Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, kindled 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.
This collect from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was adapted from the collect for Christmas in the Sarum Riteof the 11thcentury. The 2019 BCP has moved it to the 1stSunday of Christmas. It is fitting for that Sunday because the Gospel appointed is John 1:1-18 that has multiple references to Jesus as the true “Light.”
This collect calls to mind the prophecy of Isaiah. “Arise, shine: for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the LORD will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
This collect and this prophecy both remind us that there are two manifestations that result from the true Light coming into the world. The first is that we become personally enlightened. Without the light of Christ we were among the peoples who were covered in deep darkness. But the grace of God has changed that condition. His light has been “kindled in our hearts” and we now see our need for Him more clearly every day. His purpose for our lives comes into greater focus. More and more we love what He loves. And while we often fall short, we also see that His mercies are new every morning. It is why we love to sing, “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”
But the light of Christ does not stop with our personal enlightenment. We who have received the Light are also to be bearers of the Light. As the moon reflects the sun, so we too are to reflect the Son. We are to live intentionally so that His light “may shine forth in our lives.” The original collect said it well. “Grant that the light which through faith shines in our hearts may shine forth in our works.” This prayer matches the admonition of Jesus, “You are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify you Father which is in heaven.” (Mt 5).
Used in Salisbury Cathedral in the Middle Ages until the Reformation