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A prayer given at Hope College’s Christmas Vespers service, December 2014 in Holland, MI.

Eternal God, who reigns forever and ever, 
as we pause in the silence between notes, 
as we prepare to gather our lives and return to our homes,
we stop, now, in a prayerful repose
that we might rededicate our lives 
to explore the consequence of your name. 
It is the name spoken 
long ago by the prophet. 
It is the name that has the power to illuminate 
the governing dynamics of our bright abyss.

For this one name–if it can be believed,
if this one name can be followed,
if this one name can be spoken of without shame or embarrassment–
has the authority to deconstruct our small self-governing assumptions 
that he may recreate lives in the
expansive reality of his beauty and grace. 
May each take from tonight this one name as a pure gift. 
For it is a name given in freedom of Your sovereign grace to all.
May we each, tonight, dedicate ourselves anew
to planting this name deep in the soil of our soul’s true self
until its significance grows as majestic 
as a tree planted by streams of water. 
Until its leaves become the healing of our families.
Until its fruit feeds the hungry in our schools.
Until its roots stabilize the soil in each neighborhood.
Let us take this one name 
and let it invite us to dedicate our lives
to you who dedicated your life to us.

It is the name given as your eternal promise:
The name–Emmanuel–
which means “God is with us.”

Emmanuel, you came as the bridge–
linking God to us– 
spanning the gap between heaven and earth
and the earth to heaven.

Emmanuel, you came to show us the healing power
of what it means to live with! 
With is to be present.
With is to be intimate.
With is to be in solidarity.
With is to be known.

The beauty of Emmanuel frames accurately our picture 
of You, our eternal God! 
For if we sense your absence,
you are not–
God, you are not. 
You are Emmanuel! 
God with us!

And all who call upon your name in faith
shall know this overwhelming 
peace of your presence.

So let us dedicate our lives 
to be with each other as
you are with us.

You came to be with us in the dark
that we might know the 
comfort of your light…
May we so go into the darkness…

You came as the Word spoken,
fragile as a whisper,
that we might know the beauty of your truth…
May we so whisper your strong Word…

You came as the Lamb 
to offer as a sacrifice
the last full measure of your devotion…
May we so live with such sacrificial courage…

You came as a Mother’s first love
and a Father’s final glory
that, through your Spirit, a new family might be born in You.

In atomic detail,
You came as flesh divine
so that the divine might take our flesh.
You–the wonder of eternity–were made finite
so that we who are finite 
might explore eternity’s wonders. 
You came to die with us
so that we might rise with you.

We dedicate yourselves to your name–Emmanuel–
for the simple reason 
that it reminds us 
you still keep coming to be with us.

You keep coming to us: 
Through your body–the Church.
Through your Spirit.
Through the table.
Through the water.
Through the Word written and proclaimed. 
You keep coming to be with us. 
That we might at last be with you.

For with you we get a fresh start–
a new beginning– 
where we each get a new name: Beloved!

Please, Emmanuel, keep coming.
Until we all are here.
Until all are gathered.
Until every knee is bowed.
Until everyone is renamed.
Until every voice finds harmony 
in the Alleluia chorus.

Until every atom of ourselves
groans toward You. 
For You–Emmanuel–are the deep, 
implicit Word
whose surest promise 
is the miraculous capacity 
to enter our reality, 
to be with us, and 
give us peace in You.

Until that peace is shared by all,
we take your name with us tonight–
back to our homes, back to our lives–
and continue to pray the prayer you taught us:

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 lead us not into temptation,
But 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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