December 31 Devotional (2020)

December 31, 2020
Christmastide

Today’s Readings: Psalm 95:1-7; 1 Kings 3:1-14; John 8:12-20


Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come
to all the people; for unto you is born this day in the city of
David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.   
 Luke 2:10, 11

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

Opening Prayer

O blessed Savior

     as the prophets foretold,

     You were born of a virgin,

     and You came to be

          a Treasure to the poor,

          a Light to those who walk in darkness,

          the Strength of the weak,

          the Health of the sick,

          and the Resurrection of the dead.

Grant that through Your glorious nativity

     we may be loosed from the bonds of our sins,

     and may always rejoice in Your praise.

Amen.

Mozarabic Rite, 7th-8th Century [1]

The Hymn 

By John Morison

The people who in darkness walked 

     have seen a glorious light; 

On them broke forth the heavenly 

     dawn who dwelt in death and night. 

To hail your rising, Sun of life, the 

     gathering nations come, 

Joyous as when the reapers bear their 

     harvest treasures home. 

To us the promised Child is born, to us 

     the Son is given; 

Him shall the tribes of earth obey, and 

     all the hosts of heaven. 

His name shall be the Prince of Peace 

     for evermore adored, 

The Wonderful, the Counsellor. The 

     mighty God and Lord. 

His power increasing still shall spread, 

     his reign no end shall know; 

Justice shall guard his throne above, 

     and peace abound below. [2]

The Small Verse

Bless the LORD, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding,* 

and hearken to the voice of his word. 

Psalm 103:20
“Sing to the Lord” 
By Julie Gowing Hayes 
(source)

Morning Reading: Psalm 95:1-7

Venite     

Come, let us sing to the Lord; *

    let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving *

    and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God, *

    and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth, *

    and the heights of the hills are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it, *

    and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee, *

    and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand. *

    Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

🕇 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Alleluia!

Morning Prayer

The Collect of the Week

Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.† [3]

The Blessing

May Almighty God, who sent his Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness. Amen. [4]

A Prayer inspired by John Wyclif, Priest and Translator of the Bible into English, who we remember on December 31st

O Lord, God of truth, whose Word is a lantern to our feet and a Light upon our path: We give you thanks for your servant John Wyclif, and those who, following in his steps, have labored to render the Holy Scriptures in the language of the people; and we pray that your Holy Spirit may overshadow us as we read the written Word, and that Christ, the living Word, may transform us according to your righteous will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

The Small Verse

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;* 

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim. 

Psalm 80:1
King Solomon Engraving 
By Gustave Dore 
(source)

Midday Reading: 1 Kings 3:1-14

Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom

1 Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.

3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

🕇 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Alleluia!

Midday Lesson

Applying the wisdom given from God

Today;s reading begins with a reference to Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian (v. 1). “Marriage between royal families was a common 0ractice in the ancient Near East because it secured peace. Although Solomon’s marital alliances built friendships with surrounding nations, they were also the beginning of his downfall. These relationships became inroads for pagan ideas and practices. Solomon’s foreign wives brought their gods to Jerusalem and eventually lured him into idolatry (1 Kgs 11:1-6).” [5]

“It is easy to minimize religious differences in order to encourage the development of a friendship. When you’re young and in love, you may be idealistic, minimizing religious differences as something you can ‘work out.’ What can seem small in a friendship will have an enormous impact upon marriage.” [6]

Verses 2-3 say, “The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD. Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places.” “God’s laws said that the Israelites could make sacrifices only in specified places (Deut 12:13-14). This was to prevent the people from instituting their own methods of worship and allowing pagan practices to creep into their worship. But many Israelites, including Solomon, made sacrifices in the surrounding hills. Solomon loved God, but this act was sin. It took the offerings out of the watchful care of priests and ministers loyal to God and opened the way for false teaching to be tied to these sacrifices. God appeared to Solomon to grant him wisdom, not during the sacrifice, but at night. God honored his prayer but did not condone the sacrifice.” [7]

“When given the chance to have anything in the world, Solomon asked for wisdom (vv. 6-9) – ‘an understanding heart’ – in order to lead well and to make right decisions. We can ask God for this same wisdom (Jas 1:5). Notice that Solomon asked for understanding to carry out his job; he did not ask God to do the job for him. We should not ask God to do for us what He wants to do through us. Instead, we should ask God for the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to follow through on it.” [8]

“Solomon asked God for wisdom, not wealth, but God gave riches and long life as well (vv. 11-14). Wile God does not promise riches to those who follow Him, He gives us what we need if we put His kingdom, His interests, His principles first (Matt 6:31-33). Setting your sights on riches will only leave you dissatisfied because even if you get the riches you crave, you will start wanting something more. But if you put God and His work first, He will satisfy your deep[er] needs.” [9]

“Solomon received ‘a wise and understanding heart’ from God, but it was up to Solomon to apply that wisdom to all areas of his life. Solomon was obviously wise in governing the nation, but he was foolish in [his personal affairs]. Wisdom is both the ability to discern what is best and the strength of character to act upon that knowledge. While Solomon remained wise all his life, he did not always act upon his wisdom (1 Kgs 11:6).” [10]

Midday Prayer 

Help me, my Lord Jesu, and gird Thy sword about Thy thigh, O Thou most mighty. Go forth, O Thou most powerful of all. Kill me in myself, that I may live to Thee, and let my enemies cease to persecute me. Amen.

Archbishop William Laud [11]

Behold, the dwelling of God is with mankind. He will dwell
with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will
be with them, and be their God.    
Revelation 21:3

The Invitatory

A spotless Virgin has brought forth God clothed in flesh: 

Let us all worship Him who came to save us!

The Small Verse

But you, O Lord my GOD, oh, deal with me according to your Name;* 

for your tender mercy’s sake, deliver me. 

For I am poor and needy,* 

and my heart is wounded within me.

Psalm 109:20–21

Evening Reading: John 8:12-20

I am the light

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.


🕇 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Alleluia!

Evening Lesson 

Christ, the divine object of Light

I am the light of the world. These words were spoken by Jesus “in the context of the great lamps being lit at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles.” [12]

“The Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. succoth) is “an eight-day autumn harvest festival commemorating the time when Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai and the people lived in tents, or tabernacles. Along with Passover and Pentacost, this was one of the three most important festivals of the ancient Jews; it included numerous sacrifices and celebrations (Lv 23:33-43). In later times, the final day of this feast also included drawing water from the pool of Siloam to be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as a purification and in remembrance of the water flowing from the rock that Moses struck (Ex 17:1-7). It further included the lighting of great lamps in the outer court of the temple.” [13]

Thus, by speaking the words, “I am the light of the world,” at this conclusion to the Feast of Tabernacles, Christ declared “Himself to be the fulfillment and the divine object of all celebrations of light. In the Scriptures, God the Father Himself is light (1:4-9; 1 Jn 1:5), an attribute He bestows on His followers (Mt 5:14; Php 2:15). Our Lord confirm[ed] His claim by performing the great sign of opening the eyes of a man born blind (9:1-7; see especially 9:5).” [14]

In verse 13, the Pharisees accuse Jesus, saying, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Christ’s responded, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true…” Christ’s witness can never be untrue (8:14). In responding as He did, “Jesus [was] anticipating the argument and speaking the thoughts of the Jewish leaders (He does the same thing in Lk 4:23). In Jewish tradition, a valid testimony requires two witnesses (Dt 17:6).” [15] Therefore, Christ said, “I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (v. 18).

“Because the Son and the Father share the same divine nature, one cannot be known apart from the other (14:7-11).” [16]

Vespers Prayer 

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [17]

The Concluding Prayers of the Church

Prayer of a Little Child

Dear God, I thank you for all good things: for my home, for food and clothing, for my friends, for the flowers and trees and birds—and everything. Help me to share all my good things with others. Amen. [18]


Devotionals compiled/written by S.P. Rogers

Citations:

[1] Stratman, P. (2001). Christmas. In Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church (Kindle ed., p. 74). Rossway.

[2] Tickle, P. (2006). Christmas. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 469). New York, NY: Image Books.

[3] Tickle, P. (2006). Christmas. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 466). New York, NY: Image Books.

[4] The Episcopal Church. (2018). Seasonal Blessings: Christmas. In The Book of Occasional Services (PDF ed., p. 9). Then Episcopal Church. Retrieved November December 15, 2020, from https://episcopalchurch.org/files/lm_book_of_occasional_services_2018.pdf

[5] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 1 Kings. In Chronological life application study Bible (p. 606). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[6] Ibid. 5

[7] Ibid. 5

[8] Ibid. 5

[9] Ibid. 5

[10] Ibid. 5, P. 607

[11] LAUD, W. (1855). Thursday: For Assistance. In The Private Devotions of Dr. William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr (Ebook ed., p. 59). London and Oxford: John Henry & Jas. Parker.

[12] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). John. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1470). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[13] Ibid. 12, P. 1468

[14] Ibid. 12

[15] Ibid. 12, P. 1465

[16] Ibid. 12

[17] Tickle, P. (2006). January. In The divine hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime (Kindle ed., vol. 2, p. 486). New York, NY: Image Books.


[18] Forward Movement. (2013). Prayers for a Little Child. In Prayers for All Occasions (Kindle ed., pp. 241). Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement.

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