The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster is presenting BBC Radio 4's Prayer for the Day from 22 December-28 December 2012.
You can listen to Prayer for the Day by clicking here or you can read the Prayer for the Day texts below:
SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER 2012
Now the last weekend before Christmas has arrived and people are on the move. This morning, many will have an ear for the traffic news, for announcements of airport delays, and railway breakdowns. We want to get there, whether it’s a holiday destination or a return home. Moments such as these can produce real anxiety as we know there is so much that can go wrong: just getting everyone to the right place at the right time can be tough enough – never mind the packing!
And all of this is a mini version of our journey through life as a whole. We try to be in the right place at the right time, but we are often not there. We know we should not carry too much baggage, but it seems to accumulate. And sometimes we lack a keen sense of direction or even a clear destination.
So our inner journey, the journey of our spirit, can be as tense as any other as we struggle with conflicting emotions, hurtful disappointments and the disquieting question: well what’s it all for anyway?
For Christians like me the journey of the Advent season is coming to its close. For three weeks now we have been focussing on our preparations for Christmas, on our inner journey to Bethlehem, to meet ‘the infant king’, the one who offers to us the key to understanding ourselves and gives us a glimpse into the mystery of God.
Let us pray: Lord keep us safe on our journeys. Keep us on the right road, the road of kindly love and firm hope. That is the way you mark out for us. Walk by our side that we may not falter. Give us a renewed sense of our destination: the fullness of life in your presence. Amen
MONDAY 24 DECEMBER 2012
My childhood memories of Christmas Eve are vivid. I can still smell the hot mince pies and the aroma of cooked turkey. Everything had to be ready: decorations were going up and Christmas cards spread out. There was so much to do!
Yet in the midst of it all, there was a certain stillness. It came at moments when we put up the crib, that simple depiction of the scene of the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable in Bethlehem. Each figure was placed with care and a sense of awe came over us all. But the bustle and near panic was there too!
That’s a balance we all have to find, each day: between a routine of hectic activity and quality time of calm and peace. Perhaps today can be a lesson in that art, a day during which we not only get all our tasks done but also step back for a quiet moment or two, shared within the family or in the peace of our own company.
For all who look forward to this celebration of the birth of Christ, today is a time of vigil. And a vigil needs some stillness, moments in which we literally hold our breath and ‘hang on’ for a moment in order to sense the deeper movement of time towards the coming of the Lord.
Let us pray: Lord, we pray today for the energy to do all that must be done and for the wisdom to have time in your presence so as to savour your love. Help us to catch the stillness of that silent night which heralded your coming. May our hearts, too, be filled with wonder and awe as God comes to touch the earth and lift us to Himself. Amen
TUESDAY 25 DECEMBER 2012
Today is often a ‘down-time’ for news. Studios are closed, bulletins are short and many newspapers abandoned for the day. Some may even believe that because there is no news then nothing much is happening!
Yet today is the day of the greatest news of all. Today is indeed the day of the great announcement. Christianity alone of all the world’s religions announces that the Saviour is here. He has come. He is with us. He will never leave us. It is done!
Christmas messages of all shapes and sizes will reflect on that theme, even if rather obliquely. They will be full of expressions of hope for the future, of better times ahead and of compassion for the poor. Yet the coming of a Saviour is at the foundation of all real and lasting hope. Only in one who can save us from the mess we constantly make can there be a sure foundation for hope. And a true Saviour has to overcome that final mess we experience, death itself, the disintegration of all other hope for ourselves. His arrival is announced today!
Her Majesty the Queen will give her Christmas message, as she has done every year since 1952! Astonishing! And, I am sure, her message will be one of Christian hope, a hope that has been fashioned in her extraordinary courage and faithfulness over all those years.
Lord, as we celebrate this Christmas Day, bless Her Majesty our Queen and every member of her family. Bless all families as they gather for this joyful day. Spare an extra blessing, too, for those who are alone and sad at heart today. Let us know the peace and the hope that you can bring to each one, so that in our turn we may bring that peace to others. Amen
WEDNESDAY 26 DECEMBER 2012
‘Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen’. Perhaps you have been singing these words in the last few days. Well, today is that day, the Feast of St Stephen.
The good King, you will remember not only looked out, but went out. He went in search of the poor man, taking him some food and warmth. Such was the greatness of that king. This was the source of his holiness, the warmth of his love which melted even the snow of the footprints he made on that journey.
This is a side of Christmas that we do not forget. So many people reach out to their distant relatives, the ones easily forgotten for the rest of the year, trying to ensure that they are included. Charities too pull out all the stops to bring together homeless and hungry people, offering them shelter, warmth and food. This, too, is right at the heart of the spirit of Christmas.
There is real hardship in our society today, and much more elsewhere. Its causes are deep rooted and difficult to shift. But there is something we all can do: attentiveness to an elderly neighbour; a willingness to give a little extra to those efforts at lessening the burden of need; a thoughtful contribution to community effort by whatever route lies at hand. This generosity completes our Christmas joy and truly serves the humble Jesus who himself came in simplicity and poverty so that we would never scorn those today who share that same condition.
Lord, we thank you for the generosity of so many people in our society. Touch our hearts so that we might play our part in sharing the gifts you have given us with those who are in genuine need. Amen.
THURSDAY 27 DECEMBER 2012
As these days of the Christmas holiday slip by, the end of the year comes ever closer. Another Christmas done, another year passing by.
That makes us ponder a little, for every year has its regrets as well as its joys and achievements. It’s not a bad idea to fashion an overview of the year and take stock of the movement of our lives and relationships.
One image for such an overview is that of an eagle, soaring high above the earth, seeing all, spotting every movement, tracing every pattern and knowing when and where to swoop.
Despite it being a bird of prey, most churches contain an image of the eagle, often fashioned into a bookstand to hold the Bible. After all it is from the Bible that we can take our overview of life, seeing its pattern and purpose more clearly. And within the books of the Bible there is one that lays special claim to the eagle: the Gospel of St John whose feast day is today. John appears with an eagle, for his Gospel is the finest of all overviews as he lays out God’s purpose in our history. And he swoops down precisely onto the person of Jesus as the centre of that history and the defining moment in our salvation. John tells us that Jesus is the Eternal Word of God, through whom all things come into being, now born in our flesh and blood. Only the eagle eye of faith can see the truth so clearly!
Lord, help us to look with honesty at our lives. We thank you for all our blessings and we regret, with sorrow, our failures and betrayals. Help us to see your purpose in the tangle of our lives and turn trustingly to you for your grace and forgiveness. Amen
FRIDAY 28 DECEMBER 2012
The days of the Christmas holiday have a special focus on the children. They are often at the centre of our attention and given gifts in plenty. Some of those gifts may already be discarded, but others will be cherished for a long time, I hope. Gifts speak of our love, often more eloquently than we can express that love in words.
And this is true for the infant child whose birth we celebrate. Jesus is God’s great gift to us, going beyond all that can be expressed in words. The Christian faith, after all, is not centred on a book, but on the person of Jesus and on our relationship with him.
But not all children are the recipients of love. Over and over, not least during this year, we have seen evidence of the vulnerability of children and of the harm done to them. This includes slave labour, the use of children as soldiers, systematic cruelty and abuse. Children are victims as well as treasures.
This reality is reflected in the Christmas story in the horrific event of the massacre of the children of Bethlehem at the orders of Herod, who had been told of the birth of an infant king and wanted no rival. We are reminded again today the horrific killing of children in the school in America, even as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
Lord, we thank you for the gift of children and the joy and hope they bring. Look with compassion on all who suffer and help us to be more alert to children in danger of every kind. May our families live in peace this day and grow in love always. Amen