Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Prayer

One who roleplays a minister in a history sim has a couple choices for prayer. 

Option 1 is to compose prayers oneself. This allows for the maximum creativity.

Option 2 is to copy over prayers that one finds in the Book of Common Prayer and other sources (Thank you, Lord, for Google Books!)

In general in roleplay, I prefer the maximum creativity. But I've found myself more and more often picking option 2 as Methodist minister Rev. Baird.

The reason for that is authenticity. We have a bit of an advantage with prayer. A roleplayer of today can't really know if the words they speak are anything like what someone said 100 or 200 years ago. Newspapers will have reports of dialogue, but they are newspapers and especially 100 years ago reporters made up words for speakers all the time.

However, we do know that many of the prayers the Rev. Baird speaks or the hymns he commissions have been said or sung by worshippers for hundreds of years. His typist gets chills at a funeral when at the "ashes to ashes" portion of the burial rite, because you know that liturgy has been used in real-life Deadwood thousands of times, and one speaks words someone in Deadwood (and English-speaking Christian communities *anywhere*) has actually said.

For today's Christmas Party in Deadwood, assuming the typist is not waylaid by that pesky RL life, Rev. Baird has found a prayer in the 1875 book Prayer and Thanksgiving, Forms of Family Devotion for Six Weeks by T. Cotterill and W. Jowett

Here's the prayer, with a few thoughts in italics:

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly beseech Thee to accept our hearty thanks for the manifold mercies which Thou hast poured upon us.

We bless Thee especially for sending, as on this day (which I will amend since the prayer is not said on Christmas Day to 'on Christmas Day'), thy well-beloved Son to take our nature upon Him, and to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh.

(anytime you get references to phrases like sinful flesh, which truly were used at the time, it's always fun to watch the other roleplayers react!)

We rejoice that unto us a Child is born ; that unto us a Son is given. And we would join the multitude of the heavenly host in praising Thee and saying, Glory to Thee in the highest; peace on earth ; good-will toward men.

And as, when Thou didst bring thy First begotten into the world, Thou didst command all the heavenly host to worship Him; so may we also give unto Him the glory which is due unto his name.

(now, I am omitting this paragraph, because, well, it's too hulking long ... O Thou great and glorious Redeemer, who art Wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, we praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, Lamb of God, the only-begotten Son, Jesu Christ, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, King of kings, and Lord of lords, Emmanuel, God with us. For Thou only art holy : Thou only art the Lord ; Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most High in the glory of God the Father.

But chiefly, at this time, we adore Thee for leaving the glory which Thou hadst with the Father before the world began. We know thy grace, O Lord Jesus Christ, that though Thou wast rich, yet for our sakes Thou didst become poor, that we, through thy poverty, might be made rich. 

We beseech Thee, by the mystery of thy holy incarnation and nativity, Good Lord, deliver us. O Son of David, have mercy upon us. Thou, who didst come that we might have life, and might have it more abundantly, be gracious unto us. Thou who wast called Jesus, that Thou mightest save thy people from their sins, save us, and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord.

And yes, that's a prayer read throughout the English-speaking nation for a long darn time. And it will, hopefully, be read tonight in our little piece of the Second World.

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