Thomas Cranmer loved the Church of England and worked hard to keep her prayers (and prayer book) pleasing to God. Here’s how Tim Keller describes the impact of Cranmer (with a little background):
Years ago when I wanted to become more skillful in public prayer, I was fortunate to come across the collects of Thomas Cranmer, the writer of the original Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. The “collects” (the stress is on the first syllable) that Cranmer wrote were brief but extremely ‘packed’ little prayers that tied together the doctrine of the day to a particular way of living. They were prayed by the minister on behalf of the people, or prayed in unison by the whole congregation.
As I have read them over the years they have brought me two great benefits. First, they have given me a basic structure by which I can compose good public prayers, either ahead of time, or spontaneously. Cranmer’s collects consist of 5 parts:
1. The address – a name of God
2. The doctrine – a truth about God’s nature that is the basis for the prayer
3. The petition – what is being asked for
4. The aspiration – what good result will come if the request is granted
5. In Jesus’ name – this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus
So, what do we make of this? Well, it’s encouraging because of the collects related to Christmas Day (and this year, we have a Christmas Day on a Sunday) and you can read these collects, with history, and a meditation here.
The First Collect
God, which makes us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of thy only Son Jesus Christ; grant that as we joyfully receive him for our redeemer, so we may with sure confidence behold him, when he shall come to be our judge, who liveth and reigneth, &c.
The Second Collect
Almighty God, which has given us thy only begotten son to take our nature upon him, and this day to be born of a pure Virgin; grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost now and ever. Amen.
I like Paul Zahl’s summary: “The two Collects for Christmas are so arranged as to give priority in time to the for-ness of Christ. The prayer for the First Communion of Christmas stresses the Atonement. But Christ’s with-ness is also celebrated, in the prayer for the Second Communion of the Day, which stresses the Incarnation.”
So, Cranmer and Christmas helps us see these amazing theological themes wed: that Jesus became like us to do something for us, specifically save us from our sin. I hope you’re building up to have a Merry Christmas.