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        Here is an anthology of over 1100 brief prayers and thought-starters, for each day of the year, with almost 400 original prayers by Bruce Prewer.
        Included is both a subject index and an index of authors-- an ecumenical collection of about 300 different sources.
Prayers for Busy People
        Title:  Brief Prayers for Busy People.
          Author: Bruce D Prewer
        ISBN 978-1-62880-090-6
        Available from Australian Church Resources,
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ADVENT 4 : Dec 19


Matthew 1: 18-25                     (Sermon 1: God’s Holy Mongrel”)

Romans 1: 1-7

Isaiah 7:10-16                           (Sermon 2:  “The Humble Sign”)

Psalm 80: 1-7 & 17-19





It’s almost time.

Time for renewed wonder and awe.

Time for gratitude and joy.

Time for celebration.

Time for loving.

Time for adoration.



A Virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son,

and his name shall be called Emmanuel;

which means, God-with-us.

It’s almost time.

Emmanuel, God is with us!



OR -


God’s messenger said to Joseph in a dream:

“Do not hesitate to marry Mary,

for that which is conceived in her

in the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

His name shall be called Emmanuel,

which means God-with-us.


Humanly speaking, Jesus Christ is descended for King David.

But by the work of the Holy Spirit he is designated Child of God.

His name shall be called Emmanuel,

which means God-with-us.




God of Mary and Joseph, and of all who look for the glory of God on earth, give us eyes to discern the work of your hands among us.

Do not allow us to approach Christmas with our eyes closed to the remarkable things you do in complete simplicity. Fill us again with that humility which can feel awe and gratitude.

May we see glimpses of your presence in many people, and get ready to worship you in that outpouring of glory which began when a young woman carried Jesus-Emmanuel in her body. For your name’s sake.





Let us confront our failings in the presence of  God-with-us, Emmanuel.


Let us pray.


Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.


Because our preparations for Christmas are fast becoming long on the trivial and short on the profound;

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.


Because we make sure that food for the body is plentiful but exist on a meagre spiritual diet, often taken while we are on the run.

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.


Because you come to call us to our senses, forgive our sins, and rekindle our depleted faith, hope and love;

Restore your people, loving God,

let your face shine, that we may be saved.


Advent Friend, you see us as we are, and you know our true needs better than we do. Please deal with us in line with our deepest needs. Rebuke or encourage, discomfort or soothe, forgive or affirm, push us hard or quietly lead us. Immerse us in the healing, saving grace of  Emmanuel, and make us both whole and holy. To your eternal praise and glory.





My friends, hear the good news: “Mary will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 


We, yes even you and I, have inherited that promise, and become a part of the ongoing story of Jesus. In him you are citizens of his new world: forgiven, healed and uplifted.

Thanks be to God.




Dear God,

whenever we get sour and grumbly,

or our faith seems weak and crumbly,

please help us all to become

like your holy daughter Mary,

who loved you bravely yet humbly,

no matter what pains it cost her

or how many friends it lost her.


PSALM  80:1-7 & 17-19


Turn our way, Good Shepherd,

you who muster your people.

You who rule in radiance

among the saints and martyrs,

unfurl your mighty love

and come to our rescue.

Revive our hopes, God of the stars,

show us your face and we shall be healed.


Lord of the sparkling night sky,

don’t rebuff our foolish prayers.

Too long we eat the bread of sorrow,

and drink the cup of sour tears.

Our ineffectiveness makes us a joke,

our enemies can’t stop laughing.

Revive our hopes, God of the stars,

show us your face and we shall be healed.


Put your hand on the person at your side,

the true Child who shares your strength,

then we will never turn our backs on you;

as you give life, so we will sing your name.

Revive our hopes, God of the stars,

show us your face and we shall be healed.


( another version is found in “More Australian Psalms”

page 121  Ó Open Book Publishers)




Being a just person,

he wanted things ended


not drawing attention

to the girl’s condition

or her shame.


Being a person of faith,

he entertained the word

of angels,

and so risked himself

to the sniggers and sneers

of neighbours.


Being a good carpenter,

he served the public well

by daylight,

and in the evening hours

shaped and polished a cot

for God’s sake.

                                                Ó B D Prewer




God of Mary and Joseph, keep alive in us the faith that you are still at work in ordinary people, accomplishing extraordinary things. When we become anxious, and cannot discern your pattern in the jigsaw of our affairs, bring us back to the basics of trust and obedience. Lead us forward, one step at a time, one day at a time. Give us the humility to leave the overall picture to your generous and ingenious providence.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.






Matthew 1:18


Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, before they had lived together she was found to be carrying a child through the Holy Spirit. 


There is no doubt about it. Strictly speaking, most of us are mongrels.


I am not using the word mongrel in an abusive way.


There are some folk who like to project themselves as people with a noble and pure blood line: True Scots, Welsh, Irish, Aborigine, Roman, Greek, Tamil, Norman, Maori, Jew, or Egyptian.


If any of you entertain that pretension, then may you sleep uneasily. You see, it all depends on which side of your family tree you choose to claim, and how far back or how wide you choose to go. We can be sly in choosing an honourable blood line. Go back a little further, go a little wider, and we will soon discover that we are all mongrels.


In Australia, these days there seems to be some kudos in tracing back one’s ancestry to “the first fleet.” If we are descended from an officer, magistrate, doctor, or even the wandering prodigal son of English aristocracy, we claim our blood line with pride. Even if we are the great, great, great grandchildren of a poverty stricken rural citizen who stole a loaf of bread to feed his family, and was transported to the penal colony for his crime, we still boldly claim our heritage.


But should we be the descendants of a Soho prostitute, or a blackguard sentenced for robbery with violence, we usually to keep silent. As I say, we tend to be slyly selective.


Forget the pretensions. The truth is, we are all mongrels.




Which brings me to Jesus, and Matthew’s account of his conception, birth and his family tree.


Matthew and Luke are the only two Gospels that speak about the birth of our Christ. They totally agree on two key matters;

            1/ Jesus was conceived out of wedlock.

            2/ The pregnancy was the gift of the Holy Spirit.


Matthew precedes his story with the family tree of Jesus. This holds two surprises.


First, it is the family tree of Joseph, not Mary. Jesus is listed in the blood line of Joseph. That seems strange, if Joseph is not the father of this Child.


Secondly, the family tree deliberately includes some questionable characters. It’s almost as if Matthew is insisting on the mongrel nature of this child. He lists the names of some women

of dubious character and race.


In doing this, Matthew is magnificent in his grasp of the meaning of Christ Jesus! Matthew breaks with the male convention and deliberately include females in the genealogy. And what females they are! Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and  a fifth woman. Women were outsiders in the male-dominated Hebrew society. They were like possessions, mere chattels, to be at the service of men like a donkey or a camel, and disposed of whenever a man saw fit.


What is more, four of the women whom Matthew mentions are associated with some scandal. Three of them were not even Jews. Tamar had twins by her father-in-law. Rahab was a despised Caananite prostitute who assisted Joshua at Jericho. Ruth was a pagan Moabite woman, a’wog’ who brought herself to the notice of a prospective husband by sneaking in and sleeping at the foot of his bed. Bathsheba, the wife of a Hittite soldier, was seduced and made pregnant by king David.


Isn’t this just marvellous! Matthew goes out of his way to contaminate the family tree! There were plenty of respectable women in that family tree who could have been mentioned by Matthew. But no, he deliberately opts for the disreputable, and includes them in the genealogy before announcing:

            Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been             engaged to Joseph, before they had lived together she was found to be carrying a child             through the Holy Spirit.




Matthew is making a credal statement with profound social implications. He is saying to the world: “ Outsiders are in!”


The one true Messiah is God’s holy mongrel! That  which happened when Mary conceived out of wedlock and gave birth to a baby, was God’s doing;

            she was found to be carrying a child through the Holy Spirit.

This event includes all people. All humanity. Especially all those outsiders and the lost.


The unexpected, unwarranted, immeasurable, grace of God does not focus on the respectable and the well bred, not on the powerful and the well to do. It embraces the meek and the poor, the misunderstood and the abused, the disreputable and the disenfranchised.


God’s Holy Mongrel is Emmanuel, God-with-us, God for us, whoever we are.


This is the true Gospel as Matthew presents it. Please, my friends, never let go of this Christian good news. No matter what our family or social background, no matter what our race or our culture, no matter what our education or our upbringing, no matter whether we have sinned in little matters or sinned in major, disgusting ways, Jesus was conceived and born to include us, to gather us into the warm arms of God.


The God of Christmas will stop at nothing to redeem the people of planet earth. The holy incarnation happened for you and for me. God’s most beautiful, matchless Holy Mongrel has come among us, full of truth and grace.

            Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been             engaged to Joseph, before they had lived together she was found to be carrying a child             through the Holy Spirit.




Earlier I spoke about the four Old Testament women who are mentioned the family tree of Jesus. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathseba. What about the fifth woman who is mentioned?


She is of course, Mary. Mary was most likely a simple country girl, maybe no more than 14-16 years old. She had no power, no special wealth or fame, and is not described as having any special physical beauty. Mary was just another example of the many nobodies who loved God with a simple yet profound faith. A faith gutsy enough to show amazing courage for her God.


As a pregnant teenager, she would have had to endure gossip. She would have been the subject of smutty jokes by men in the local pubs, suffered been smirked at by other “pure” girls, and scorned by the virtuous women of the town. The rumour was soon spread, persisted , and then was later written into non-Christian documents, that Mary slept with a Roman soldier.


Her child was said to have been a bastard Roman.


Yet this firth woman in the family tree of Jesus, accepted her unexpected pregnancy, and her calling to be the mother of a suffering Messiah, with tremendous courage.  She saw her baby as the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be cherished and nurtured for the glory of God. Her kid might be seen by many as a mongrel, but her son was God’s Holy Mongrel.


Her nurture of him, both physical and emotional, and her spiritual teaching and example, would shape the Saviour Christ. No matter which way you look at it, Mary stands as one of the most remarkable human beings that has every walked on this planet. Hail Mary, favoured by God, the Lord is with you!




            And you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.


That name Jesus, or Joshua  (meaning liberator) includes us all. He became one of us, another mongrel in the human tribe of mongrels. Yet he displayed a love and a loveliness of spirit surpassing all other, so that each person  might inherit a kingdom prepared before the beginning of the universe. It was all God’s doing, this Jesus thing. Emmanuel.


I am happy to be a mongrel with the blood of  English, Spanish, French, and Cornish forebears in my veins. But I am ever so more happy to be a worshipper of the Holy Mongrel, Jesus Christ.

This is truly the most wondefulest Holy Spirit-event possible! It embraces us all.


            Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been

            engaged to Joseph, before they had lived together she was found to be carrying a child

            of         the        Holy Spirit.





Isaiah 7:14


Therefore our God will give you a sign. Look, a young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.   


Although these words sound straight forward  to our Christmas ears, this text concerning a young mother and a baby called Emmanuel, is hotly debated by Bible scholars. 


I have no intention of trying to be umpire. [I have neither the skill nor the muscle to stand my ground between the heavy weight contestants. The eager beavers among you may wish to follow it up in libraries or on the internet. But let me warn you: like the sad searcher in the “Rhubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” you may find that at the end of all your scholarly searching you go out through the same door as that by which you came in.]





Like most ordinary Christians, I see within its words a foreshadowing of the birth of Christ and his incomparable mission of salvation.


Certainly that is how Matthew saw it and uses it in the Gospel. Like most New Testament writers, he saw intimations of Jesus throughout the Old Testament. What could be more natural for a Jew?


When the passage is read what comes into your mind?

Therefore our God will give you a sign. Look, a young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.    Isaiah 7:14


For most of us, we immediately think of Mary and her child Jesus. We think of Christmas. We think of how Jesus is the fulfilment of the most profound hopes of the Old Testament prophets.


Believers hear echoes of Christ in many parts of the Old Testament. It is integral to our faith that God is working his purposes out in history. History is the stage of revelation; especially through the Jewish people, and in the fullness of time, through that one perfect Jew named Jesus of Nazareth.


In our Christian view of the world as a Divine milieu, it is appropriate that we will find hints of Christ in many places. And there are plenty of these hints in the book of Isaiah.




Back to the main issue. First, let  us put the words of Isaiah in context.


Place: Jerusalem, capital of the southern Kingdom of Juda.

Time: maybe about 730-735 BC.

Action: The prophet Isaiah confronts the King of Juda, a ruler named Ahaz.

The crisis: The northern Kingdom of Israel has formed an alliance with Syria against Judah.

Question: Will Ahaz continue to put his faith in these kinds of political alliances, or return to sole trust in God.?


The king is a political animal. Devious Ahaz is intent on political alliances, while at the same time  maintaining an outward show of piety before the people.


Isaiah confronts Ahaz.  Ahaz wants his backing. That’s not on. Isaiah challenges: “Ask God for a sign that you can  trust; any sign from the skies above to the subterranean world beneath your feet.”


But the king is sly and evasive. Ahaz puts on a pious act: “I will not ask for a sign: I will not put the Lord to the test.”


Now this  sounds like good, honourable religion. The listening courtiers would have been impressed with Ahaz’ piety. But in fact, the real reason for refusing to ask for a sign is that Ahaz has already made up his mind.


Isaiah retorts: “Well, your highness,  you are going to have a sign anyway. Here it is: Therefore our God will give you a sign. “Look, a young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.”    Isaiah 7:14


He goes on to warn that before the child is old enough to choose between right and wrong, God will have brought disaster on the alliance between Israel and Syria; their countries will become a wasteland.



Signs are a tricky business.   For Jews and Christians it  is generally a “no go zone” to ask God to give us a sign. To demand that God prove himself, is faithlessness. That is the pious line that Ahaz took when he said he did not want a sign.


Nevertheless, a  large number of Christians try it on. It goes something like this: “If you want me to do.... x...... then give me a sign”. Mostly they will not talk about it openly, but secretly it happens. If I were a betting man, which I “aint”, I would wager that a number of the members of this congregation have at some time ventured into the sign game


For me it comes in the same basket of trouble as shutting your eyes, flipping the Bible open, plonking your finger on a random text, and then claiming that text as God’s guidance. Even worse are those boxes of texts into which you insert tweezers to draw out “God’s Word”.  I reckon with all these games, we wear God’s patience thin.


To demand that God prove himself, is a faithless action. It is the hub of the temptations that that encircled Jesus in the wilderness.



Yet on the other hand, to refuse to believe a sign that God gives, is also faithlessness.  In the confrontation of Isaiah with Ahaz, it is God who is offering the sign.  To turn your back on a sign, is passing judgement on yourself.


For the Jews, the mighty signs of God had been the deliverance of their nation from bondage in Egypt: The remarkable works of God; the crossing of the Reed Sea, the manna in the wilderness, and the final entry across the River Jordan into the land flowing with milk and honey.  The signs of God were the signs of salvation.


Isaiah announces a new salvation sign: a young woman giving birth to a baby, and calling it Emmanuel.


Matthew appropriates this sign in his introduction to the Gospel. Luke touches the same theme when  the angel’s tell the shepherds: “And this will be a sign to you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”.


This is not us begging God for a sign. It is God taking the initiative giving us a sign that shall transform the world.



As signs go, this is an unlikely one. Babies are being born all the time.


Every minute a host of new babies make their entry into this life. They whimper and cry, suckle, dirty their nappies,  and sleep. Their mothers think that each one is the most beautiful baby ever born, and their fathers (well most fathers, anyway!) look on with pride and protective love.


But let’s face it: babies are common place. There is nothing unusual about a baby that we should look on it as a sign of God’s presence and salvation. Babies are just a part of life. Even if some baby should be called Emmanuel, God with us, it is not sufficient to make us sit up and take notice.



One more baby is not the kind of sign to grab a king’s attention.


Yet this sign of God is the reason why we are here together in this house of prayer at this moment. Although it is faithless to ask for a sign, it is also grave faithlessness to ignore the sign that God has given.




I guess this is one of the sad ironies:


On one hand you have cunning evaders like King Ahaz who appear very religious as they mouth: “I will not test God by asking for a sign,” yet who refuse to believe the sign that God has already given.


On the other hand there are those who believe God’s sign and get on with the religious, social and political implications. Such folk are usually mocked or persecuted, denigrated as trouble makers by Ahaz and all his contemporary political avatars.


It has been the fate of many of the greatest believers to be either ignored, derided or persecuted because they have truly taken Emmanuel seriously.




Let’s get this clear :  If you in your whole life have no other sign of God than that given in the stable at Bethlehem, you have more than enough to make your life one long song of creative service and praise.


Do not be distracted by those seemingly very pious and proud people who are always boasting of the signs God gives them. According to them, hardly a day goes by without the Lord signalling this or that. Yet is it is my experience that it  is those of weak faith who clutch at signs.


Rather, I admire those among my sisters and brothers who have done marvellously with no other sign than that of Christ Jesus.


There is no more significant sign than that Emmanuel in a manger. It will keep you busy and grateful for the rest of your life.


       Therefore our God will give you a sign. Look, a young woman will conceive and bear a        son, and shall call his name Emmanuel.    Isaiah 7:14




Holy Friend, we thank you for the simple, humble things

that come to us, bringing flashes of light and joy.


Thank you for-

     A thrush singing its heart out on a chilly dawn.

     Wildflowers in bushland or on the wide plains.

     Music that touches deep places in our soul.

     A small child having conversation in make-believe land.


Thanks for-

     A meal waiting for us when we arrive home late from work.

     The savouring of words from a favourite poem or song.

     A small act of courtesy on a train, tram or bus.

     The person who chats with us in a gathering of strangers.


Thanks for-

     Congregations worshipping inside open doors.

     A verse from the Bible that comfort us in distress.

     The smiling person who welcomes us when we visit another church.

     A simple carol that releases feelings of love and wonder.


Loving God, best of all we thank you for your Holy Child, Jesus,

            who though he was divinely rich, for our sakes became poor,

            and was carried in the womb of a village carpenter’s wife

            who took refuge in a cattle shed, and there gave birth,

            cleaving history with a light and joy that can never be smothered.


O Holy Friend, thanks and praise belong to you for ever!

     Through Christ Jesus our Saviour.





Remembering how God chose a humble young woman and a carpenter to provide the nurture for Christ Jesus, let us seek the special blessing of God upon the ordinary Christians who serve unnoticed and often unappreciated in the community.


Let us pray.


Responses:    L: Be with them, God of Jesus.

                                                            P: Be with them, Emmanuel.


Christian carpenters and other skilled workers who day by day ply their trades with skill and             integrity to the glory of God;


Reliable citizens in service organisations, local government, school committees, little aths, St John’s Ambulance, Scouts, and the rural fire service.


Christian police officers, street cleaners, teachers, gardeners, social workers, parking       attendants, nurses, shop assistants.


Single parents who are always on call,  providing physical and spiritual nurture and lovingly             attending to a thousand small details every day.


The ordinary believers in our own families whom we often take for granted, and steadfast             Christian friends who are always there when we need them.


The quiet achievers in our congregations, who though unheralded, express their faith in             numerous practical ways.


Ordinary pastors and priests of no remarkable gifts or fame, who lovingly and faithfully tend      the flock of Christ.


God of grace, we pray for these, and a host like them, who constantly leaven this world with goodness and mercy,  yet ask for nothing except the knowledge that they do Christ’s will.


Help us, loving God, to learn the way of Christ from one another, and in your hands may our very ordinariness become a witness to your glory in Emmanuel.. Through Jesus Christ our Saviour.





It is almost time for the special celebration of Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.



Go on your way rejoicing at the one who comes among us in humility, yet overflowing with grace and truth.



Grace mercy and peace, from the Creator, Saviour and Redeemer, will be with you now and always.

Thanks be to God!


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Although this book was written with young people in mind, it has proved to be popular with Christians or seekers of all ages. Through the eyes and ears of a youth named Chip, big questions are raised and wrestled with; faith and doubt,  unanswered  prayers, refugees,  death and grief, racism and bullying, are just a few of the varied topics confronted in these pages. Suitable as a gift to the young, and proven to be helpful when it has been used as a study book for adults.

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This collection of original, contemporary prayers is anchored firmly in the belief that no matter what the immediate future may hold for us, ultimately Jesus is himself both the goal and the shape of our future.  He is the key certainty towards which the Spirit of God is inexorably leading us in this scientific and high-tech era. Although the first pages of this book were created for the turn of the millennium, the resources in this volume reflect the interests, concerns and needs of our post-modern world.