URC Daily Devotion – 1st January 2018

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
   who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
   from ancient days.

Reflection

There was darkness on the edge of town. Ahaz had spoken. Uncertain times. Successive rulers moved from serving God to serving self, corruption flourished, people suffered. Beyond the boundary, powerful and threatening forces were gathering for siege, yet God spoke into this darkness through Micah of hope and new life to emerge from the least.

There was darkness on the edge of town. Caesar Augustus had decreed. Uncertain times. The Romans were in charge, marshalling, counting, assessing. Amidst the melee, a couple carrying the hopes and fears of first-time parents to be, found inadequate shelter, and….God sang into the darkness through angels’ song and baby’s cry.

American minister Phillip Brooks was visiting Jerusalem and on Christmas Eve rode to Bethlehem, stopping at the field of the shepherds, before midnight mass. Three years on… God moved into the darkness, through Phillip’s heart and O little town of Bethlehem, was penned.

There is still darkness on the edge of our towns. The shadow of homelessness from bed and breakfast accommodation to sofa surfing, and doorway-lined rough sleeping. Some homes watch and wait for benefit to arrive, surviving with food bank meals, fearing encircling debt. In other homes the shadow of illness lurks; a worrying diagnosis, concern about a loved one. Other homes host empty chair and bereaved heart.

And it is into such dark streets and homes that light may still shine. Flickering, yet inextinguishable. Because of that one night 2000 years ago when the hopes and fears of all the years were met, for… God still speaks, sings, and moves in the darkness, through those whose resolution is to serve from soup run and welcoming hostel to food bank and advice centre, coupled with questioning and campaigning. God is still present and active through those whose resolution is to send cards, offer prayer, visit, proffer a listening ear or show loving care.

And thus the hopes and fears of this New Year are met in thee tonight, and each tomorrow, so the everlasting light shines.


 

O God,
in this season of reflection,
help me to find the people
who are calling me to change my ways
and to search my heart.
As the Winter deepens,
may my heart be stripped bare,
so that when comes the Spring,
I can rise renewed
and flourish into life. Amen.

Today’s Writer

The Revd Dr David Pickering, Moderator National Synod of Scotland, Member Rutherglen URC

Bible Version

 

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved

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