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Now my two sons are men.  They have their own families and their destinies are clear.

They have been gone from their childhood home for many, many years.

As Christmas comes and goes I find myself having a powerful and nostalgic response to memories of their childhoods:  the years that went by so quickly when they were young boys. 

I wish I could touch again one of their little rough and dirty hands.  That I could attend another t-ball, soccer match or boy scout adventure.   I would wish another chance to pick out a toy for them and put it under the tree.   And I think now, secretly to myself, wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could go back there for just a few minutes?

I feel a bit embarrassed to be having these feelings.  Why do I look back? 

I know I am blessed.  There is much to enjoy and I am more than grateful that they share their lives as much as they do with me.  But still, as much as I would like to ignore it, there it is:  the yearning for those years of child-rearing.  I could not escape the feelings as much as I might try.

Fortunately, they do not overpower me for long. 

As a matter of fact, it is the wonder of the life that we share now with our grown sons that often stirs these melancholy feelings.  Today I was watching my granddaughters tumbling around the floor in their pajamas, doing cartwheels and being perfectly silly.  Suddenly, my memory traces went rushing back to a time when their father or uncle were doing the same thing. 

Now it is princesses, Little Einstein, Higgleytown Heroes.  Then it was cars, trucks, star war figures, Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh.

Occasionally, even, I whisk back to my own childhood and a momentary joy of playing with my paper dolls or some other childhood event. 

But there is no one wonder of my own childhood that surpasses for me the wonder of raising our two sons.

Christmas brings all these memories pouring back into my consciousness as I unwrap the Christmas ornaments, buy toys for the grandchildren, and watch all the parents trudging through the Walmarts.  For us it was K-Mart or sometimes even a local hardware store that stocked up on toys for the season.  My husband would try to check for new arrivals on the shelves.  Sometimes, then, he would come home with a package under his arm and sly smile on his face, hoping the boys would not have noticed.

I cannot go back.  You might want to remind me.  Yes.  I can not.  But I can momentarily remember again in my heart of hearts.

Morning Prayer 12.23.07, 4th Sunday of Advent (excerpted)

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Light your fourth candle, knowing it’s almost done; but wait yet a little while longer, just one more day, till Christ appears to liberate the entire world.

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. Isaiah 40:5

INVITATORY & PSALTER

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

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, longing of the Gentiles and salvation thereof: come to save us, O Lord our God!

“Jubilate” (Psalm 100)

Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness
and come before his presence with a song.

Know this: The Lord himself is God;
he himself has made us, and we are his;
we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

For the Lord is good;
his mercy is everlasting;
and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

THE LESSONS
Genesis 3:8-15 (NRSV)

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Canticle: A Song of Praise
Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers; *
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy name; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple; *
on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths; *
in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Revelation 12:1-10 (TEV)

Then a great mysterious sight appeared in the sky. There was a woman, whose dress was the sun and who had the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was soon to give birth, and the pains of suffering of childbirth made her cry out.

Another mysterious sight appeared in the sky. There was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, and a crown on each of his heads. With his tail he dragged a third of the stars out of the sky and threw them to earth. He stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, in order to eat her child as soon as it was born. Then the woman gave birth to a son, who will rule over all nations with an iron rod. But the child was snatched away and taken to God and his throne. The woman fled to the desert, to a place God had prepared for her, where she will be taken care of for 1,260 days.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, who fought back with his angels; but the dragon was defeated, and he and his angels were not allowed to stay in heaven any longer. The huge dragon was thrown out! He is that old serpent, named the Devil, or Satan, that deceived the whole world. He was thrown down to earth, and all his angels with him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the accuser of our brothers, who stood before God accusing them day and night, has been thrown out of heaven.”

Canticle: Song of the Redeemed
Revelation 15:3-4

O ruler of the universe, Lord God,
great deeds are they that you have done, *
surpassing human understanding.
Your ways are ways of righteousness and truth, *
O King of all the ages.

Who can fail to do you homage, Lord
and sing the praises of your Name? *
for you only are the Holy One.
All nations will draw near and fall down before you *
because your just and holy works have been revealed.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:*
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

THE PRAYERS

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

Show us your mercy, O Lord;
And grant us your salvation.
Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
Let your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in you can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under your care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let your way be known upon earth;
Your saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us by your Holy Spirit.

Collect of the Day: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Collect for Sundays

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Collect for the Renewal of Life

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for Mission

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

(Please offer your own prayers and supplications here.)

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Romans 15:13++

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory