Christmas Day 2022: The Word became flesh

Worship on Christmas Day
10:00 am December 25, 2022
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Bradley Childs
Music director: Binu Kapadia
Vocalists: Glynnis and Fionna McCrostie

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting:
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you
P: and also with you

Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

*Call to worship:
L: Christmas Day is a time for rejoicing!
P: Arise and shine for our light has come. The time of waiting is over.
L: Amid all that is still wrong in the world, we proclaim that God comes to us in Jesus Christ.
P: Arise and shine for our light has come. The glory of God is revealed.
L: We gather on this joyful day, to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s love that will never let us go.
P: Arise and shine for our light has come. The glory of God is revealed. Our Saviour is born.
L: As we light the Christ candle, trust that the light of God has come in Jesus and can never be put out. Stand open to the presence and power of God with us in Christ, even here, even now.

The Christ Candle is lit

*Opening praise: O come all ye faithful (159)

Prayers of approach and thanksgiving

Lord today we gather openly to worship you (as many do – and even more would like to do.) And yet we acknowledge that there are still 30 some countries in the world where Christians just like us can be killed for doing what we are doing tonight.

Lord be with them in their silent and hidden worship.

Our God, We gather here to remember that you are unchanging.

Lord we praise you.

In the dawn of time you created the world, sending light by your Word to dispel darkness.

In Jesus Christ you began a new creation, sending him to be the Light of the world, to drive away fear and despair, and to rule in peace and justice, holiness, and love.

Father let us never forget how blessed we are. Let us never take you for granted. Never allow us to ignore all the wonderful gifts (people) you surround us with.

Aid our hands and use them to comfort the ill and lonely, the suffering and comfortable alike.

We pray
for the nations of the earth and peace in the world…
for victims and survivors of violence…
for those who are traveling and for the people we meet…
for our families and friends…

Help us to share the ministry of Christ and be agents of his compassion.

Help make peoples our business, love our currency, compassion our purpose.

Help us to love the seemingly unloved
to care for the neglected
and to be worthy of the name Christian (Little Christs’) which we claim for ourselves.

All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, born not to an earthly kingdom but to a peasant family, refugees, with no place to rest their heads. Amen.

Musical Offering: How many kings[1] (Brad, Binu, Glynnis and Fionna)

We listen for the voice of God

Gradual: Open our eyes, Lord  (145)

Children’s Time

Story Book: An Angel Came to Nazareth (by Maggie Kneen[2])

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535)

Transition music

*Song: It came upon a midnight clear vss 1,2,5 (148)

Scripture readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 and John 1:1-14

Response: Oh come let us adore him

Today’s Message: “The Word Became Flesh”

Side 1: Luis Palau tells of a wealthy European family he knew.[3] They had decided to have their newborn baby boy baptized. Dozens of guests were invited to their large estate home for an elaborate celebration the Friday before the special occasion. The partygoers arrived dressed in the finest clothes and emerged from some of the nicest cars you might ever see. After depositing their elegant wraps on the bed in an upstairs room, the guests were entertained with music and dancing.

Soon the time came for the main event. The baby was to be presented with his gifts. But he wasn’t in his carriage. The child’s parents and the nanny ran throughout the house desperately searching for the lost son, but he was nowhere to be found. The guests stood amazed at what transpired, and whispers filled the house with talk of possible kidnapping and ransom… but we’ll get back to that.

Some 2000 years ago a poor man and his fiancée traveled many miles along certain dangerous and winding roads. Due to the census Joseph was to go to Bethlehem (an un-walled village 5 miles from Jerusalem; then with about 500 residents) to register with his wife for a tax census.

The reason for this we are told is simple. Joseph was from the line of David and had to go back to where his family originally lived and worked. It’s important to note that hospitality in first century Judaism was a major part of life. Taking friends and relatives into your home was one of the most important things that a person could do. At the time it would have been unthinkable for Mary and Joseph to seek a public inn, if indeed one even existed in a tiny place like Bethlehem.

More than likely Jesus was born in a cave (sort of like a garage) out back behind the family home or in the courtyard attached to a home of Joseph’s extended family who lived permanently in Bethlehem. Some misconceptions concerning the circumstances of His birth result from a mistranslation of kataluma that literally means “guest room,” and certainly not “inn” the way that we would understand it. They also reflect a Western rather than a Middle Eastern understanding of the cultural factors involved.

For example, when Luke refers to the “inn” where the Samaritan brought the wounded Jewish traveler, Luke used this term pandocheion (Luke 10:34). This word means “inn” in koine Greek, at least more like we would describe one (in that rooms were rented for money). But that is not the word that Luke uses here in the story of Jesus’ birth. Instead, here Luke writes that there was no room in the kataluma or “guest-space” (the same kind of space where Luke says that the “last supper” took place in the kataluma or “upper room” of a large wealthy home).

What’s more, in that small village, family members would not have accepted such a rejection of their hospitality, especially in view of the imminent birth of a firstborn child. It was a thing of great honor to care for guests. But still, for some unknown reason there was no room in the kataluma for Joseph and the very pregnant Mary. The family home no doubt would be filled with traveling relatives whom all had come to Bethlehem for the same reason Mary and Joseph traveled there. It is likely that the room was already filled with other relatives although it is technically possible that the unwed Mary and Joseph were simply rejected from the honorable location due to Mary’s unwed pregnancy.

At the time most homes in Bethlehem were plain and simple structures. Everything took place in the home; births, marriages and even deaths all took place at home. Several generations might share the same small structure and multiple families shared a single front yard space. Only a few years ago in an excavation site located in Ephraim just twelve miles northwest of Jerusalem archeologists discovered a remarkably well preserved example of a commoner first century Jewish village home. This simple home provides a good example of the kind of home in which Jesus may have been born.

The home is made up of four rooms and consists of two levels. The home was built right next to a small cave that opens into the home. It had one solid wall and three others built simply by columns to hold up the roof. The walls are stone and mud and the roof is made from sticks and crude mortar. It had stairs that led up to the roof which served as a work space, an additional place to sleep and a play area for children.

Apparently, the roof was a common play area for children at the time. Can you imagine that. Where are the kids Brad? Oh don’t worry honey their up playing on the roof. In Jesus’ day kids played on the roof for fun, in mine we had B.B. gun fights, my kids can’t even ride a bike without a Helmut and by the time I’m a grandfather the government will probably require kids to wear knee and elbow pads just to walk the street.

The second level served as sleeping courters for the whole family and also the kitchen pantry with niches carved into the wall for storage. There might be a small closet for additional storage as well but only if you had a good job. The base level is one large living room space that was half covered by the roof and the other half that served as a communal courtyard and animal pen shared with neighbors. Animals were usually brought into the lower level through here at night for safety, and in the winter, to provide warmth. There you could work and cook and could easily move your animals inside for the night when needed.

Guests would usually stay in an empty storage room or guestroom but for Jesus this kataluma would not be available. As Luke tells us, “there was no room in the kataluma”. In the courtyard measuring three or four feet in length the partial wall dividing the animal’s space in the court from the living room. There is a large grove cared in the stone wall measuring three to four feet in length. The cavity was used to hold fodder for the animals. It’s called a “phatne” or manger. Most likely this is the scene that Luke is describing for us.

Mary and Joseph go to a family house in Joseph’s home town and find it full of other relatives. Finding no space in the kataluma they retire to the cave (like a garage) or to the communal courtyard with the animals. There Mary gives birth to a tiny screaming child surrounded by neighbors, animals, and neighbors’ animals out in the open shared space for all to see.

When a newborn baby came into the world a female family member would then cut the cord, wash the baby with water, rub salt on the child and then wrap the baby in swaddling clothes. Swaddling clothes were strips of left over cloth wrapped tightly around the infant’s limbs to hold them straight in case of broken bones. Most likely a relative of Joseph did this for Mary and Jesus and then Jesus was placed in the long niche carved from stone previously filled with animals’ food.

And this is the birth of the King of Kings who came to take all sin away. This was the birth of Jesus called Christ / Messiah / Savior. This is how God came down to be with us; leaving the perfection of heaven for the stench of the food trough.

Back in the large estate home with the lost child the world was spinning out of control. The child’s parents and the nanny ran throughout the house desperately searching for the lost son but he was nowhere to be found. Then the mother remembered he had been asleep on the bed. Frantically she flew up the stairs, through the expensive coats to the floor and digging through the pile she finally found her son. There she found him the very object of the day’s celebration forgotten, neglected; alive but nearly smothered.

In a way, little has changed in our world. In the last 2000 years we’ve become very good at ignoring the guest of honor on Christmas day. We’ve taken Christmas but forgotten Christ. Our guestrooms are full with weary travelers but there is still very often “no room at the inn”.

But remember I said I was going to tell you two sides of the same story. That was just Story 1.

Side 2.: The other side of this story is that things have changed a lot. It would be easy to end the sermon with “no room in the inn” but it’s just not the whole truth. Yeah it’s true we do get a little carried away at times with Christmas and Christ sometimes gets put on the bed with the coats.

But there are also a lot of guest rooms open for him too! Yeah some forget or just plain don’t care what this day is about and some find other noble things to celebrate along with us. But there is room at the inn. Katalumas are open in homes all over this city. I dare you to walk more than 6 bocks without seeing a nativity set in someone’s window or on their front lawn proudly proclaiming the Birth of Christ. 2000 years ago almost no one knew. Today a billion people sit in churches together with Him. Some push and shove at malls but others smile and find themselves somehow more polite than usual. Some by gifts because they think they have too, but most… generously share with those they love. “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs appear on our streets. Well wishes fill our stores. People are giving to charities 20% more this month than any other day of the year. Charitable organizations the world over rely on us Christians at Christmas for ¼ of their total budgets. People are reaching out to the lonely, feeding the hungry, clothing the needy. Some say Merry Christmas and others Happy Holidays, but a holiday means Holy Day and Christ is proclaimed anyway.

Yes one side of the Christmas story is that there is no room at the inn and that will continue on for some time. Not everyone will open their doors to Him. But there is another side to this great day… another side to the story. Room or not, forgotten for a time or not, sooner of later the baby is remembered. There is no stopping Him. Room enough for Him or not. He came just the same. And if the people in this room are proof of anything… he’s here to stay. Today, thanks to you, there is plenty of room in the inn. Praise be to Jesus the Christ, Light of the World, Hope for every moment.

Amen and Merry Christmas!

*Song: Joy to the world vss 1,2,4 (153)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: Christmas celebrates the miracle of God’s love, born for us in Christ Jesus, to change the world with acts of mercy and generosity, hope and healing. Share in that miracle by giving what you can, knowing God can do more than we can ask or imagine with our gifts.

Prayer of gratitude, and prayer of celebration

Generous and loving God, your gift to us in Christ Jesus still draws us to the manger and opens our hearts with wonder. Bless our gifts in his name, so that they may draw others to your love and the blessing we have found in the One born for us – the reason we have to celebrate all year round and more. Amen.

*Song: Go, tell it on the mountain (133)

Sending out with God’s blessing

Rejoice this day that Christ is born for us, lived as one of us, died for our sake, and is risen to walk beside us through whatever the future holds.

So may the tenderness of God enfold you, the promise of the Christ uphold you, and the strength of the Spirit lead you on, to greet the year ahead, filled with grace and truth. Amen.

Response: We wish you a merry Christmas

Music postlude

[1]https://www.google.com/search?gs_ssp=eJzj4tFP1zcsNjDNSSo2TzZg9OLLyC9XyE3Mq1TIzsxLLwYAi3QJqA&q=how+many+kings&oq=How+many+kings&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j46i131i433i512j0i512l8.3015j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Angel-Came-Nazareth-Templar/dp/0811847985

[3] https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/where-is-the-child-1109726.html


Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specifications of Dayspring licensing with One Licence (3095377) and CLC (A735555).

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

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