The Pipers’ lead up to Christmas promises to be busy. It’s great to see family, sing carols and catch up with friends! However, the point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth-day of Christ according to my old Book of Common Prayer. So, I have suspended my normal “prayers and Bible Readings” to focus on the collects, epistles and gospels for the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

The prayer for the first Sunday in Advent sets the scene. We pray that God will give us grace “to cast aside the works of darkness and to put on his armour of light”, because of what God has done in the first coming of Christ in preparation for his second. The first Bible reading urges us to love our neighbour as ourselves and the second that if we call upon God to “save now” (hosanna) as when Jesus entered Jerusalem, then he will also execute judgement.

The second Sunday urges us to get our foundations right. If we wish to embrace the blessed hope of everlasting life then we need to “hear the Scriptures, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them.” In the epistle we read how Paul was fortified in his ministry to the Gentiles by Old Testament readings. In the gospel Jesus assures us he will return in glory to end this world and redeem us for the next.

The third Sunday focuses on preachers. We pray that they might “turn our hearts to the wisdom of the just” so we might be “an acceptable people in God’s sight”. The epistle shows us how Paul strove to be a faithful steward of God’s revealed truths, and the gospel how Jesus instructed John the Baptist uncomfortably.

The fourth Sunday collect is a plea for God to deliver us from our sins by his mercy. The epistle urges us to rejoice in the Lord always, not to be anxious but to pray with thanksgiving and assures us God will give us his peace. The gospel reminds us of the way John the Baptist, great though he was, considered himself not even worthy to “undo Jesus’ shoe laces”.

The Prayer Book compilers hoped that by using these prayers and Bible readings they would prepare us on Christmas morning to rejoice over Jesus as the Agent of all creation, Source of all life and only Son of God through Whom we are born again. I pray for this affect upon me.

Reg Piper