Thursday, December 31, 2020

Praise for New Year and Beyond

TODAY I ATTENDED MY FIRST ZOOM FUNERAL for my dear cousin Gwynn in Atlanta. She was a real Christian and often seemed  like a sister to me. Michael Youssef at Church of the Apostles officiated. His church is in my top five churches to attend in the world.

 From Richard Kew's Daily Devotional New Year's Eve

 Psalm 96

New Year's Eve
Psalm 96

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
    tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth!
Say among the nations, "The Lord reigns!
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
    he will judge the peoples with equity."
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
   let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Thought for the Day
From the last part of 1939 to October-Novemer1942 World War Two went badly for Britain, and from infancy I heard about those war years. As a bit of an amateur historian of the wartime period I have always wondered what it felt like for my mother back in England and my dad in North Africa to learn of one setback after another, to see food and clothing rations being cut, to be at the mercy of the Luftwaffe or Rommel's Afrika Korps in the desert, and wonder if they would ever see each other again. I think 2020 has given me a small taste of what it meant to have your backs up against a wall like this. This is the last day of 2020 and I suspect there are millions sighing with relief and muttering, "Good riddance."
It is fitting that the Psalm for today should be one of the great songs of praise to God Almighty, that even in the midst of the woes that accompany a pandemic including countless deaths the LORD continues to reign. Our hardships have been minimal compared to the war years in UK, but there has been a similar uncertainty and a wondering when all this is going to end. Yet the message of the Psalmist is that the LORD truly is on the throne, so sing his praises and bless his name. He is the faithful One, so let the whole earth - land, sea, trees and mountains - bless and praise his holy name. The Lord is King, his Son is our Savior, and the times and seasons are in his hands. We may feel helpless but he is far from being a worthless idol.
One of my World War Two heroes was George VI, the king whose death in 1952 when I was six, I can remember as vividly as yesterday. As 1939 ended he broadcast a New Year speech to the nation:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and
put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way."
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

It was Princess Elizabeth, now Her Majesty, the Queen, who pointed her father to this poem. Perhaps it is as appropriate for our circumstances as it was in London in 1939, and is a helpful commentary as we look at Psalm 96. As we move forward let us put our hands into the Hand of God.
Thanksgiving for the Day
As difficult as 2020 has been for so many of us, let us give thanks to him for the good things that have happened in our lives. We thank him especially for loved ones who have gone on ahead of us. We give thanks for the arrival of vaccines.
Intercession for the Day
Let us pray as we place our hands in the hand of God that we will willingly follow his leading into this new uncertain time. We pray especially for those suffering from Covid-19
Collect for the Day
Lord of the years,
we ask your blessing on the year to come:
give us the resilience to bear its disappointments,
energy to seize its opportunities
and openness to accept the more abundant life
which you have promised to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(A New Year prayer taken from More Everyday Prayers)

Friday, December 25, 2020

Thursday, December 24, 2020

The Shepherd from Luke 2

Produced by Dallas Jenkins of The Chosen, this is a precious re-enactment of the angels appearing to the shepherds announcing the birth of the Christ child as told in the second chapter of the Book of Luke. Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Mary's Magnificat

Luke 1:46-56

And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.
Thought for the Day
Remember when reading, praying, or singing Mary's Song, the Magnificat, that these are the words of a very young woman who had obviously been pondering them and meditating over them for at least the whole was from Nazareth to Elizabeth's home. I suspect they are words that she could never forget, then probably shared them with Luke when he visited her to speak about the gospel he was going to write. The Magnificat has traditionally been the main canticle used at Evening Prayer and it was in that setting that it became a part of me during most of the last sixty years. Perhaps my biggest take-away from Mary's Song was her adoration of the holy mightiness of God and his love of justice. A saying that went around in the Sixties was that the poor had a special place in God's heart, and that is clearly what Mary is saying - perhaps one of the key reasons her Son would be born to a very modest couple, from a very modest community, in one of the least and most despised provinces of the Roman Empire. Here is a message from God to us about what it is to be the followers of Mary's Son.
Thanksgiving for the Day
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..."
Intercession for the Day
This has been a year in which those of a "humble estate" have made their voices heard. Let us pray for our own sensitivity to the needs of those who are less fortunate in our society.
Collect for the Day
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
Tender to me the promise of his word;
In God my Savior shall my heart rejoice

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age to same;
His holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight
The hungry fed, the humble lifted high

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
To children's children and for evermore!
(This paraphrase by Church of England Bishop Tim Dudley-Smith, now in his nineties, and first sung in 1969 at a huge festival of new hymns called Youth Praise. We had the privilege of being there singing it on its first outing - since then it has become a classic)
From Richard Kew's Daily Devotional with gratitude