Thursday, 21 December 2023 The Rev’d Daphne Preece,

Thursday, 21 December 2023 
O Oriens (O Dawn of the East)

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

St Luke 1 -79

‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,  in holiness and righteousness
 before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’

Reflection

For us in the Northern Hemisphere this is the darkest time of the year. The sun is at its lowest, the days their shortest, and the nights their longest. As people prepare for Christmas itself, the twinkling lights bedecking shops and streets lighten the darkness, and they come into their own after nightfall when the contrast is greatest. 

Looking at the lights it can be easy to forget this is a season when many contrasts are heightened. The happy family gathering around a laden table and surrounded by parcels does exist beyond the adverts, but it is by no means universal. Indeed, over the years I have come to wonder whether it is even a majority experience. For many, this time of year aggravates the pain of poverty, the isolation of loneliness, the emptiness of having no children around, the void left when loved ones have died, the shadows of sensing difficult times lie ahead.

Today’s antiphon picks up the penultimate line of Zechariah’s song, the Benedictus. It is a reminder to all of us that this season is rarely just unadulterated joy. Yet set in the context of Zechariah’s song, it is also a message of hope, hope that is often much yearned for. This applies, of course, to individual lives which feel as though they are in darkness or the shadow of death. But it also applies more broadly to the mess of our world. Through God’s love light will come. We will be guided towards finding peace, within ourselves and between peoples.

The challenge for discerning that guidance is to keep our eyes focussed not on the transient lights of Christmas decorations, but on the eternal light of Christ. For through God’s mercy, Christ’s light continues to have power to break through darkness, bringing hope and peace. Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Glorious God, O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: 
come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, 
and guide our feet into the way of peace.  Amen

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Daphne Preece, Retired Minister in East Midlands Synod

 

 

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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