Sunday (Zoom from the sanctuary) Christmas Eve message: Jesus being born where people need Him most

Worship on Christmas Eve

Music prelude

Greeting

Good evening, it’s wonderful to have you join in with our online worship service. My wish for you is that you’ll be fed spiritually during this Christmas season, especially while it’s lodged right in the middle of a very tiring and draining pandemic. May God nourish your hearts.

Prayer

Holy and loving God, You stir in our hearts and bring joy to our lives; You stir in our minds and bring wisdom to our thoughts; You stir in the world and bring hope to our future. You came as a little child, stirring up our praises, so now we come to adore you with the angels; to bow with the shepherds; to kneel in wonder with the magi; to ponder your mystery with Joseph; to love and cherish you with Mary.

We come to you with humble hearts full of joy because you came to us first. Amen

Carol: Oh come, all ye faithful       (vs. 1,2,4)

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:

(Refrain)
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
‘Glory to God in the highest!’

(Refrain)

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

Scripture reading I

Isaiah 9:2-7 (Old Testament – New Revised Standard Version)

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
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.

Carol: It came upon the midnight clear (vs. 1,2,5)    

It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth
to touch their harps of gold:
‘To all the earth goodwill and peace,
from heaven’s all gracious King!’
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats
o’er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains
they bend on hovering wing,
and ever o’er its babel sounds
the blessed angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophets seen of old,
when with the ever circling years
shall come the time foretold,
when peace shall over all the earth
God’s promised splendours fling,
and all the world take up the song,
which now the angels sing.

Words: Edmund Sears
Music: Richard Willis
Both Public domain

Scripture reading II

Luke 2:1-7 (New Testament – New Revised Standard Version)

The Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Carol: What child is this

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce him through,
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the babe, the son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh;
come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high;
the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Words: William Dix, Music: English Traditional
Both Public Domain

Scripture reading III

Luke 2:8-14 (New Testament – New Revised Standard Version)

The Shepherds and the Angels

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Carol: Hark the herald angels sing            

Hark! the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King, peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled. Joyful, all ye nations, rise; join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’
Hark! the herald angels sing
glory to the newborn King,

Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord, late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail the incarnate deity! Pleased on earth with us to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing
glory to the newborn King

Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the sun of righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. Mild, he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise the lost of earth, born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing
glory to the newborn King,

Words: Charles Wesley, alt; French, Edmond Budry © World Student Christian Federation from Cantate Domino
Music: Felix Mendelssohn; arrangement, William Cummings public domain; License #A735555. All rights reserved, Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE       

Scripture reading IV

Luke 2:15-20

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Carol: In the bleak midwinter            

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan;
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall welcome him when he comes to reign:
in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshipped the Beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet
what I can I give him: give my heart.

Words: Christina Rossetti; public domain
Music: Gustav Holst © Oxford University Press
Permission to stream the music in this service obtained from
ONE LICENSE

Message: “Jesus being born where people need Him most”

It happens so easily that our circumstances make us wonder whether God is still real and still “there for me.” Sometimes our concern whether God is still there for us can come from a misplaced idea of who God is and what God is supposed to be doing. Perhaps we might have grown up with the idea that praying to God means asking God for things and expecting that a seriously praying person should get what they ask for. Although we know that this isn’t how the Lord works in reality, it easily happens that our expectations aren’t met.

Do we do that to Christmas as well? When I ask myself whether there is something specific that gives the birth of Jesus a type of wow-effect, I get stopped in my tracks. What is so special about the nativity story of Christmas eve? Is there something extraordinary about this day which we zero in to? We know that God becoming a human being and living among us is a huge miracle. Beyond that, is there something awe-inspiring that blows the mind away? Do we learn anything new?

One thing that stands above so many other pieces in the nativity story according to Luke’s gospel, turns out to be related to power. Both political power as well as religious power are side-stepped when the angel makes the announcement of the birth of the Christ-child.

Who hears the angel’s announcement? While the politicians, Augustus and Quirinius are mentioned, they aren’t the ones addressed. The angel doesn’t announce the baby Jesus’ birth to the high priesthood found in Ananias and Caiaphas. The arrival of Christ isn’t shared to these priests in the temple. The news is directed toward somewhere else than to the church or to the headlines of the newspapers.

Instead, the audience is found in the fields where the sheep are being watched over. Jesus came for smelly people such as shepherds .. and the likes of me! The bottom-line is that the shepherds who received the Good News, were the social outcasts among outcasts. They weren’t allowed into the temple. Even worse, they were restricted to outside the city limits, lumped in with the tax-collectors and prostitutes of those days. No wonder that shepherds would have given up on God.

Nobody wanted to know a shepherd or be associated with one. If my younger brother was a shepherd, I might even have described their job a little differently, just to make it look better. Shepherds were out in the cold, isolated, and disenfranchised.

This is where God goes to. Craig A. Satterlee [i]writes that “God brings great joy to those who need it most (in this place of social rejection).” And God does even more.

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Luke 2:8-9). We for whom the church holds a central place sometimes look upon the shepherds as “outsiders.”

They are the types we would rather not mix with.

Perhaps you feel like you’ve given up on God, and like the church is the last place you’d want to be seen. Perhaps life has thrown a weird misfortune in your direction.

The Good News is that an angel of the Lord went and stood right before such outcasts. Not in a church or in the legislature, but in the cold, uncomfortable fields.

Including shepherds, means including all those who don’t feel at home in what is called “church” or “institutionalized religion”.

The word church has often been described as the place for hypocrites, or for people who think they are holier than the rest of society. Whether that is fair or not, the reality is that this happens.

This is where the wonder of wonders, the miracle of miracles happens. According to Luke’s account of the story of Jesus’ birth, the news of a baby born, to bring justice back into the world, happens right in the middle of the ones who expect it the least.

The message of glad tidings of joy, of light in the darkness, and of warmth in the cold, is meant for all people, for those that may have been privileged as well as those who may be feeling far removed.

Jesus was indeed born where people need Him the most. As Luke put it elsewhere in the gospel that he wrote, God came not to help those who don’t think they need a doctor, but to those who know how much they are in need.

When you might be on the brink of giving up on God, know that it is for you too that God sent Jesus Christ. Amen

Scripture reading V

John 1:1-5, 9-14

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. 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 true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Lighting of the Christ candle

Carol: 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 Saviour is born!
Christ, the Saviour 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.

Prayer

God of the starry heavens and the good old earth, eternal God, God with us, You have come among us in the figure of a baby, a newborn reaching out to us, to bring a smile to our lips and hope to our hearts. Thank you for your tenderness with which You touch our lives. This Christmas as we remember the baby lying in a manger, we pray for peace… Peace in all the places where there is anger or war or fear… Peace in all the hearts that know sorrow or stress…

We pray for people who will not sleep safely tonight because of conflict in their lives… Cradle all these people and places in your love so the world may sleep in heavenly peace this night. This Christmas as we remember the mother Mary rocking her baby, we pray for all children born this Christmas season… Watch over mothers and fathers and grandparents, hoping for the best for their newborns…

Help us create communities where every child is valued and every family has enough… May families rejoice because Christ the Saviour is born for us, for each of us and for all of us. This Christmas as we remember the father Joseph protecting his little one, we pray for all those watching over the helpless and the hopeless this season. Be with all those who must work this holiday to keep the world safe and to care for those in need… Be with those who are sick or sad or lonely so that each one will know your tender touch. God of the starry heavens and the good old earth, eternal God, God with us, this Christmas as we remember the shepherds coming in haste and the wise men coming in wonder, open our hearts to reach out to the Christ Child, to receive the gift you offer us in Jesus, even as we offer our love to you in his name. Bless us in the year ahead so we can share your love with all the lives that touch ours.

May our hearts sing with the Christmas angels, Glory to you, O God, and on earth, peace for all who wonder at your love.
Amen

Sending out with God’s blessing

To you is born this day a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. May the love of the Christ Child embrace you. The joy of the Christ Child fill your heart. May the peace of the Christ Child give you rest, and the hope of the Christ Child guide you into the year ahead. Amen.

Carol: 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
Music postlude


[i] Satterlee, Craig A. (2020, December 24). Christmas eve: nativity of our Lord. Working Preacher. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/christmas-eve-nativity-of-our-lord/commentary-on-luke-21-14-15-20-3


7:00 pm – December 24, 2020

led by Rev. Heinrich Grosskopf

reader: Darolyn McCrostie

vocalist: Glynnis McCrostie


Copyright 2020 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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Posted in Recent Sermons.