December 2020

A Contemplative Exercise for December

The following is a possible framework for the Witnessing of the Word. It can be personalised, or altered: its purpose is to serve as an example of how this Saying might be used primarily in the context of a Prayer Group, but it may be used by individuals if so wished. It is not intended to be definitive.

In the context of a group: the periods of silence should be appropriate for your group - probably not less than 5 minutes, or more than 15 minutes.


Saying for the month

“Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”     Luke 1.35 (NIV)

To begin the exercise, first spend a short while in relaxation and preparing to be still; become aware of the sounds around you and put them aside; offer this time of prayer to God.


Say this introductory invitation to prayer, then keep a further minute or two of silence:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"   Matthew 11.28 


Introduction to the first silence - a preparation for listening with the mind:

 "Do not be afraid .. the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” 

These words are spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary and are the essence of all that is in our hearts as we go through the Advent season towards Christmas. We can only imagine the amazement with which Mary received the visit of the angel, and then the words that were addressed to her. Images of the scene abound – particularly, for many, the wonderful Fra Angelico fresco in the Convent of San Marco in Florence …. The angel kneels to bring the message from God; Mary receives the words and the Word in quiet humility. Placed at the top of the stairs as you enter the monks’ quarters, the fresco brought the scene into the place where the individuals had their private spaces in which they could ponder the words and all that they meant.

So it is for us today, as we prepare our minds and hearts to receive afresh the Holy One, the Son of God, with the coming of Christmas. These words are used as our dominical saying, spoken as they are by the angel, God’s messenger. Only Matthew and Luke take their Gospel accounts as far back as Jesus’ birth, and Luke’s account is the more detailed. His is a Gospel with an emphasis on love: people are included at every turn, barriers are broken down between Jew and Gentile, a place of importance is given to women, it embraces the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the sick, the disabled, the blind – all are given places of honour in the Kingdom. His Gospel has a special message for us and our world today, a world where fear has taken hold in many places and those who have least are the most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. It is hard not to fear in the current circumstances - for ourselves, even more for the welfare of the world - but the command of the angel is: "Do not be afraid..."

Following on our previous months’ times of contemplation, we make space – a sanctuary – in which God can make his resting place: we prepare ourselves to receive the Holy One, the Son of God. We try to put aside thought and focus on “the Holy One … the Son of God…”

The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”

A time is now kept for silence of the mind - between 5 and 15 minutes


The silence concludes with a short thanksgiving, and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you for the gift of your Word.

 Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”


Introduction to the second silence - a preparation for listening with the heart:

 Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”

At the start of the Gospel of John we hear (v 14) that ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’ How do we make the holy one, the Son of God, a reality in our lives today and in the life of the world?

There is such a need for the light of hope in a period of darkness. The promise of the ‘Word made flesh’ brings God right into our lives in the person of Jesus and this continues today, 2000 years after these words were first spoken. We can ponder on the selfless humility of Mary as she receives these words from the angel, and we can grasp the wonder and joy which the birth of her child brings to her. But we also have to take a step further, taking the words of God in Ezekiel 36.26 to ourselves: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you”. In receiving the Son of God into our human lives we are eagerly welcoming the opportunity for a new heart and a new spirit, rejecting fear and embracing faith. But it may be that we have to take heed of the words of Oscar Romero: ‘Without poverty of spirit, there can be no abundance of God’.  

In this waiting time of Advent, as we look forward to the coming of the Holy One, we can seek to transform the present. In our contemplative time we keep watch, we hold ourselves ready as we give this time to drawing closer to God, the Lord of Eternity who is transcendent yet ever present. And he chooses finite moments in time to reveal himself to us, and never more than when presented to the world in a form that, with all our human limitations, we can reach out to and touch – a newborn child, Emmanuel, God with us.

The world is a strange place at present – a place that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar to most of us. Perhaps we have never experienced in our lives such anxiety, such discomforting restrictions or deprivation of our freedoms. Perhaps equally we have never been given such a unique opportunity to see things afresh, to think outside our comfortable boxes and look outwards, to recognise and be open to new opportunities for welcoming among us the Holy One, the Son of God.

(out of compassion for our ugly
failure to evolve) entrusts,
as guest, as brother,
the Word.                                           

                                               Denise Levertov                 On The Mystery Of The Incarnation

Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”

A time is now kept for silence of the heart - between 5 and 15 minutes


Conclude the silence with a short thanksgiving and/or repeat the Saying:

 Father, we thank you that your Word is alive and within us.

 Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”


Introduction to the time of intercession – we use our will to reflect God’s Word outwards.

We now use the Saying in intercession for others – bringing into God’s presence people for whom we wish to pray.

We may wish to remember particularly those who are experiencing a first Christmas after bereavement, those who are sick or suffering from issues of mental health, the isolated and lonely, all whose faith is wavering, those celebrating Christmas but without faith, those who are fearful for the future, people in places where medical help is scarce and resources are few….

We bring before God all those who are on our hearts at this time: we say their name and then repeat the Saying so that the Word is spoken to them.

Do not be afraid ... the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”

"Do not be afraid .... "    

“the Holy One … the Son of God…”

Conclude the time of intercession with words of thanksgiving to God for the gift of his Word

Father, we thank you that your Word has gone out through us to those for whom we pray.


Use the Fellowship Prayer or another closing prayer to conclude your time of contemplative prayer.

Loving Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your unsearchable riches which pour forth from you as light from the sun, in boundless profusion and generosity, whether received, ignored or rejected. And now we offer to you, in so far as we are able, as an emptiness to be filled with your divine fullness, ourselves, our souls and bodies; all that we are, all that we have and all that we do, until you are all in all and we are complete. Amen


 You may wish to say the Grace together before departing.  


This month's exercise was contributed by CO