Advent Devotional Day 31: “To Thy Pleasure and Disposal”

December 31, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: Luke 1:38; Philippians 2:5-11

United Methodists have a liturgy for the new year called the Covenant Renewal or Watch Night service. I’ve never been part of a Methodist church that observed it (frankly, it would be a tough sell against our culture’s traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations), but we often include a prayer from the service on or around New Year’s Day. Wesley didn’t write it, but he adapted it for this service:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

The prayer emphasizes God’s sovereignty to a possibly uncomfortable degree. What would it mean, after all, for us to “have nothing” or to be “laid aside” or “brought low” for God? Do you really want to find out? If we did, we might be tempted to imagine that God were punishing us. Not necessarily, this prayer says. 

It also challenges us to resist the temptation to imagine God as a sleepy, grandfatherly figure, who may not like what’s going on in the world but isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it. It assumes that what God wants will not be frustrated by human sin or naturally occurring events.

This prayer challenges us to place our lives at God’s disposal, trust that we’ll be O.K. one way or another, and learn to say, “So be it.” Just like Mary in Luke 1:38.

In fact, the prayer puts into words a prayerful response to Paul’s words in Philippians 2, when he urges us to have the “same mind” among us as is in Christ. When we pray, “Let me be empty” and “I heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal,” it’s hard not to think of the self-emptying love of God in Jesus Christ, “who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself.”

Just think: Christ emptied himself so much that he let himself become the size of a single cell in Mary’s womb. And he let himself be born not in an opulent palace but a lowly cattle stall.

Would you be content to be “laid aside” for God’s sake? Would you be happy if God let you have nothing? Why or why not?

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