OREMUS: 28 December 2011

Steve Benner steve.benner at oremus.org
Tue Dec 27 17:49:14 GMT 2011

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OREMUS for December 28
The Martyred Children of Bethlehem
(The Holy Innocents)

Lord, open our lips,
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, weeping God,
whose heart is pierced by the cry of the innocent.
You receive into your arms
those whose lives are wasted in violence;
You confront the powers of fear
with the confident power of love;
and you help us to stand with all of your creation
which bears the weight of cruelty and greed.
For these and all your mercies, we praise you:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Blessed be God for ever!

An opening canticle may be sung. 


Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Who only does great wonders,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who by his wisdom made the heavens,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who spread out the earth upon the waters,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who created great lights,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
The sun to rule the day,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
The moon and the stars to govern the night,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And brought out Israel from among them,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
With a mighty hand and a stretchedout arm,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who divided the Red Sea in two,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And made Israel to pass through the midst of it,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who led his people through the wilderness,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Who struck down great kings,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And slew mighty kings,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And Og, the king of Bashan,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And gave away their lands for an inheritance,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
An inheritance for Israel his servant,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.
Who remembered us in our low estate,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
And delivered us from our enemies,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Who gives food to all creatures,*
 for his mercy endures for ever;
Give thanks to the God of heaven,*
 for his mercy endures for ever.

Psalm 137:1-6

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,*
 when we remembered you, O Zion.
As for our harps, we hung them up*
 on the trees in the midst of that land.
For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
   and our oppressors called for mirth:*
 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'
How shall we sing the Lord's song*
 upon an alien soil?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,*
 let my right hand forget its skill.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
   if I do not remember you,*
 if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

Psalm 138

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;*
 before the gods I will sing your praise.
I will bow down towards your holy temple
   and praise your name,*
 because of your love and faithfulness;
For you have glorified your name*
 and your word above all things.
When I called, you answered me;*
 you increased my strength within me.
All the kings of the earth will praise you, O Lord,*
 when they have heard the words of your mouth.
They will sing of the ways of the Lord,*
 that great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord be high, he cares for the lowly;*
 he perceives the haughty from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you keep me safe;*
 you stretch forth your hand
   against the fury of my enemies;
   your right hand shall save me.
The Lord will make good his purpose for me;*
 O Lord, your love endures for ever;
   do not abandon the works of your hands.

FIRST READING [Baruch 4:9b-12a,14-16, 27-29]:

Listen, you neighbours of Zion,
   God has brought great sorrow upon me; 
for I have seen the exile of my sons and daughters,
   which the Everlasting brought upon them. 
With joy I nurtured them,
   but I sent them away with weeping and sorrow. 
Let no one rejoice over me, a widow
   and bereaved of many;
Let the neighbours of Zion come;
   remember the capture of my sons and daughters,
   which the Everlasting brought upon them. 
For he brought a distant nation against them,
   a nation ruthless and of a strange language,
which had no respect for the aged
   and no pity for a child. 
They led away the widow’s beloved sons,
   and bereaved the lonely woman of her daughters. 

Take courage, my children, and cry to God,
   for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you. 
For just as you were disposed to go astray from God,
   return with tenfold zeal to seek him. 
For the one who brought these calamities upon you
   will bring you everlasting joy with your salvation. 

Words: Bill Thomas (born 1961) © 1999 Stainer & Bell Ltd. Used with permission.
Metre: 76 76 D (Suggestion: Ewing)

'A sound is heard in Ramah,
The sound of bitter cries,
For Rachel mourns her children
And will not dry her eyes.'
While one of Rachel's newborn
To Egypt's safety fled,
The rest were found by Herod:
'She weeps, for they are dead.'

For countless other Rachels
Each sunrise fails to bring
The joy and peace long hoped-for
But painful questioning.
How can this God allow it,
That innocents can die,
While Herods in their glory
Can sit serenely by?

Although there is no answer
To soften Rachel's pain,
The risen one weeps with her
And points us to his name.
No hosts of heaven's armies
To smash oppressors' might:
You take our hand, God-with-us,
And walk into the night.

SECOND READING [Matthew 2:1-18]:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.' When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 
"And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd my people Israel." ' 

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.' When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.' Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, 'Out of Egypt I have called my son.' 

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 
'A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.' 

The Benedictus (Morning), 
the Magnificat (Evening), or Nunc dimittis (Night) may follow.

God of mercy,
every family in heaven and on earth
takes its name from you.
We pray for parents,
that they may give their children faith in you
and find help and support in your community.

We pray for children,
that with faith in you
they may grow up confident, full of hope,
merciful, gentle and creative
in all their dealings with others.

We pray, too, for those
who have seen their children destroyed by violence or hunger:
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all children orphaned by war.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for families who are homeless or separated,
or who live in unhealthy, brutalizing conditions:
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for grace to show mercy and justice
that hope may be restored.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray that our society
will strengthen and support family life,
so that children may grow up whole
for the good of the community.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray that we may do justice
to holiness and your love,
which are stronger and surer than all our evil.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father,
whose children suffered at the hands of Herod,
though they had done no wrong:
give us grace neither to act cruelly
nor to stand indifferently by,
but to defend the weak from the tyranny of the strong;
in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for us,
but who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray in faith and trust:

- The Lord's Prayer

May God, who gives comfort to the desolate,
sustain us and keep us, now and always. Amen.

The psalms are from _Celebrating Common Prayer_ (Mowbray), (c) The
Society of Saint Francis 1992, which is used with permission.

The canticle is from _Common Worship: Daily Prayer, Preliminary
Edition_, copyright (c) The Archbishops' Council, 2002.

The biblical passage is from The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized
Edition), copyright (c) 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education
of  the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by
permission. All rights reserved.

The opening prayer of thanksgiving is adapted from a prayer in Prayers for An Inclusive Church. 

The hymn is reproduced with the kind permission of the author. If you wish to
reproduce it further, please send her an email. Address found at the link above.

The intercession is from _Chalice Worship_, (c) Chalice Press,
1997. Reproduced with permission.

The collect is from The Alternative Service Book 1980_, (c)
The Central Board of Finance of the Church of England 1980.

Herod 'the Great' was appointed King of the Jews by the Roman authorities in Palestine and he proved to be ruthlessly efficient in his thirty-three years of dealing with his subjects. In Matthew's gospel, he tried to persuade the Magi, to whom he played the host on their journey seeking the one 'who has been born king of the Jews', to bring word of where they had found him. His desire was to eliminate Jesus and, when he realised that the Magi had tricked him and left the country, Herod poured out his wrath on all the male infants in the land. These were God's 'innocent' ones, parallelling the story of Pharaoh slaughtering the Hebrew children in Egypt. [Exciting Holiness]

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