Prayers adapted from those used at St Martin-in-the-Fields on the last Sunday of the millennium (26 December 1999).
In these final prayers of the year, let us look back to the beginning of the world and forward to the end of all things. We reflect with new intensity on the pilgrimage of our own life, lived out in God’s perpetual ‘now’.
The arrival of this millennium was greeted in London by the world’s largest fireworks display. But in the real Big Bang, in the tiniest fraction of a second, you Lord created all matter, existence, time and causation, from which all life came to be. In the words of one of the astrophysicist and priest, Abbé George Lemaître:
‘The evolution of the world may be compared to a display of fireworks that has just ended: some few red wisps, ashes and smoke. Standing on a cooled cinder, we see the slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished brilliance of the origin of the worlds.’
Eternal God, plant in our hearts a glimpse of the enormity of your power: power beyond imagining; power beyond thought; power beyond experience.
Blessed be God forever.
Against the magnificence of the heavens, we dwindle into specks. Against the pitilessness of scientific eternity, what is a human life, and a human lifetime?
your power is rivalled only by your imagination;
your imagination by your humility;
your humility by your love;
and at this time of Christmas,
recalling your incarnation
we praise you with unbelievable joy.
You took on human life and declared to us, ‘Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’.
You took on a human lifetime and, with bread and wine and nails and thorns, blessed it forever: this same time which we each experience:
‘a time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal;
a time to break down and a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek and a time to lose;
a time to keep and a time to throw away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.’
Blessed be God forever.
Dare we look beyond our little span, to the next millennium?
Who knows what will stand here in a thousand years time;
whether human life will still exist;
whether our successors, if we have successors,
will share this space with forms of life beyond our present knowledge.
What can we know of that world? We can know this:
that if Christianity still exists, this prayer will still be used;
and so we pray this way, affirming as we do our brotherhood and sisterhood with generations past and generations to come, and with Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who taught it to us:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name:
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
Now and forever. Amen .
The Biblical references are to Matthew 25: 40 and Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8.