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A prayer given at Hope College’s Christmas Vespers service, December 2009 in Holland, MI.

God of True light from True light,
In the beginning you spoke a Word to create reality.
A reality composed and conditioned in grace.

But this reality shattered when your Word was ignored
in favor of another word 
that promised new light,
but resulted in the decay of darkness.

The Earth revolved. The dark history continued. And you spoke again.  
A word of promised light: a single covenant purpose. 
Through this promise, marked
by the intimacy of the flesh, 
you began the long journey 
that unfolds and develops over time 
to reestablish a world conditioned in grace.

Your Word set Israel free from their chains 
as they passed through the deep sea. 
Your Word offered us the Law 
that came rushing down the mountain like a mighty waters.
You spoke through Prophets and established Kingdoms,
But we failed to listen – really listen –  
preferring other words that promise more, 
but with less demands.

“Your Word in the flesh is like a song 
in the night that opens the prison gates. 
Your birth in the night was a light that shines in the darkness, 
and still the darkness cannot over come it.”

But then it happened. 
Your covenant culminated in 
the movement of a particular moment.

In the moment of a single birth, 
the impossible became the possibility
where the Word who creates reality
Entered our reality, 
so that all reality
might be saved.

In the flesh you came, as Immanuel, God with us,
to pivot history
toward a new creation where all our deepest aches
are satisfied only in you.

Your Word in the flesh is like a song 
in the night that opens the prison gates. 
Your birth in the night was a light that shines in the darkness, 
and still the darkness cannot over come it.

You entered our life, and grew among us, vulnerable and common. 
You came to us locally, but you worked on the scale of eternity.

Little did we know that you were also the King;

Little did we understand that in you,
the fullness of the deity dwells bodily
that you are the head of every realm and ruler;
the means by which the world is put to rights.

Little could we comprehend that your very presence 
was the inauguration of a new reign 
that is even now pressing in upon us.

Little could we anticipate the soft skin of this child
would grow into a high priest 
whose flesh would also assume the sacrifice for all.

Your flesh is the wonder to the world; 
the prelude to our worship of the Word. 
And your Word 
we ignore at our peril;
For only when we listen – really listen to your Word,
the eternal Word still speaking – 
can we pass from dead religion to living faith.

Only when we listen – really listen – to the Word in good faith
can we shed our incipient culture 
and enter the new creation 
where we are baptized as a new people – 
daughters and sons of the King –
a people who not only listen,  
but heed the calling 
to follow along a narrow path,  
clapping our hands and singing praises,
as we pass through the deep water
to reach the far shores of a country so expansive, so clear, 
and so alive with the energy of resurrected life, 
that we have no choice but to alter ourselves 
to its demands and conditions:

The demand that if we confess with our mouths
and believe in our hearts,
that Jesus Christ is Lord,

You shall be saved, 
and through the Spirit Holy,
launched into reality renewed.

This is the confession
that all humanity aches for, 
that Israel waits for, 
and that all creation groans for;

This is the confession we offer to you as our prayer of dedication 
As we seek to live into the shared communion of Christ;
Christ, God’s lamb,
is also our lamp, 
that leads us out of darkness and 
back into the eternal light of God.

As we travel together this Advent season
from darkness back into the true light,
Let us proclaim the prayer you taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed by 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 debts
As we forgive our debtors
And deliver us from evil,
For thine is the Kingdom,
And the glory
And the life everlasting.  


(Header image courtesy of Hope College.)

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