We gather at this Christmastide to celebrate the child who was born in the stable at Bethlehem, bringing joy and hope to the world. So we come as we are and offer our worship to Jesus. Lord, come close to us as we come close to you.
Call To Worship
Lord Jesus, for whom there was no room in the inn
Help us to make room in our hearts for you.
Lord Jesus, a star shone brightly in the sky to announce your birth
Lead us to your light that we might worship you
Lord Jesus, angels sang at your birth filling the heavens with a celebration of divine love
Fill us with joy as we sing the praises of the Christ child, who is God-with-us.
Carol 306 – O come, all ye faithful
Our God, You turn night to light; your glory shines in the deepest darkness; your grace breaks the power that would keep us down. You are the giver of life and bringer of hope; answering the yearnings of our hearts. You point to a different way, where justice, righteousness, and peace blossom; where sorrow is swapped for the sounds of singing, and where joy abides forever.
Great Giver of Gifts, this night we celebrate you. We wonder with the shepherds, we rejoice with the angels. We hear again that ancient story made new in us once more that warms our hearts and reminds us of mercy, fashioned in flesh and bone. With the angels, and with countless generations through the ages, we cry: ‘Glory to God in the highest!’.
O, God, whose glory shines upon us in this season of long nights, whose light flickers in the darkness and cannot be put out, whose love warms even the coldest of hearts, we sometimes lose our way, our bearings, as we journey on your path.
May the star that shone above the stable in Bethlehem reorient us, and lead us back to you. May we be your people of peace, proclaiming your kingdom of justice and righteousness with joy, with hope, and with love in our hearts. And may the message of the child in the manger be born in us this day. Amen
Carol 321 – Come and join the celebration
Reading – Isaiah 9: 2-7
Luke 2: 1-14
Hymn 300 – The Virgin Mary had a baby boy
God of mystery and manger, as we listen to the familiar story of your coming among us as a child of flesh and blood, open our minds and hearts so that we may hear these wondrous events with new understanding, wisdom and joy.
I was speaking with the school children this week – the first time for 2 years. I was asking how many had Advent calendars, and most of the hands went up – the teachers; hands too. I think most of them would have chocolate calendars. I have one this year, but not a chocolate one; rather, it tells the story of Sami, a boy whose family has fled Syria and who settle in Lebanon. They have no shelter, no shoes, no clothes, but are met with kindness, and by window 24 Sami is at school and integrated into the community with everybody helping one another. There is always the excitement of opening each door to find out the next part of the story.
There are of course open doors and shut doors in the Christmas story. When Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem, Joseph had not booked ahead! So they went to the inn, the house where travellers would have stayed, but because of the census, it was busy. We are all familiar with the words from Luke’s Gospel that there was no room at the inn. A shut door, and often the innkeeper is portrayed as boorish and ready to slam the door in their face. However, I was reading an account of this story, and, yes, the innkeeper had been saying ‘No’ all night. No, you can’t get a room for tonight. No, you can’t have more towels. No, you can’t have seconds. No, you can’t have your mother-in-law and her whole family to share your room. No, no, no….
When the bell rang once more, he swung it open ready to launch into his usual spiel, when he hesitated. He was trying to say ‘No’, but the man looked so concerned and the woman was about to have a baby and instead of no, his lips moved in another direction and he said ‘yes’. But we haven’t asked you anything, the couple said. The innkeeper just said ‘yes’. ‘So you have a room’? ‘Yes’. In here or round the back? ‘Yes’. It was a new experience for him to say Yes, that he was positively beaming. ’Which’, and he took them round the back to the stable. And once the baby was born, and people like the shepherds came to the door asking for the family, the innkeepers answer was always Yes.
Such has been the way of all those caught up in the Christmas story. Mary said yes to the angel, telling her she would bear the son of God. Joseph said yes. The shepherds said yes to the choir of angels and now the innkeeper. The answer to Christmas is ‘Yes’ and it changes everything.
For at Christmas God says ‘Yes’ to the world. By the birth of the baby in the manger, so vulnerable, God was fulfilling the prophecies of the likes of Isaiah that a boy would be born, with the titles: wonderful counsellor, prince of peace. God was saying ‘Yes’ to a careworn people, full of anxiety:
You are deeply loved,
Just as you are, forgiven, loved and challenged to be
The very best you can be.
So I am speaking to you in the only way I know how-
From a stable,
In a child born in poverty,
Soon to grow to maturity,
born to show you in a human life
the love of God.
God says ‘Yes’, affirming the world that he will not abandon us, but rather is born among us as a baby. Looking at that scene in the stable demands some response from us. We are invited to say ‘Yes’ too and live our lives according to God’s ways, showing the Advent gifts of joy and hope and love and peace to all.
Carol 309 – Still the night
Prayers of Intercession
God of the starry heavens and the good old earth,
Eternal God, God with us,
Tonight you 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.
Tonight 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.
Tonight 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 each of us and for all of us.
Tonight as we remember the father Joseph protecting his little one,
we pray for all those watching over the helpless and the hopeless...
Be with all those who must work tonight
to keep the world safe and to care for those in need….
Be with those who are sick or sad or lonely
so each one will know your comforting presence.
God of the starry heavens and the good old earth,
Eternal God, God with us,
Tonight 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 him,
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. Amen
Carol 303 – It came upon the midnight clear (1,3,5)
May the news of the angels fill your heart with great joy.
May the star that guided the wise lead you to the truth of understanding
May the witness of the shepherds affirm in you the message of the Gospels
May the presence of the sacred baby bring you peace and joy
And May God this Christmas bless you, comfort you and inspire you as you journey into another year, Amen.