COCU5C.Christmas Eve


Geri Melchers, a 19th century American artist

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

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

Rev Paul Chalson: Something of an interactive 2021 Christmas Eve with stations focused around hope, love joy and peace. Members of the congregation each wrote a hope on stars which were then attached to a banner and hung. They wrote prayers for peace on strip’s of paper which were stappled into a chain, attached to another banner and hung. After chatting about what gave them joy each person was invited to paint a brightly coloured joy onto a dark canvas. Some modifications was needed to be CoVid safe including “love” becoming a more passive reflection but it worked well. The banners and painting remained in place for subsequent services over the weekend. (Scroll to end for photos)

The candles of the advent wreath are lit one by one:

We light this candle because we have heard a promise of peace
and we have faith its day will come
We light this candle because we have heard a rumour of justice
and we have faith its day will come
We light this candle because we have heard a whisper of hope
and we have faith its day will come
We light this candle because we have heard a hint of love
and we have faith its day will come
We light this candle because we have heard of the birth of the Christchild
and we have faith his day is here.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie, adapted)

On this night of the year, a voice is speaking – can we hear it?
I know the cares and the anxious thoughts of your hearts.
I know the hard time you often give yourselves.
I know the hopes and ambitions that you have
for yourselves and for others.
I know your doubts, too, even while you seek to express your belief.
On this night, I want to find a way of saying to you:
You are deeply, deeply loved, just as you are;
forgiven, loved and challenged to be the very best you can be.
So I’m speaking to you in the only way I know how – from a stable,
in a child born into poverty,
soon to grow to maturity,
born to show you, in a human life, the love of God. 
(Source: John Harvey)

We gather as people of faith and no faith,
people of hope and no hope,
people of peace and no peace.
We gather with the longing to be made whole again
If just for this time, here and now.
We gather with a prayer, however vague and tenuous,
That in spite of the absence of virgins and angels,
wise men and shepherds,
We might still be a witness to the birth of all love.
We gather as ready as we’ll ever be for this story of faith to unfold.
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie)

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)

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)

Light eternal, you bring to light things hidden in darkness
and know the shadows of our hearts:
cleanse and renew us by your Spirit,
that we may walk in the light and glorify your name;
through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world. Amen.
Christ, the Light of the world,
has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts.
In his light, we become aware of our own shortcomings
and also God’s potential hidden deep within us.
Pause for reflection.
You were born through Mary’s labour;
but we look for answers that cost us nothing.
Lord, have mercy.
You were greeted by shepherds and angels;
but we close our doors on those outside. Christ, have mercy.
You share our humanity and delight in your creation;
but we make your love too small and take Lord, have mercy.

Words of assurance
May the God of forgiveness
heal you of all that harms you
and lead you into life eternal. Amen

Greeting of Peace
The still of night is broken by a baby’s wordless cry;
the gods of power are shaken by the nakedness of love;
for in his flesh, he makes peace
and ends the war of all against all. Prayers for an Inclusive Church.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Gestures of peace and goodwill are shared with others
(Source: Prayers for an inclusive church)

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)

For all we know,
before Mary sang her song of joy
she wept tears of frustration
and heartbreak.
I like to think she did.
For all we know,
before Mary welcomed God’s action with delight,
she fought what was happening to her
and she resented the presumption
of the divine.
For all we know,
for at least a moment
and probably longer,
Mary was bewildered, distraught and lost.
The miracle we celebrate today
may somehow seem more impossible
than the idea that Mary got pregnant
or that God became human.
It’s that in the face of devastation
and from deep within the truth of heartbreak and desolation
there might still come
unbidden a moment of joy. 
(Source: Cheryl Lawrie)

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

Prayers for others
The following bidding and response is used after each petition.
Light of the world.
Bring healing, bring peace.
Prayers are offered…repeating the bidding and response each time. 
At the end…
Christ, Light of the world.
May your healing peace
bring hope to our troubled world; be born in us, we pray. Amen.
(Source: Ann Lewin)

Wonderful Counselor, grant wisdom to political leaders to govern with kindness and care and to peacemakers to find lasting solutions to conflict.
May the light of your wisdom dawn in the darkness of division.
Mighty God, grant courage to those having to escape their homes to find refuge, to those dreading the next violent outburst, and to those unsure of the future for their families.
May the light of your healing dawn in the darkness of fear.
Eternal God, grant renewed awe at your creation,
so our every-day decisions encourage all the earth to flourish.
May the light of your creative work dawn in the darkness of our consumerism.
Prince of Peace, grant peace that silences gunfire and bombs, that stills us to recognize complicit choices, that reconciles war-weary enemies. 
May the light of peace dawn in the darkness of conflict.
We pray in the authority of the child that has been born for us, the son given to us this day.

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)

May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the sages,
the understanding of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ-child
be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be upon you and those whom you love,
both living and departed, now and always. Amen.

We wish you the trust of Mary:
with faith to say, ‘Yes!’
We wish you Joseph’s loyalty: and wisdom to take a risk.
We wish you an adventure: with shepherds or kings.
We wish you stars to guide you: in the company of angels.
But this Christmas Night especially
we wish you the peace
of knowing God’s love, here among us.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Tokens of our response to God, bread and wine, and the collection, are offered.
We bring to this table the substance of our lives.
Bread to sustain us,
wine to gladden the hearts, money, the fruit of our labours.
As shepherds and sages worshipped the Prince of Peace.
These are our offerings of thanksgiving and praise.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
Let us pray
May God be with you
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
O Eternal Wisdom,
we praise you and give you thanks,
because you emptied yourself of power
and became foolishness for our sake:
for on this night you were delivered as one of us, a baby needed and naked,
wrapped in a woman’s blood;
born into poverty and exile,
to proclaim the good news to the poor,
and to let the broken victims goes free. (Janet Morley)
In this mystery of the Word made flesh
you have caused his light to shine in our hearts,
to give knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
In him we see our God made visible
and so are caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.
On the night he was betrayed,
at supper with his friends
he took bread, and gave you thanks;
he broke it and gave it to them, saying:
Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
Father, we do this in remembrance of him: his body is the bread of life.
At the end of supper, taking the cup of wine,
he gave you thanks, and said:
Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins;
do this in remembrance of me.
Father, we do this in remembrance of him: his blood is shed for all.
As we proclaim his death and celebrate his rising in glory,
send your Holy Spirit that this bread and this wine
may be to us the body and blood of your dear Son.
As we eat and drink these holy gifts
make us one in Christ, our risen Lord.
With your whole Church throughout the world
we offer you this sacrifice of praise
and lift our voice to join the eternal song of heaven:
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of truth and love,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he, O blessed is he,
who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Lord’s Prayer & Communion
Rejoicing in God’s presence among us, we pray as Jesus taught us.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen.

The bread is broken.
We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.

Words of invitation follow.
Draw near to Bethlehem, House of Bread,
where hungry hearts are satisfied,
seeking souls find wisdom,
and failing faith is kindled back to life.
Today, God has turned the world upside-down
and restored the dignity of all people. Alleluia!

Prayer after communion
GOD of the stable,
God of the manger,
we thank you for revealing your glory
in the humility of our humanity
and in ordinary things made holy:
we offer you our lives in the service
of those who walk in darkness
as well as those who have seen a great light;
that Christ may be found among us
and his beauty transfigure the world. Amen.


O Come O Come Emmanuel (Susan Wickham)

O Come O Come Emmanuel instrumental (Casting Crowns)

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!
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!
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

Purchase rights to movie from
Johnny Baker: I used this at the start of a carol service and played Sufjan Stevens beautiful version of O Come O Come Emmanuel (could also use Enya’s version). Words by Cheryl Lawrie.

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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