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A prayer given at Hope College’s Christmas Vespers service, December 2011 in Holland, MI.

Eternal God,
as we near to the conclusion of this service,
we will fulfill our worship only if we pause
to offer our public confession of praise
and a re-dedication of our lives in grace. 

We praise you from hope that lives deep 
because tonight, as if for the first time,
we heard the good news.

The news that when announced,
uncorks our joy
and intoxicates us with wonder.

The news that when played,
grooves into our soul
like the best music pressed into vinyl,
and when believed,
our only right response is to sway 
in harmony to its rhythms.

The news that allows us to escape the narrow confines of mere religion,
that we might be broadened by the expansive geography of your revelation;
the revelation that does not just help us know more,
but allows us to become more.

We thank you, God, that tonight we have heard 
The good news of your coming: 
The news that the Word became Flesh!

That you, the logic of God, 
became an actual person.
That You, God’s eternal matter, became matter.
That You, the meaning of God, became material!

This is the awesome announcement of the most significant event in all of history;
The news that gives all theology and philosophy, 
All literature and art, 
And all science and mathematics its center of gravity
and significance.

This is the good news that inspires all in the soil of hope
to grow deeper,
that they might aspire higher:
up and up,
and on and on.

This is the news that shatters our perceived realities,
And unlocks us from the citadel of the self
where we, enslaved in (original) darkness, 
have been groaning,
along with all creation, 
to encounter the light 
that makes the darkness flee.

This is the light that is even now spreading like wildfire,
igniting the joy of each who receives and who believes 
this good news in faith;
the faith that is the key of David
and that frees all God’s children, 
at long last, 
to enter and to occupy the house of Awe.

Which is why, O God, it is right that we take a moment to consider 
the meaning and consequence of this most breathtaking news
and respond with a renewed sense of commitment.

Tonight we ponder the significance that the faith of our historic Hope 
is not fundamentally a theory, an ethic, or an institution; 
but it is fundamentally about a person:
you, Jesus Christ – Immanuel –
The Word Made Flesh.

We pause to explore the insight that the meaning of Christmas 
is about a relationship with you, Jesus, and with us;
between you, God’s logic, and our haphazard logic; 
between your faithful presence to us 
and our wavering fitfulness in response; 
between your unrelenting materialism
and our fleeing escape into spiritualism.

So tonight we dedicate ourselves to follow
in the pattern of your embodied witness, 
That we might embrace you, the material God,
by becoming Godly materialist ourselves:
offering our flesh to make 
new relationships in reconciliation.

Embracing those who no one will embrace. 
Eating with those with whom no one eats. 
Listening to those to whom no one listens. 
Remembering those who no one remembers.
Loving those whom no one loves.  

For this, Triune God of Hope, this is what you did at Christmas for us,
and this is what you are still doing through us. 

So as we come to the close of our time, 
We dedicate our celebration to this end,
As we pray 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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