Holy One, make speed to save us:
O God, come quickly to help us.
Glory to God, Source of all being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit;*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen.
Mondays: From Psalm 72, Deus, judicium
Give our government your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to our civil service;
that they may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;
that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
We shall defend the needy among the people, *
rescuing the poor and crushing the oppressor.
In our time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.
We shall have pity on the lowly and poor *
and shall preserve the lives of the needy.
We shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.
May there be abundance of grain on the earth, *
growing thick even on the hilltops.
Blessed are you, Lord God, the God of Israel, *
for you alone do wondrous deeds!
And blessed be your glorious name for ever *
and may all the earth be filled with your glory. Amen. Amen.
Reflection: Nicholas of Myra, by Steve Bell
From his beginnings as the beloved Bishop of Myra and champion of the poor in the early 4th century, to the Coca-Cola endorsing, ruddy faced, red elf of the 21st century, Nicholas’ fame has been appropriated to inspire sincere empathy in some, and excessive consumption in others. In the 4th century, he was a living icon of Christ Himself. In modern times, he has almost become the high priest of a consumer cult which drives much of Western society.
Actually, little information is known about the man himself. The legends surrounding him are many and often fantastical, but the basic facts suggest that he was renowned for secret gift-giving, and that he had an uncommon compassion for children in an age when childhood was often grim.
One of the legends that I connect powerfully and personally with, tells of a poor man with three daughters. Without a proper dowry, the daughters were destined for a desperate future sold into slavery as prostitutes. Wanting to shield the family from the embarrassment of public charity, Nicholas slipped three bags of gold into their house under the cover of night, effectively saving the three young women from a life of bondage in the sex trade.
Historian, Adam English, remarks that it’s a surprising legend to come out of an era that had little concern for vulnerable people, especially women, which gives some historical plausibility to the legend.
In our own day, Christians are once again taking up the fight against poverty and slavery, especially as these things relate to the sex trade (see, for example: International Justice Mission). It occurs to me that perhaps Saint Nicholas of Myra might be a worthy spiritual patron of such causes. He clearly saw the link between chronic poverty and the sex trade, and acted selflessly to interrupt the devastating consequences of deprivation.
Here’s where the story gets personal for me:
Ruby-Lynne is a young woman who is dear to our family. She is of First Nations descent (Oji-Cree/Native Canadian) and bears the deep scars of a cruel history of cultural genocide inflicted on North American host peoples by some European settlers, who were often, ironically, escaping marginalization in their own lands. Her personal poverty (economic, cultural, emotional) along with the pain of belonging to a socially-marginalized people group, eventually contributed to a life of prostitution throughout most of her teen and early adult years.
I once asked her if she didn’t perceive other options for her life path. She spoke quite candidly:
“Please don’t try to tell me I have the same options as your children. No one wants to see a ‘brown’ answer a job posting. When I walk into an office with an application, I can usually tell within a second that I don’t have a chance. It’s a flicker in the eye followed by over-politeness that tips me off, and I know I’ve wasted my time.”
We often think of slavery as something that happens elsewhere. Because of my work as a singer/songwriter, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many developing countries: India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Ethiopia, the Philippines. In each of these places, the sex-slave trade was cruelly evident. But it has many forms here at home as well. A recent publication by Covenant House in NY, reveals that human trafficking is a $9.8 billion dollar industry in the United States, and the FBI estimates that as many as 100,000 kids are forced into prostitution every year. Many of these kids are homeless, and that makes them especially vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation. I’ve come to understand that a primary cause of this pervasive issue is, among other factors, poverty and social alienation, and the predatory behaviours such vulnerabilities invite.
During Advent, those of us who claim the Christian story as our own, and who hope to reclaim the “true meaning of Christmas,” may want to redouble our efforts on behalf of the disenfranchised and vulnerable poor.
Perhaps we might join hands with jolly ol’ Saint Nick to embody, with our actions, one of the great mysteries of the Incarnation:
Christ not only comes to us, but through us…
1 My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,*
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
2 for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant;*
from this day all generations will call me blessed.
3 The Almighty has done great things for me* and holy is his name.
4 He has mercy on those who fear him* in every generation.
5 He has shown the strength of his arm;*
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
6 He has cast down the mighty from their thrones*
and has lifted up the lowly.
7 He has filled the hungry with good things,*
and the rich he has sent away empty.
8 He has come to the help of his servant Israel,*
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
9 the promise he made to our forebears,*
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen.
We have been afraid of the fierceness of your love, which sears our hearts as with a laser. Lord, have mercy upon us.
We have refused to believe that you are gentle in judgment, that your hands loosen the knots of our bitterness. Christ, have mercy upon us.
We have failed to see that your eyes are wise in discernment, that your justice restores us and heals. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not bring us to the time of trial, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.
Stir up our hearts, Lord, to prepare the way of your only-begotten Son: that, in his coming, we might serve you with our hearts made pure; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
Lord God almighty, come and dispel the darkness from our hearts, that in the radiance of your brightness we may know you, the only unfading light, glorious in all eternity. Amen.
The God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing:
through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.