(composed for Advent Sunday 2011 at St. Paul’s and St. George’s Church, Edinburgh)
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Lord Jesus, for whose coming Zechariah, Elizabeth, and all the faithful of Israel waited with longing two millenia ago, hear the prayers of your hungry people today. We mourn in exile from your presence, conscious of the sins that separate us from you, conscious of our faithlessness in the task you have given us to be the lights of the world. Lord, we are a barren people–our faith is weak, our hearts are cold, our churches are empty. Lord Jesus, Hope of Israel, who once did condescend to born of a virgin in a stable, be born among us again today, and give us the eyes to see you in your humility. Be born among us in the preaching each Sunday that we hear and the sacrament we share. Be born among us in small groups where we fellowship and hear you speaking to us through one another. Be born among us in our ministries to the lost and to the needy, in the Alpha Course as we display your truth, in our ministries with Bethany as we display your love, in our singing and worship as we display your beauty. Renew this church, and all your churches, with the power of your presence, with the terror and comfort of your word, with the courage to follow you on the path of love without pretense, love without measure.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
Christ, Creator, by whose all-powerful word was all brought into being, re-Creator, by whose powerless death was all made new, redeem us again from the pit. Only-begotten from all eternity, you were born, like each of us, to die, but death did not hold you, and now it has lost its hold on us. And yet, Lord, the power of death, the stain of sin, remains every day with us–in the violence of the murderer and the rapist, in the despair of a mother who cannot feed her children, in the insatiable greed that defrauds and bankrupts the vulnerable; but also in the angry word that springs so readily to our lips, in the self-absorption that passes heedlessly by someone in need, in the restless discontentment that drives the wheels of commerce. Forgive each of us for these sins that are our own, and for the sins of others that we do nothing to oppose and to heal. Remind us that you have forgiven us, and give us the confidence to forgive others in our turn. Saviour, Redeemer, Deliverer, rescue us again by your power and love, show mercy to the downtrodden and strengthen us to do the same.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
King of Israel, you are also Lord of the nations, before whom every knee shall bow, and whom every tongue shall confess. And yet our rulers neither confess your name nor bow before you; instead we find the god of Mammon everywhere enthroned, and war a favorite tool to serve agendas of greed and power. Prejudice and xenophobia divide us from one another, suspicion rather than sympathy is our default. Lord, we pray for Britain, that you would humble its pride and restrain its greed. Give us just leaders who protect the poor and the voiceless, rather than the powerful and influential, and who welcome the stranger, rather than turning them away. Lord, we pray also for America, still infatuated with her power and intoxicated with her wealth, concerned only with maintaining her own position. Give her leaders who will bow the knee to your kingship. We pray for leaders in the Arab world and in Israel who maintain their position by violence, make them submit to the Prince of peace. We pray for young nations that are leaderless and directionless–provide for them order and justice. We pray for leaders in India and China, nations that will direct the destiny of our world in decades to come; fill those nations with the light of your word today, that they may advance your kingdom tomorrow.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Light of the World, we see your light dawning already in every corner of our globe. You have come, in answer to the longings of the ages, and the world is still echoing with the wonder of that great event. In nearly every nation and tribe are faithful disciples who call on your name; even among those who have tried so hard to forget you, you haunt their imaginations. Your kingdom has left its mark on our language, our music, our laws, our buildings. Lord, fill us with hope and joy this advent, recognizing amidst these short days and long nights that the darkness is breaking, remembering during the cold and the frost that the winter is ending, that you both have come and are coming again. Lord, let this exhilarating realization animate our every thought and deed. When we are frightened, let us take comfort in the thought. When we are tired, let it energize us. When we are heedless and turned inward on ourselves, let it call us to attention. When we are in despair, let it give us hope. When we are angry, let it make us ashamed. Lord, let each of our lives and each of our churches reflect the glorious proclamation that our King reigns and our King is coming.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.