Wednesday 21 December — Thomas, Apostle and Martyr

Reveal among us the light of your presence, that we may behold your power and glory.

O Oriens

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
(cf Malachi 4.2)

Readings (Click the links to see the readings)

Thomas: Habakkuk 2.1-4 | Psalm 117 | Ephesians 2.19-22 | John 20.24-29 |

Of the day: Song of Songs 2.8-14 | Psalm 33.17-21 | Luke 1.39-45 |

Carlo Gesualdo. O Oriens from the Sacrae cantiones. La Main Harmonique, dir. Frédéric Bétous.


Restore us, O Lord, we pray,
bring us back to that place
where we once met,
as shepherds to the stable
after hearing angels sing.
Bring us back to that place
when our love was fresh,
not embarrassed
to express itself in praise
to our heavenly King.
Restore us, O Lord, we pray.

2016 has been the International Year of Pulses.

Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber and the congregation of the House for all Sinners and Saints, Denver, Colorado. During Advent the congregation gathered after listening to a sermon to design an icon as a practical reflection on consumerism in the pre-christmas time during advent. The whole icon was composed out of pieces of Christmas flyers and ads.


What was it that changed when this particular baby was born in Bethlehem? Why is it a vital part of the story of the whole world? Christians have a quite elaborate answer, in terms of how this was the moment when God began to live as a human being, began to live the life that led to his redeeming death and transforming resurrection. But just for a minute, put this on hold. If you were an unbeliever or half-believer, what might convince you that this did indeed mark a change so significant that we'd still be thinking about it after two thousand years?

…you may or may not believe what Christian doctrine says about the child in the manger; but you will, consciously or not, be looking at the human world in a framework that Jesus Christ made possible—which is, incidentally, quite a good reason for thinking twice before rejecting the doctrine. A vision has been introduced into the world that cannot be expelled.…

I don't believe that in fact it could be possible to forget. When modern tyrannies have tried to make people forget, memory has shown itself pretty tenacious, secretly, obstinately, subversively. After all, if it's simply true that Jesus was born and lived and died and rose as he did, things just have changed; you can deny that the sun has risen if you like, but only by insisting on keeping your eyes tight shut. All around, the landscape has changed, and people are discovering that they are capable of living differently in the company of Jesus. … Remember this day; this was when the new creation began.
—Rowan Williams, Christmas Day Sermon, 2005.

Of Christmas Sorrows
John Jamison

Something is in the air,
Waiting to invade each nook and passageway,
A sad sense of missing something,
An intimation of great truth passing by
Just outside my field of vision.

But I'm so busy.
Never enough time to look around me,
More, to feel around me,
And touch the stillness waiting there,
Touch the sorrow of Christmas.

Every year I feel it,
More as I get older.
Each year I acknowledge it
A bit more than before.
Yet I've never really stayed
With that gentle dismay
Long enough to know it.

What if I just opened up to the sad part?
Let it flow.
Let the sorrow have its way.
Sorrow because the presents
Are going to be opened.
The tree is going to dry out,
And there will be needles all over the house
When, we take it out.
Someone's going to drink too much
And make a fool of himself.
Maybe me.

Because I miss the magic
Of experiencing Christmas as a child,
With wide eyes and such excitement
That I can't sleep,
Waiting to see what will be under the tree.
Because there is no Santa Claus
Because maybe, after all
Angels didn't sing,
And pious shepherds,
Robes soft and clean
Didn't really show up on cue
To peer in wonder
At a perfect mother
And her cherub-child.
Maybe Mary was in labor for hours,
And the child was born wrinkled and red,
And the stable smelled like manure,
And Joseph never really bought it
That the Holy Ghost
Had made his fiancee pregnant.

Because Bible words about peace and good will
Are ripped apart
By the bayonets and bombs
Of people who still
After thousands of years,
Kill each other because they look different,
Or call God by an unfamiliar name.

Because I am a citizen of a country
Whose currency is often lies and false hope,
Whose leaders can play at responsibility
While they sate the needs of craven egos.
Because while I'm buying a gift
Someone could do without
Three children die of starvation.

Because every day,
All around are people who desperately need love
And shelter
And food
And money
And clothes
And some shred of self-worth,
And I don't know what to do about that.

Because, warm family ties aren't.
Because I never said goodbye to my father.
Because my ventures have jumped the track sometimes,
And I'm not the man I thought I'd be
When twenties me
Looked, way up the road
Toward mid-sixties me
So short a while ago.

Because sometimes life
Is just too damn hard.
How long would this list grow
If I spent the day
just letting it toll?
Yet, somehow, in the very act of making it,
Right in the middle of my licensing these joyless thoughts,
Somehow I begin to accept
The sorrow of Christmas.
Embrace it, even.

As long as I paper it over
With bright foil
And pretty bows,
It will keep digging away at my soul
Enlarging the hollowness
I'm not supposed to feel.

But when I see it whole,
Unadorned with season's trinkets and toys,
It is,
In truth,
A part of me.
And it, too,
Can be affirmed.

So let the sorrow be as it will.
I hear a voice saying that Christmas
Is big enough take it.

Journal of Family Ministry, 16.3, Fall 2002, pp. 73-75

May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. Amen.

Prayers used in this 2016 Advent Calendar are © John Birch, 2016, at and used with permission under a Creative Commons Licence.
St Philip's Anglican Church, corner Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602