A Solitary Christmas Retreat – Christmas Day

BEFORE DAWN

  • If you have not already said the Liturgy of the Christ Child at midnight, and have chosen to set your alarm before dawn instead, you could say it now.
  • Light a candle and walk around your home, taking light into every corner of your dwelling
After midnight, Christmas Eve turns to the Feast of the Christ Mass, the Nativity of the Christ Child:

This night is born Jesus,
   Son of the King of glory.
 This night is born to us
   the root of our joy.
 This night gleamed sea and shore
   together.
 This night was born Christ,
   the King of greatness.
  
 * Though laid in a manger,
   He came from a throne;
 on earth though a stranger,
   in heaven He was known.
  
 How lowly, how gracious
   His coming to earth!
 His love my love kindles
   to joy in his birth.
  
 * Sweet Jesus, King of glory!
  
 * Now You sleep in a manger,
 in a stable poor and cold;
  
 * but for us You are the highest King,
 making our hearts into Your palace. 

AFTER IT HAS GROWN LIGHT

Read the Christmas Day Liturgy (which can also be found on page 114 of Celtic Daily Prayer – Book One.

* All hail! let there be joy!
  
 Hail to the King, hail to the King.
 Blessed is He, blessed is He.
  
 * The peace of earth to Him;
  
 * the joy of heaven to Him.
  
 * The homage of a King be His,
 King of all victory;
  
 * the welcome of a Lamb be His,
 Lamb of all glory:
 the Son of glory down from on high.
 All hail, let there be joy.
  
 * Deep in the night
 the voice of the waves on the shore
 announced to us: Christ is born!
 Son of the King of kings
 from the land of salvation,
 the mountains glowed to Him,
 the plains glowed to Him,
 then shone the sun on the mountains high to Him.
 All hail, let there be joy.
  
 * God the Lord has opened a Door.
 Christ of hope, Door of joy!
 Son of Mary, hasten Thou to help me:
  
 In me, Lord Christ, let there be joy.
   

‘His love my love kindles’…

Take this phrase, from the ‘Nativity of the Christ Child’ liturgy, as a waymark.  At every change of activity (be it breakfast, showering, walking, putting the kettle on) say these words.  Let them be a reminder that Jesus is born into this world for you.

Say them as you begin each prayer today, following the four-fold prayer rhythm of Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer and Compline. (see ‘Other Resources’ on page 2)

Light a candle

Light a candle at each step of this day’s gift of solitude with Christ.


FROM HANDS TO HEART

Today, we are reflecting on Bethlehem, House of Bread.

Here is the Hebrew for ‘Bethlehem’. It is read from left to right – house (of) bread…

Here in Bethlehem – House of Bread – we prepare a feast.  The kneading, rising, proving and baking of bread will be a sensual reminder of the Bread of Life being with us this day.

So this morning we will be making bread.

If this is simply not possible, then toast some bread and enjoy that smell, taste and pleasure as God satisfies your body and soul with His presence.

A simple bread recipe for Christmas Day

We asked John Cooper, one of our Nether Springs volunteers, who often makes bread in our Mother House kitchen, to provide this simple recipe although, of course, you are welcome to use your own. You can download his recipe or follow the instructions below.

Ingredients:

500g Strong Bread flour

1 sachet yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp Sugar

325g water

  1. Put the flour into a bowl.
  2. Microwave the water for 1 minute.  (If you don’t have a microwave, use tepid, rather than cold water – ideally up to 32 degrees centigrade).
  3. Sprinkle the yeast and the salt onto the flour. Pour in the water, mix with a fork to a ragged dough (until the fork won’t move anymore) and let it sit for 15 mins. 
  4. On a work surface, knead the dough for 10 mins, until it’s smooth and shiny.
  5. Put it back into the bowl and cover with a warm damp tea towel.
  6. If you have an oven with a light, then turn on the light and put the dough in there as close to the light as possible. If not, then put the dough somewhere warm. It needs to be about 21 degrees centigrade.
  7. Leave the dough to double in size. Depending on how warm your house is it should take between 1-2 hours.
  8. Once it’s doubled, pour it on a work surface and gently knead it into shape. If you have a bread tin you can put it in there. If not then make it into a round boule and tuck the edges under themselves to make a smooth taught top.
  9. Oil a tray (or use a piece of baking parchment) and sit the boule on there.
  10. Leave for another 30 mins to rise and then put the oven on to heat up. 

If you’re using a bread tin or cooking a boule without a cover, heat the oven to 180 degrees. Once the oven is to temperature stick it in the oven and bake for 30 mins at least or until it’s the colour you desire.

If you have something to put over the bread – a large casserole pot or oven proof saucepan for example. Heat the oven as hot as it will go. Cover the bread and put it in the oven for 30 mins then uncover for another 10 – 15 mins until you have a rich, dark crust.

Enjoy eating this bread as part of a simple lunch – perhaps with soup….       


Work with your own plan

Use your own Christmas Day plan – perhaps go outside, bless your neighbours, say midday prayer, eat lunch (not forgetting your fresh bread) and then feed your soul through the afternoon, perhaps using one of the blessings on page 207 in Celtic Daily Prayer, Book One as a starting point:

The blessing of Christ

comes to cave and to hillside.

His coming is mercy

and kindness and joy.

Hope is born

in this, His birthing.

You might say an earlier Evening Prayer, followed by A Crib Prayer (page 108 in Celtic Daily Prayer, Book One)

 PRAYER BEFORE A CHRISTMAS CRIB
 I open the stable door
 I kneel before the infant;
 I worship with the shepherds;
 I adore the Christ child.
 I give my love with Mary and Joseph;
 I wonder at the ‘Word made flesh’.
 I am aware of the love of God;
 I sing glory with the angels;
 I offer my gifts with the wise men.
 I receive the living Lord;
 I hold Him in my hands;
 I go on my way rejoicing,
 glorifying and praising God. 

This might then be followed by the opening of gifts, and evening meal and the other activities you have planned around the prayer patterns for the rest of the day.

A final blessing

As you reach the end of Christmas Day, and just before bed, we offer this final blessing, from Jim Bailey:

AT THE END OF THE DAY
At the end of the day 
may you know God's peace 
At the end of the day 
seen some justice 
At the end of the day 
as the night closes in 
May you know deeper what trust is 
At the end of the day, 
you're encircled with prayer 
At the end of the day, 
you are blessed 
We walk this narrow way, 
alone and together 
To the end, to the end of the day 
May you lean on the breast of Jesus 
May you feel the heartbeat of God 
May you rest on the breast of Jesus 
May you feel the heartbeat of God

May God bless you and all your dear ones in the coming days.

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