Prayers of the People: St. Philip’s by the Sea- December 17, 2017

Christina Lee, a Christian blogger, calls this day in our Christian calendar, “Stir Up Sunday”. She quotes these words from the Book of Common Prayer – “Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us.”

Stirring up power and getting rid of the Romans was what the Jews 2000 years ago were expecting from their Messiah. Instead, they got Jesus Christ, a Baby born in a lowly stable manger one silent night in Bethlehem, in Palestine.

As Naim Ateem, a Christian priest and the Chair of the Sabeel organization that guided me in Palestine, writes in his Christmas message from Jerusalem, “There is something about a Baby with his mother in a humble setting that STIRS within us deep thoughts and feelings of faith, hope and love, the 3 essential qualities of our Christian life.”

This is Stir up Sunday. Let us pray.

After the words Dear God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit,

Please respond with Hear our prayers.

Dear God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit,

Hear our prayers.

We thank and praise you today for the miracle of your Son’s birth on that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Thank you for the Angel’s announcement of Good News and Great Joy.

Thank you for giving us the assurance that because you came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with certainty that we will spend eternity with You.

Dear God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers.

 During a time of the year filled with many traditions, many distractions, help us to put You first, help us to emphasize the Christ in Christmas, the Holy in our Holiday. Help us to obey John’s call to “Make straight the way of the Lord”, help us to follow your Light with Love, Hope, Joy – and Peace.

When the world around us is spinning out of control, Lord, use our hands, our minds, our hearts, our voices, to bring peace to our homes, our churches, our countries.

Dear God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers

Father in Heaven, let there be no reason, no appetite for Apartheid in Israel, or Days of Rage in Bethlehem, the land of Jesus’s birth. Use us to help quell fear and the desire for power on one side that leads to anger and despair on the other. Weaken the voices of those who preach hate. Strengthen those who show love. Help us to help all people find peaceful solutions to share God’s Holy Land.

Dear God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers.

 And as many of us revel in the closeness of family, friends and neighbours around us at this Christmas time, let us pray for those who are not so lucky, those who are alone, in prison, in hospital, in grief for lost ones – whatever the reason.

Dear God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers

And as we sit or stand around laden tables at this time of plenty, let us give thanks for what we have and pray for those who have not – people in countries like Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Niger, Chad, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and so many more. What words can we use? What ways can we help? Guide us to make the right decisions. Let the Good News and Joy of our Saviour’s birth give us fresh energy to tackle such never ending problems.

Dear God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers.

And as we lounge in our comfortable homes, let us pray for those who have no homes – because of human hands, war, poverty, persecution, theft, or natural disasters – wildfires, earthquakes, floods.

We think especially of nearly 700,000 Rohinga Muslims who were forced to flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh as their homes and fields were set on fire, their women raped and their children shot.

Let us pray for those who came to help, please change the minds of those who did not.

Lord Jesus, we need you more than ever.

This morning, suicide bombers climbed the high locked wire fence of a Methodist Church in Pakistan, attacked and killed worshippers, mostly women and children.

This morning when we came to our Anglican church, St. Philip’s by the Sea in our quiet little village of Lantzville on Vancouver Island, we found a car parked outside the door. A young woman lay inside a car – calm and still – the ambulance was called, the first responders tried to resuscitate her, again and again, finally she was pronounced dead. Much later the RCMP would come.

I do not yet know the end of this story. But as most of us left to start our morning service and me to begin the Prayers of the People, I wondered if this woman had lost all hope in this world and a believer or not, a Christian or not, she had sought out a church as her last resort.

Stir up Your power, O Lord, come amongst us to proclaim your message of Love not Hate, of Hope and Joy when there seems little else.

Dear God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Hear our prayers.

And finally, while we worship in this holy place (or read these words), let us take a moment, either silently or aloud, to talk to Him personally of what concerns us most as His Birthday approaches.

………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit,

Hear our prayers. AMEN.

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