COCU5C.Christmas Eve.24Dec2018

Nativity

Geri Melchers, a 19th century American artist

See also Christmas, Christmas Eve B, and Christmas Tree Traditions and Blessings

Resources
Advent, Christmas and Epiphany: Liturgies and Prayers for Public Worship by Brian Wren

Christmas litany-waiting for the light.ChristineSine

Children’s Talk: Mary’s Treasure Box, based on a storybook by that name, by Carolyn Walz Kramlich

A Christmas prayer
Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”
(Source: Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Call to Worship
When we wait in the night
in the hush that only stars can hold
as they bend towards the coming of the light;
when we wait in the night
labouring with anticipation
of what midnight shall bring;
when we wait in the night
listening to the cadence of minutes
beat in rhythm with the birth of hope;
may we hold our collective breaths
with the angelic host
as they clutch their restless alleluias,
for God is on the way:
the mother is labouring
the father pacing
the stable readying
the word is waiting
the light is sliding
and the promise is breaking through
When we wait in the longing for midnight
in expectation of Good News
may we choose to wait together
and find we have moved to the edge of justice
for in such anticipation
is the only place
for the Word to be born among us.
(Rev Roddy Hamilton. Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website)

Gathering
The story tells us
that it’s those who wait in the world’s shadows who are the first to know of the Christ-child, born into darkness
bringing great light.
So we gather as those who carry the rumour of peace and the truth of love
into a world longing for light.
We gather as those who pray for the justice another is waiting for,
who speak of the hope another needs to breathe.
(Cheryl Lawrie, Hold This Space)

O night of wondrous mystery,
you enfold us in your treasured darkness.
O star of hope and longing,
you shine in our most simple sky.
O winter wind wailing,
you mingle with our sighs, our songs.
O heavenly choir, behind night’s deep curtain,
you draw your single breath.
O silence, rife with God,
we lean toward the musical pause.
O song, O throat of heaven,
you find your sweetest voice in us.
O nerve, you will with perfect will,
and we move, we know not how.
O holy child, in your becoming
we become.
O night of the unending unseen,
blossom in us slowly.
O star, so small and excellent,
shine in us as long as you need to.
(Source: Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Unfolding Light)

Tis is the night when the Dream in the heart of God took flesh
and was born like us, with pain, and water,
and blood, and crying, and struggle.
It seems so long ago and so far away. In Bethlehem in Judea.
On a cold night in winter, with shepherds startled by stars and angels.
A sky so different from ours tonight. The Southern Cross flags our identity as it scatters its light across our sky.
On this hot evening in summer we are not gathered out in a field,
shivering with cold and with fear over the appearance of angels.
We are gathered for worship in a seasonally-hot church,
the air fired with candles and heavy with anticipation.
We choose to be here.
Mary did not choose to give birth in that cold stable
the only warmth for her the steamy breath of animals.
Yet in that place, Mary – who had carried this baby
close to her heart for nine months – gave birth to a Saviour…
(Source unknown)

Mary’s Pondering Heart 
When will justice come to us, my unborn babe… the Earth cries out, the very olive trees are weeping from the violence, the injustice, the apathy. The fig trees are too brokenhearted to bear fruit, from the oppression, the division, the hatred. The vines droop and wither from the greed, the want and hunger, the grief and despair.
My child, my child, my firstborn beloved… I hate to say this, but part of me cannot but hope you will be a boy. Oh, if you are a daughter, I will love you just as much, of course, and teach you everything I know, but my little one, I tried so hard to help our people – to tell them the good news, the Word of Emmanuel, how Divine Love is within us, is born in us, is calling us to birth a new reign of justice and peace, in which the mighty are cast down from their thrones, and the lowly are lifted up… the hungry are filled, and the rich are sent empty away.
But no one would listen to me, a young woman. “You are too loud,” they said, “too bossy. Why do you persist in disturbing us? You need a man to keep you in your place.”
If you are a son, my beloved one, perhaps they will listen to you.
I will teach you about animals, my little love. Even when no people welcome you, when they close their doors and their hearts, the creatures of our Earth will make room for you to join them in balance and harmony. They will give you food from their own mangers and a warm bed in their midst. I will teach you to show our people how to appreciate and bless all the creatures of Earth as holy and precious members of our kindred family, and to protect them.
I will teach you about outcasts, my child – such as shepherds, the poor, scorned, workers who do the jobs no one else wants – I will show you how to welcome and honor outcasts and help them see that they are important – they are messengers of the Holy One, and they will bring us Divine Truth about the presence of the Holy here among us.
I will teach you about the old prophets, and how from ancient stumps, new shoots can spring. Our ancient traditions may seem outdated and confusing, but they are rich with the wisdom of generations who learned from their mistakes and kept trying. I will teach you to love our scriptures as precious windows into what it means to be a beautiful, messy, flawed, glorious human in community.
My beloved child, I will teach you how Divine Wisdom can come from other cultures, far away lands with foreign religions and different customs, with wise women and men who find bright stars of wisdom to guide us through murky nights, whose friendship is a gift – more precious than gold, more sacred than incense, more healing than myrrh.
I will teach you to listen to women, to respect women as equals and include them at your table, to lift them up – Jewish women, Samaritan women, even Roman girls… my darling child, you will love them all and invite them all into the reign of Love.
Oh, my child, my precious one… the time is near when I will first hold you and see your face looking up at mine. I will give you my whole heart, and do my best to protect you from this dangerous world… and maybe, with the guidance and strength of the Holy One and all our ancestors, we can save our people. That is what I will name you, if you are a boy… Savior. Jesus. You will bring Joy to the world. You will bring Peace on Earth, good will to all.
You will come to us tonight, my precious one, I can feel you beginning to arrive. And I can hear heaven and nature sing, I can feel the fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy!
My precious baby Jesus, all the faithful will come to the light of your star, the brilliant, radiant beams of your Holy Grace, as you preach tidings of comfort and joy, of good news to the poor, release for the captives! Gloria, my beloved! O night divine! Gloria!!
(Source: Trelawney Grenfell-Muir)

Walter Brueggemann on the coming of Christ:
“There was something unreal about him: no pretense, no ambition, no limousine no army, no coercion, no royal marking. Wise and intelligent people are turned toward the regal. Kings and prophets want to penetrate the mystery. But the Jesus who showed up amid royal hopes and royal songs was of another ilk, powerful in weakness, rich in poverty, wise in foolishness, confounding the wisdom of the Greeks and bewildering the Jews. He is beyond all usual categories of power, because he embodies the gentle, gracious, resilient, demanding power of God. He does not trifle in temples and cities and dynasties but in the power and truth of the creator God”.
This tender shoot, this vulnerable child whose very birth reveals the upside down nature of God’s kingdom is an ensign for the nations, a flag towards which all people will be drawn and that includes the Muslims and people of other faiths. The word we translate as “nations” had a very different meaning for the Jews.  “Gentiles” were everyone who was not Jewish. It encompassed all peoples outside Israel, opening God’s promise of salvation to all cultures and countries. The new kingdom Christ ushered in is open to the entire world. Christ the Messiah, the tiny Branch which is slowly becoming a mighty tree will break down walls and barriers between all people. 
(Source: Christine Sine, Godspace)

God with us,
as we wait for the dawning of Christmas Day,
as our souls long for your presence among us,
let us remember Bethlehem in the midst of our celebrations;
still occupied, still a place of division and fear.

God with us,
in whom there is neither Jew nor Gentile;
in the land of Christ’s birth
come to the hungry places, bringing hope,
come to the dark places, bringing justice,
come to the lonely places, bringing love.
Come again in Bethlehem,
come in us, and through us, and even despite us.
That all may join the angels’ song.
Glory to God in the highest heaven.
All hail, let there be joy.
(Source: Church of Scotland)

May we sing incarnation into birth
may the very longing of this season
be enough for your promise to take on flesh
for bread to be shared
for planet to be loved
for lost to be found
for loneliness to be befriended
for seeker to be sought
for deserts to bloom
for flavelas to become palaces
for chaos to be given rhythm
for wars to end
May we sing incarnation into birth
(Source: Roddy Hamilton, 2009

Blessing
The story tells us
that it’s those who wait in the world’s shadows who are the first to know of the Christ-child, born into darkness
bringing great light.
So leave here today
to be carriers of the rumour of peace
and the truth of love
into a world longing for light.
Pray for the justice another is waiting for,
and speak of the hope another needs to breathe
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all. Amen.
(Cheryl Lawrie, Hold This Space)

MUSIC

Christmas Baptismal Hymn
(Words: Leith Fisher; tune: Infant lowly, infant holy)
Lord we meet you. Christ, we greet you,
born a child and yet a King.
Round your cradle, in the stable,
we would each our praises bring.

From above us, you come near us,
show you love us, ever hear us.
Now to you we glory sing.
Now to you we glory sing.

Saviour Jesus, now be near us
as we bring our lives to you.
In our children, may your love sing.
May they know your promise true.

Water flowing, Spirit sending
faith a–growing, Love unending.
Take their lives and make them new
Take their lives and make them new

In their growing, keep them knowing
of the wonder of your love.
Root their living, in the giving
of the Saviour from above.

Living Jesus, stand among us;
ever with us, go before us.
In our lives your Spirit move.
Let us all your loving prove.

O Come All You Faithfulnew words
O come, all you faithful, questioners and doubters
O come now, O come now to Bethlehem:
Come and behold now: peace that we’ve awaited!
Chorus:
O come for there is hope here.
O come and know God’s peace here
O come and find the joy in
Christ, child of Love
O come, all you weary, broken-hearted, brave ones
O come now, O come now to Bethlehem:
Come and behold now: justice we’ve awaited!
Chorus:
O come for there is hope here.
O Come and know God’s peace here
O come and find the joy in
Christ, child of Love
(Lyrics by Lenora Rand and Gary Rand, posted on Facebook by Lenora Rand, on RevGalBlogPals)

At Pilgrim Church in 2014, we developed the (late) Christmas Eve service around refugees, a pertinent topic in Australia in 2014 with the cruel punitive policies of the Government. We interviewed four people and edited the interviews into 2 minute segments. It was a meaningful and thought provoking service.

A service for Christmas Eve by Rev John Maynard CHRISTMAS EVE.John Maynard

Cheryl Lawrie’s Christmas liturgy

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon) in placement at Pilgrim Uniting Church, in Adelaide CBD (12 Flinders St). This blog is mainly to resource worship planners for our services, but of course may be useful for others. We have some great writers of music, words for hymns and liturgy at Pilgrim, so this blog also includes their words.
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