Posted on December 21st, 2010
We’re moving to two services on Christmas Eve this year (along with one on Christmas Day) so I’m bringing back the Anglican “Lessons and Carols” for the earlier service (late night will be a “Midnight Mass” at 11pm). One thing that always bothered me was the usage of the Bidding Prayer on Christmas Eve, as it seemed altogether out of character with the night. So I turned to the resident fountain of wisdom, Fr. Charles McClean (author of the revision to Piepkorn’s The Conduct of the Service, both of which you can purchase in a single volume here). Serving with Fr. McClean is like having my own personal Liturgical Wikipedia that responds to email or voice queries. Here’s what happened when I put to him my Bidding Prayer problem:
I would not use the Bidding Prayer of the Lutheran rite. The confusion comes in the term “bidding prayer.” I don’t know exactly when the Solemn Good Friday Prayers were first given the title “the Bidding Prayer” – I don’t know what it’s called in German – but the prayer appeared in the 1868 Church Book of the General Council. In English usage “the bidding of the bedes” was the vernacular exhortation to prayer following the sermon at Sunday & Holy Day Masses. The Book of Common Prayer through the 1928 edition has such a generic “Bidding Prayer” suitable for any day. The King’s College form is based on this pattern and made Christmassy. The Lessons & Carols is a popular service. It strikes me that the form and tone of our Bidding Prayer, especially as it is associated with Good Friday, doesn’t seem to fit in with such a service.
I’d use the King’s College Bidding Prayer, tweaking it as necessary. Instead of praying for the realms of the Queen - God bless her! – you could perhaps say something like: “especially within the churches of our Synod. Let us also pray for Barack our president, Robert our governor, and for all who hold the authority of government in this and every land.” And I think I’d modify “unity and brotherhood in the Church…” to “unity in truth and love in the Church…”
I find the whole story of the King’s College service’s origin very poignant. Britain lost one million men in World War I (as compared to 300,000 in the Second War) I never quite grasped what this meant till I visited England & saw the unending lists of names from WWI in city & village memorials, the churches - and in the colleges at Cambridge & Oxford. No wonder they couldn’t face what was happening in Germany in the 30s. Then toward the end of his reign, the present Queen’s grandfather, George V said: “I will not have another war! Before I’ll have that, I’ll go down to Trafalgar Square and join in waving the red flag!”
Taking his advice to heart, here is what we will use at the early service:
Bidding Prayer for Christmas Eve
BELOVED IN CHRIST, be it this Christmas Eve our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child; and let us make this Church, dedicated to Immanuel, God with Us, glad with our carols of praise:
But first let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for unity in truth and love within the Church he came to build, and especially within the churches of our Synod. Let us also pray for Barack our president, Robert our governor, and for all who hold the authority in this and every land.
And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and them that mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.
Lastly let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one.
These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:
ALL: Our Father, who art in heaven, etc.