Out of the Depths

In a filing cabinet in my office I keep several files that I have carried with me for over thirty years and through my service to three different churches. There is a file in this collection for each of the Christian seasons (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost). I have files for some of the other days of special importance on the Christian calendar (such as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday), and for those days where our religious belonging comes into conversation with national identity and global concern (the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and World Communion Sunday).

In most cases the file folders are tattered and bursting with their contents. They are chock full of notes, clippings, artwork, newspaper articles, notes from parishioners, recipes, and reflections. With each new season I dive once again into the depths of these spiritual libraries, and rummage around for wisdom from the past to clarify the call of faith for the present and the future.

If I were to set all these files side by side it would be easy to see that the one I have developed for Advent is the largest. I suppose that reflects my special fondness for this season, and the traditions that accompany it, like the weekly lighting of Advent candles and the annual Christmas Pageant. And of all the treasures in my Advent collection, the ones that mean the most to me are some photocopied prayers by Samuel Miller. He was minister of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1934 to 1959, and then became Dean of Harvard Divinity School in that same year. His prayers for the season of Advent were collected after his death in 1968, and even though I have read them many times over the years, I feel that whenever I do so a door opens within me, allowing a little more room for wonder and the possibilities for love and peace that God would bring into the world through us.

In this blog I share with you two of Samuel Miller’s prayers that have been particular favorites of mine. May his words, and the meditations of our hearts, prepare the space not only for Christmas, but for the coming of Christ himself.

God and Father of us all, in whom our joy finds perfect peace, enter, we beseech thee, into the crowded inn of our life, quiet the tumult and the disorder, and let thy strength impel us to make an ample place for the advent of thy Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Move us by such joy as we have had in Jesus Christ and in thee to praise thy holy will and wisdom. Make us glad, after the way of thy spirit, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

O God, in the fog and fury of this dark age, keep the inner world of heart and mind in us clear and strong, that we may not be buffeted from our course by the wild winds of chaos and seas of bitterness. Help us onward through all kinds of whether to follow patiently the north star of thy eternal purpose and, if darkness and chaos hide it, hold us firm by every remembrance and hope to do thy will through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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