Worship on Christmas Eve, 7pm, December 24, 2021
Online & Onsite (Mixed Presence) Gathering as a Worshipping Community
Led by the Rev. Annabelle Wallace
Music Director: Binu Kapadia Vocalist: Fionna McCrostie
Cello: Kathleen De Caen
Elder: Jane de Caen
Reader: Nesta Sawdon
We gather to worship God
Welcome & announcements
We Approach God in Wonder
Words of promise
Listen to these promises of God: these Old Testament prophecies were recorded centuries before Jesus birth in Bethlehem. They are not predictions but they speak to us of God’s faithfulness and God’s never-ending plan to redeem his people. They speak to us of never ending HOPE.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. (Isaiah 60: 1-2)
The spirit of the Lord will be upon the future King to give him wisdom, understanding and insight. He will be powerful, and he will know the honour of the Lord. His greatest delight will be to obey the Lord. (Isaiah 11: 1-3)
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9: 6-7)
Christmas is a vivid reminder that God comes into the midst of a dark and threatening world to be with us, to empower us, to give us the assurance that God knows and cares. Christmas does not say to us that there never will be any more darkness. We know better than that. What it does say, is that “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. God has come to renew us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Special music (Vocal Solo): I am the light of the world (see here for a YouTube version by the Strathdees)
Lighting of the Christ candle
Creator God, you created all that is and said it is good, you have walked with your people throughout the ages, always bringing life out of death. You are the reason for the joy and celebration we feel, even within our darkened world. Through your love, a tiny child was born, to dwell among us. This Holy night we come to experience again the miracle of birth, the promise of new life, the joy of coming alive in Christmas sharing.
Thank you for the season of Christmas, with all its feelings of nostalgia, excitement, warmth and mystery. We delight in the security of knowing that you are a God of love, a God who is reachable and personal, a God who broke into our lives at the first Christmas and who continues to break into our lives today. We rejoice that our eyes have been opened and through Jesus Christ we know we are loved, accepted and called. God of gifts – hear our thanks for your many blessings. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen
Song: O Come all ye faithful vs.1-4
Oh come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant;
oh come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him, born the King of angels:
Refrain: Oh come, let us adore him; oh come, let us adore him; oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
God of God, Light of light, born unto Mary, the virgin blest, very God, begotten, not created:
See how the shepherds, summoned to his cradle, leaving their flocks draw nigh with holy fear; we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps:
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation; sing, all ye citizens of heaven above: Glory to God in the highest.
Words: Latin, John Wade; translation F. Oakeley; public domain. Alt; French Claude Rozier. Public domain. Music: anonymous; arrangement & descant, Hymns Ancient and Modern Ltd 1947 © by Hope Publishing Co. License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE
Meditation “What’s it all about?”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth.”
Once upon a Christmas Eve, a family prepared to go to worship. The mother and children were dressed and ready to go – they made one last attempt to get their father and husband to come with them. Once again he said no.
The man sat in reflective silence before the fireplace. “There is no point to a God who becomes a human being” he thought. “Why would an all-powerful God want to share even one of God’s precious moments with the likes of us?” And even if God did do that, why would God choose to be born in such humble surroundings. No way! The whole thing is absurd! I’m sure that if God really wanted to come down to earth, God would have chosen some other way. I just can’t see the sense of a story that tells us that God became like us and lived like us.”
Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted by a horrendous noise outside. He went to the window and saw a gaggle of geese frantically honking aimlessly flopping about in the snow.
They seemed dazed and confused. It was late in the season. They must have left late. And now they had dropped out in exhaustion from their flight to the warmer climates of the far south.
Moved to compassion the man tried to shoo the poor geese into his warm garage, but the more he ‘shooed’ the more they panicked. “If they only realized I’m trying to do what’s best for them,” he thought to himself. “How can I make them understand my concern for their wellbeing?” Then this thought came to him: “If for just a brief time I could become one of them, an ordinary goose and communicate with them in their own language, they would know what I am trying to do.”
And suddenly … suddenly, he remembered Christmas and a smile came over his face. Suddenly, he pictured that ordinary-looking infant, lying in the creche, in that stable in Bethlehem, and he knew the answer to his Christmas problem.
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Full of life and truth.
The Story – The Word made Flesh
Luke 2: 1 – 7
Song: Go tell it on the mountain
Refrain: Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night, behold, throughout the heavens there shone a holy light. Refrain
The shepherds feared and trembled, when lo, above the earth rang out the angel chorus that hailed our Saviour’s birth!
Down in a lowly manger the humble Christ was born, and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
Words and Music: John Work © John Work 1940 License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE
Luke 2: 8 – 14
Song: Angels from the realms
Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth; ye who sang creation’s story,
now proclaim Messiah’s birth.
Refrain: Come and worship, come and worship; worship Christ, the newborn King.
Shepherds in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night: God with us is now residing; yonder shines the infant Light. Refrain
Though an infant now we view him, he shall fill his Father’s throne, gather all the nations to him; every knee shall then bow down. Refrain
Words: James Montgomery; Music: Henry Smart both public domain
Luke 2: 15 – 20Song: O little town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by: yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above, while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love. O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth, and praises sing to God the King, and peace to all on earth.
O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; oh come to us, abide with us, our Lord, Emmanuel.
Words: Phillips Brooks; public domain Music:
Louis Redner; public domain
Meditation “All the insignificant people”
Luke makes a point of telling us that the people who first understood that God was active in the world and doing a new thing – were the least of society.
There were shepherds. Shepherds did not hold much sway in society. After all they worked out in the hills; they were on the fringe of society. Probably they were dirty and smelly when they did come to town. They were not very high on the status pole.
There were the parents, Mary and Joseph, very humble and simple folks. They were unimportant in the context of world events – they were simply numbers to be counted.
There was a small business man jut trying to make a living at a very hectic time – thanks to the political powers.
Simple folks, powerless folks yet God choose these people to be the bearers of God’s Good News of wholeness to all people. Into these insignificant hands God entrusted a precious gift – a baby who grew into a man of righteousness – who became the One who brought wholeness to a groaning world. Into these insignificant hands God entrusted God’s plans for the future. God counted on them.
And these simple, powerless and insignificant people received the gift, responded to the gift, proclaimed the gift and the world has been changed ever since.
We know that not everyone in Jesus day responded to the gift. Just as we know that not everyone in our day has responded to the light, there is still darkness in the world but we also know that others who have been caught by this message of salvation and brought light into the darkness around them and the darkness has never put out that light.
This evening we are reminded that we – we the worshippers – we who are powerless and insignificant people in the context of the world events of our day – have been entrusted with the same gift as those shepherds and parents years ago. We have been given the gift that we too like the shepherds, the parents; the innkeeper might nurture, proclaim and enact the gift. God is counting on us.
May we accept the gift, respond to the gift, proclaim the gift. After all God is counting on us.
Special music (Vocal Solo): Mary did you know (here is a version by Mat & Savannah Shaw)
Responding in Faith
Song: Silent Night
Silent night! holy night! All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and child, holy infant so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace; sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight: glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing ‘Hallelujah. Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!
Silent night! holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light, radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace. Jesus, Lord at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.
Words German, Joseph Mohr, translation John Young; Music: Franz Gruber. Both public domain
Presenting our offerings of time, talent, tithe
Instrumental music (Piano and Cello): O come, O come, Emmanuel
Prayer of gratitude
Gracious God, like the humble shepherds, curious townsfolk, heavenly angels we have come to adore the Holy Babe with our gifts. May our offerings of thanks become a means to bring about healing and support. May our lives become a beacon of service in your name that your world will become brighter place for all. Amen
Praise God with songs that never cease
Praise God who fills the earth with peace,
Praise God for love and joy within
The Holy Child is born again.
God of promises and action having heard the Christmas story – that is full of folks who represent the lowly, the poor, the ostracized – we bring to you our prayers for the suffering and outcasts of our society. We pray for the poor and lowly – may they hear your message that they are loved and important. May they find a “manger like” comfort this Christmas season. May we find ways to turn from “there is no room” to your gracious ways of sharing of resources.
We pray for those who are pushed to the fringe by our institutions and customs. May they hear your message of worth and acceptance. May we turn from our judging ways to your all-encompassing inclusive love. Help us to follow the ways of this babe born in Bethlehem.
God of Good News – of justice, mercy and grace help us to learn to share Your news with the world. Break into our world again this Christmas season and like those lowly Shepherds turn our lives around. In the name of the light of the world we pray. Amen
Song: Joy to the world vs. 1,2,4
Joy to the world! the Lord is come: let earth receive its King; let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns: let us our songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and wonders of his love, and wonders, wonders of his love.
Words: Isaac Watts, public domain. Alt Music: Lowell Mason;
harmony, Henry Rosevear © estate of Henry Rosevear
L: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
P: We have come from our shadows into the radiance of God’s splendor.
L: Behold a child is born for us and he shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of Peace.
P: Jesus Christ is our wonder, our wisdom, our peace, our source of light. Our call to Justice and Righteousness.
L: Go forth to shine in Jesus’ name!
May the love of God surround you, the peace of Christ attend you and the holy Spirit enkindle you this day and evermore. Amen
Response: Gloria in excelsis Deo
Excerpt from Angels we have heard on high Words: Luke 2:6-20; traditional French carol © public domain. Music: traditional; arrangement; Martin Shaw from Oxford Book of Carols © Oxford University Press, 1928
Annabelle Wallace retains the copyright (©2021) on all original material presented by her. As far as we are aware, all of the unattributed material presented herewith is Annabelle Wallace’s own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.