The Collect for the First Sunday after Christmas Day

Almighty God,
you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word:
Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(BCP 213)

According to Marion Hatchett, the source of this Collect is the traditional liturgy of the second Eucharist of Christmas Day, held at dawn, at St. Anastasia’s Basilica in Rome (built in the late 3rd century or early 4th century and still in use today) and recorded in the late 7th-century Gregorian sacramentary.  It was used in the Salisbury rite (late 11th century) as the Collect for the Eucharist on Christmas Day.  Its first inclusion in a Book of Common Prayer was in our American BCP of 1928, where it was used as the Collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas Day.  Hatchett notes a change in the Petition in our current version of the Collect:  the original asked that the light of Christ be shown forth in our works (Hatchett, 169).

The Preamble, “Almighty God,” focuses our attention on God’s mighty power working for our benefit.

The Acknowledgement, “you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word,” connects the first coming of Christ as the Light of the world (see John 1:9 and 9:5; see also 2 Corinthians 4:6) with God’s merciful gift to us of this Light (See Luke 1:78-9 of Canticle 16:  The Song of Zechariah, which is used in Morning Prayer, BCP 92-3).

The Petition, “Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives,” provides a poetic image of God’s transformative grace changing us from the inside out.  This biblical imagery that gives words to the inexpressible transformation of those who follow Jesus becoming like him as light-bearers in a dark world is found in Matthew 5:14-16 and 13:36-43; Ephesians 5:8-10; Philippians 2:14-16.  In the original Collect, as mentioned by Hatchett, the focus on the showing forth the light of Christ was through our works.  In our Collect, the focus becomes more inclusive:  we ask that the light of Christ be shown forth in our lives, which is much more than merely our works.

The Pleading, “through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen,” continues our theological reflection on the unity of the Holy Trinity:  Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, with the Father, are all active in the mighty work of our transformation to become more and more like Jesus.   

Note:  this Collect is used throughout the 12 Days of Christmas in An Order of Worship for the Evening (BCP 109-114, see 111 in particular.) 

How have you experienced the light of Christ shining forth through the actions of others?  How have we, as a parish, participated in being the light of Christ through how we live our lives together?

As we continue to discern what God is calling us to do in our outreach as well as in our care for each other, how might this Collect’s petition provide us with a common language for speaking about our common life and our mission?

Almighty God,
you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word:
Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

© 2021 Donna Hawk-Reinhard, edited by Kate McCormick
The citations from Marion Hatchett are from his Commentary on the American Prayer Book, HarperOne, 1995
Quotations and page references to The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) are from the 1979 standard edition. 
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

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