Led by Peter Powers
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Welcome and Call to Worship
Hello and welcome to Christmas day and our service of celebration at this holy time, as we mark the coming of Christ and of God in the babe Jesus, God of all people. Some kings have tried in vain to count the multitudes of their subjects. You instead invite all to a feast that celebrates the truest vocation of humanity to create community and give glory to you who made all. Today you invite us and we together turn to you in gratitude and thanks for your invitation. Amen.
Prayer and Introduction to “O Come all ye Faithful”
Let us pray. We sing a song today, a song for all of the wonder of your goodness. Authority resting on the small shoulders of a child who calls us to everlasting peace. Amen, amen, amen. Praise be to you o God, born among us. And we sing our first hymn, it’s the carol “O come all ye faithful”.
Hymn – O Come all ye Faithful
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
Let us pray. Jesus of Nazareth, small child of Bethlehem, you were not born in a stable but you were laid in a manger. A manger filled with warm hay, probably in the living room of Joseph’s kinsfolk in Bethlehem. We have all woken in homes today, some busy some quiet, some owned some temporary. Help us to see that our homes are the places where you come to live in all your glory and gather us here your people, held in the quiet of your birth among us, ordinary and extraordinary all at once. What are we but ordinary people to be called as witnesses to the great birth. We are the people you have called and we approach you in joy and humility, in gratitude and hope, glad to honour what is most important today, that all life is to be honoured and peace is to be sought. Jesus of Nazareth, the smallness of your birth in the confusion of a city calls us to smallness, and so often we too cause the confusion we get lost in so many things. We turn now from those ways of stress. We take a moment to recognize the quiet voice in us calling us back again and again to what matters most. Forgive us. Take us, quieten us, to pay attention to love. Amen.
Introduction to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
We sing our second carol together now, which is “O little town of Bethlehem”
Hymn – O Little Town of Bethlehem
Reading: Luke 2: 1-20
Introduction to “It came upon the midnight clear”
We sing our next carol! It’s the hymn “It came upon the midnight clear”.
Hymn: It came upon the midnight clear
[text given below]
What is it that excites you most about Christmas Day? Well there could be many things in your mind, not least that some of those excitements have been denied us because of the current restrictions across the country and elsewhere in the world. We’re grateful for the technology that allows us to speak to people, not just in the UK, family and friends but also those further afield. I read this poem which I’m going to share with you. The first Christmas by Marianne Swinger, and it puts us into the context of that first Christmas.
It never snows at Christmas in that dry and dusty land
instead of freezing blizzards there are palms and drifting sands
and years ago a stable and a most unusual star
and three wise men who followed it by camel not by car
while sleepy on the quiet hills a shepherd gave a cry
he’d seen a crowd of angels in the silent starlit sky
in the stable ox and ass stood very still and calm
and gazed upon the baby safe and snug in Mary’s arms
and Joseph lost in shadows, face lit by an oil lamps glow
stood wondering that first Christmas day two thousand years ago.
Well we might ponder as Mary did on the difference between our Christmas Day, assuming it goes reasonably as planned, and Christmas Day as described in that poem. In the busyness of today, how can we stay focused on the peace of the manger? God, it seems, has a habit of working in the most unlikely of places and through the most unlikely of people. We noticed the emperor exercising his power and declaring that all the world should be registered, yet in the midst of this display of power, with all its accompanying noise and chaos, we are taken in the story to a baby lying in a manger. We are reminded that amid the voices of power and the noise of life, God is quietly and gently and always present working in the most unexpected places. There’s something about taking the time to notice. It’s a gift that many have, recognizing that in the ordinariness of our everyday lives, God is at work. Imagine the shepherds in the field that night, tending to their sheep as usual, then all of a sudden an angel appearing and instructing them to go to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place. They encountered God in their place of work, not in a synagogue or a temple, not in a place where spiritual things are meant to happen, and having got their attention God takes them to the basement of an ordinary home. Is God trying to get your attention in order to look somewhere different? In luke’s gospel Emperor Augustus is portrayed as someone capable of ordering people half a world away to move around to be registered. That phrase is repeated three times in three verses. Still today there are people who have inordinate power over others half a world away. Politicians such as the President of the United States or the premier of China or even Boris Johnson, our own prime minister, come first to mind, but we might also think of those who influence the world’s media and social media, not just the owners, but also the so-called opinion formers, with millions of followers. But in the Gospel reading the focus quickly moves from such powerful people to Mary, pondering these things in her heart. I found this little poem which has helped me as I’ve prepared for this Christmas. It may help you too.
Stop focusing on the affairs of princes, presidents, prime ministers and other potentates on earth.
Don’t get carried away like excitable shepherds.
Just stop this day and ponder the things of heaven.
Amen and God bless you and all this Christmas.
Introduction to “Mary did you know”
Of course we love to share together in the traditional carols of this Christmas season, but it’s also wonderful to know that people are still in these contemporary times writing wonderful music to mark this most wonderful of events, and we now are going to have our next song, which is called “Mary did you know”.
Hymn: Mary did you know
As we delight today in receiving gifts from friends and family in a memorial of those gifts that were bought by the wise ones and the shepherds and all those who attended the birth of our Lord, we pray together. Our God, you remind us that the truest gift is the gift of love. Today, giving and unwrapping gifts with joy and maybe even some disappointment, let us love one another because love comes from you and love is the best thing worth celebrating. Amen.
Prayers of Intercession, and the Lord’s Prayer
We turn to our prayers again now, as we pray for others and especially for those in need on this Christmas day. Today O Lord, in all the demands we pray for those who are facing a Christmas without someone they love. God of goodness, hear us and be with us today. In all the delights, we pray for those who are facing a Christmas alone. God of goodness, hear us and be with us today. In all the celebration we pray for those who are facing conflicts. God of goodness hear us and be with us today. At all the time at tables we pray for those who are hungry. God of goodness, hear us and be with us today. As we look back on a difficult year for the whole world, we pray that you would bring us peace. God of goodness hear us and be with us as we pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us: Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Introduction to “Hark the herald angels sing”
And so as I wish you a very peaceful and holy Christmas we sing our final carol, “Hark the herald angels sing”.
Hymn: Hark the herald angels sing
And a blessing: God send us out into the world now, knowing that in small moments today and every day we can see you and honour you, and the blessing of God, father, son and holy spirit, be with you and with those you love and seek to love, now and for evermore Amen. Happy Christmas.