my time of need.
Oh Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you”; I pray that I and your whole church, the body of all faithful people, will know your peace, and live in harmony and unity, one with another, in accordance with your wishes. This I pray to you, who lives and reigns forever.
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.
Our “Virtual Sunday Church” comes from the Chapel at the Villa Martel, in Houston, Texas.
Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them;
Who keeps truth forever,
Who executes justice for the oppressed,
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
He relieves the fatherless and widow;
But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign forever—
Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Isaiah 35:1-10 (ESV)
The Ransomed Shall Return
he wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Notes on the Scripture
Isaiah gives us a vision of Heaven, written in terms of earthly joy. He has told us some terrible things about the coming desolation of the earth, but also, he has told us that a great Redeemer will come, from the line of Jesse, to rescue us from the destruction. In Chapter 35, he seems to tell us that the experience of those who are alive at the Second Coming will not suffer from the great destruction. We should not fear the Day of Wrath, because when Christ comes to judge the earth, it will be as if there is a wonderful and pleasant highway for us to walk upon.
“Even fools,” this passage tells us, will find their way over the great highway. We see a tie here between Isaiah and Paul, who will write 800 years later, that it is holiness—the forgiving power of Christ—that will determine our destiny, not our wisdom. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18.)