We gather on this Christmas Eve. This year we celebrate a little differently but we still 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.
Lighting of Advent Crown
We light this candle for the new-born Christ, re-awakening hope and faith
As we receive your promise, you are light, you are hope
Carol 284 (verse 5)– Christ is the light
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 315 – Once in royal David’s city
God beyond naming, God beyond defining, God for whom we yearn, we come before you this holy night: hear our prayer.
We are not many wise, not many great, not many powerful, but we dare to ask for a word from you this night. We have looked for you in many ways and places, in desperate trouble, in deep despair, when all else fails, to come with might and power. Tonight, we would look for you in a different way, and in a different place. In tenderness and in pain, in quietness and in secret, in human need and parents’ love, in joy, but also in suffering. Show us yourself in the baby of Bethlehem and help us to see you as you really are.
We pray in the name of that same child, Jesus, Mary’s Son. Amen
Carol 312 – Away in the manger
Reading – Isaiah 9: 2-7
Luke 2: 1-14
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.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to this area was that people like dogs, and wherever I went in the parish people would be out walking their dogs. What is it about dogs – and babies? You can walk down the road on your own and greet people, pass the time of day and then move on. But if you have a dog or if you are pushing a pram, everyone is suddenly your friend. There is an instant rapport. All barriers tumble down, and a bridge of understanding is established, as the other person oohs and ahhs at the baby or tickles Bonzo’s ears. A friendship is formed, often to be continued the next morning and so on thereafter.
How clever of God, when he really wanted to grab our attention, to send a baby! Everyone loves a baby, and soon angels and shepherds and later the wise astrologers from the east, such a diverse group, would surround the crib and all bill and coo and wonder what the baby will become, though both the astrologers and the angels had some good ideas. If you believe some of the school nativity plays, you have the donkey, cattle and sheep and the occasional camel playing their part too, though strangely no dogs – though a shepherd would surely have a dog. Everyone loves a baby – apart from King Herod, that is.
The prophet Isaiah tells us to expect a king from the line of David, and people immediately thought crowns and jewels and power, but no, God came as a baby, so that no-one would feel ashamed to approach him, no-one would feel too small in his presence. It was God’s sign that everyone was included and no-one was excluded.
A few miles away was Jerusalem, God’s holy city, but God’s son was not born there but in Bethlehem, the least of the cities of Judah, on the margins, because God sent this baby to be the champion of those on the margins – the homeless, the stranger, the down-trodden and broken-hearted. In Jesus, God became a child for us, so that we could give our hearts to him, for everyone loves a baby. And so this night we celebrate the birth of the baby who would change the world.
We all love a baby, but babies have a tendency to grow up, and so we cannot keep Jesus as a baby, wrapped up until next Christmas. We have to allow the boy to grow to become the prince of peace and saviour of the world.
Carol 309 – Silent Night
Prayers of Intercession
God of hope and healing,
As you came to us in love as the Christ child in Bethlehem, so we come to you with love and concern for the world.
In this time of quiet and contemplation we remember: families that live close to the edge of survival, worrying about where their next meal will come from, and where they will find shelter…(Hold a brief time of silence after this and each bidding)
those who will spend Christmas alone, or in hospital, or weighed down by grief…(Hold a brief time of silence)
those who work tonight or tomorrow, while we rest…(Hold a brief time of silence)
those who have lost their sense of joy and wonder and whose vision is clouded by cynicism or despair;(Hold a brief time of silence)
those who face the year ahead with fear and anxiety,
because of the pandemic and the uncertainty that surrounds us…
(Hold a brief time of silence)
those who celebrate the birth of a new life, a new love, or a new way of being…(Hold a brief time of silence)
those whom we have loved and who loved us, who now dwell in the eternal joy of your presence...(Hold a brief time of silence)Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen
Carol 301 – Hark! The herald angels sing
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.
Recessional Carol 306 – O come, all ye faithful