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Bulletin – December 24, 2020

Lessons, Carols, and Communion

Time for the Young Ones – Setting the Scene

Lighting the Candles

The time has come. After all our preparations Christmas is finally here. For the last four Sundays we have lit candles to remind us of what it means to prepare for Christmas. These candles have reminded us to remember the hope, peace, joy, and love that dwells in you, Gracious God.

Tonight we light the last candle of our Advent wreath. This candle reminds us of the blessing we get from each other. As we light this candle we remember the gift that lies at the centre of our Christmas celebration. The gift of a baby lying in a manger.

God of Christmas, you come to us in so many surprising ways. On this Christmas Eve we ask you to come into our hearts, our homes, our lives. On this night we remember that you came not in glory but in a lowly stable; as a weak, helpless child. Lead us to find You in equally surprising places. Help us to remember to look for You and forgive us when we don’t recognize Your presence among us. We pray in the name of the one whose birth we celebrate, Christ our Saviour. Amen.

Carol – “No Crowded Eastern Street(VU #49)

No crowded eastern street, no sound of passing feet;
Far to the left and far to right the prairie snows spread fair and white;
Yet still to us is born tonight the child, the King of glory.

No blaze of heavenly fire, no bright celestial choir,
Only the starlight as of old, crossed by the planes’ flash, red and gold;
Yet still to us is born tonight the child, the King of glory.

No kings with gold and grain, no stately camel train:
Yet in his presence all may stand with loving heart and willing hand;
For still to us is born tonight the child, the King of glory.

Call To Worship

One: In the beginning, when all was darkness, God spoke the word of Light and brilliant light shone forth. It was the glorious light of Creation.

All: Praise be to God for the wonders of all this earth and its inhabitants.

One: In due time, when darkness began to invade the land again, God sent the prophets to reclaim God’s people.

All: Praise be to God for the words and spirits of the prophets who boldly proclaimed God’s love.

One: In the fullness of time, God sent God’s son, that the world would know forever that God is with us. God has blessed us with all the members of this community, near and far, as reminders of God’s continual presence with us.

All: Praise God for the wondrous ways in which God enters our lives.

One: Let us worship the God of Light and of Presence.

All: AMEN.

Prayer

Beloved, Holy God, we gather in this night of nights, inviting you into our homes, the sacred places we have created, asking you to gather us across the miles into a community of believers. We have come together offering our praise and thanksgiving for the gifts of your creation, but tonight, we offer thanks for the gift of the coming of Light into this world in the birth of Love Incarnate, Jesus. Forgive us when we take your gifts for granted, when we forget the lessons of those who came before, those who have tried to lead us to the light. Forgive us when we would rather stay in the shadow places of the world because it seems easier. Let us hear once again your call to live in the light. To be the light to a world that seems to live in darkness. Let us live in the light of your love today and every day. Amen.

Words of Assurance

“For God so loved the world, that God gave his only son.” (John 3:16) For God so loved the world! Know that you are loved and that you are forgiven. We are now called to spread that love and forgiveness to all that we meet. We are loved, thanks be to God. Amen.

Anthem – “Come and Behold Him” (Worship team)

Scripture

Luke 2: 1 – 20

1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

We don’t often talk about Joseph, do we? Yet as we hear this story once again I cannot help but wonder what Joseph thought, how did he feel? The birth of a child can lead to so many emotions; fear that you will not be a good father; stress around how this birth might change everything; excitement at the thought of a baby born; anxiety about the birth itself. It can be a time of joy, fear, anxiety, stress, and unknowing. Then for Joseph there was the added demand that he go with Mary and travel to Bethlehem. She was young, and what happens if the baby comes while they are in the middle of the journey? What must Joseph have been thinking and feeling. I don’t even know. Yet travel Joseph did. He took Mary and went, I am not sure how he could have done that, I don’t know if I would have been able to make that journey. Yet Joseph trusted and he did make that journey. He trusted that it would all happen as God had said and that God would be with them on that journey. To have a trust like that, a trust that on those journeys of life when we feel that fear, that anxiety, that stress, that joy, that in the midst of all of these times God is with us. Joseph trusted!

Carol – “Now Mary Walked That Dusty Road” (tune:  “Twas in the Moon of Wintertime”)

Now Mary walked that dusty road, the way to Bethlehem;
The days and nights were, oh, so long, the cold surrounded them;
But, with each step, she knew the day was coming when they both would say,
“Jesus, our child is born, Jesus is born; in excelsis gloria!”

Our Joseph, he kept careful watch, yes, strength was is his arm;
As hour by hour, he walked with her, made sure nothing would harm
His wife-to-be, the child-within, this father’s love would soon begin –
“Jesus, our child is born, Jesus is born; in excelsis gloria!”

 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Mary, young Mary, I wonder if she really knew what she was getting into when she said “yes” to that angel. Now she was alone far away from all of her family, far away from her support, it must have been scary for her. Then they arrive in Bethlehem only to find out that there is nowhere for them to stay. No rooms for them and the baby is coming. If she had been at home, she would have been surrounded by her mother, aunts, the women in the village, all there to support and help her through this time, but there was no one except Joseph, and what would he know about delivering a baby? There she was surrounded by livestock and animals, hay and feed, giving birth to her child. Mary, young Mary, who had a deep faith that God was with her, that she was doing God’s will. In the midst of the unknown, in the midst of all the questions that she must have had swirling inside, Mary had faith. On this journey into the unknown, alone, afraid, with only Joseph for support Mary had faith that God was there with her. To have that faith when we are faced with the unknown, when we feel so alone, when we our supports seem so far away, and to still have faith that God is with us. Mary had faith!

Carol – “What Child is This” (VU #74 v.1)

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary!

8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14    “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Those shepherds tending their flocks by night! It was important for them to do that because they couldn’t afford to lose a sheep to wolves or any other predators, they were the only things that they had, or that their masters had. Those shepherds who were not really welcome in the villages, because they were dirty and smelly and they were the poorest of the poor, other than those beggars on the street. It is to these ones that the angels appear. They must have been wondering if maybe there had been a mistake made – who were they that angels should appear to them, and with this news of a saviour? They had spent most of their lives just trying to survive on the edges of society, not really fitting in, struggling – why would they be worthy to receive this news? Yet there they were, right there in all their glory, offering these poor shepherds hope in the birth of the Messiah. Hope to those who were marginalized, those who found themselves on the edge of society. And those shepherds, well, they accepted that hope and they lived in that hope, even though life had been tough for them, even though they had struggled, they saw hope in the appearance of those heavenly messengers. Hope that something new was happening. Hope in something more. To have that hope when life is a struggle, when life has you marginalized and separated, hope that there is something new, something more coming, to still hope when life has been tough. Those shepherds they hoped.

Carol – “See Amid the Winter’s Snow (VU #76)

See amid the winter’s snow, born for us on earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears, promised from eternal years.
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn; hail, redemption’s happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Say, ye holy shepherds, say what your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep on the lonely mountain steep?
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn; hail, redemption’s happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.

“As we watched at dead of night, lo, we saw a wondrous light;
Angels singing ‘Peace on earth’ told us of the Saviour’s birth.”
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn; hail, redemption’s happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Anthem – “O Holy Night” (Praise Singers)

Meditation – The trust of Joseph, the faith of Mary, the hope of the Shepherds.

Anthem – “Silent Night” (Praise Singers)

Prayer

One: Darkness was over the world before creation. God called for Light and it was given. Bright, beautiful, warm, powerful. Are you ready to receive the Light?

All: We want to be ready.

One: Words of praise and community became words of anger and division. God’s light shone but humankind covered their faces, hid themselves behind masks of prejudice and indifference. They needed the light, but turned their backs on it. Are you are ready to receive the Light?

All: We want to be ready.

One: Conquest, turmoil, abuse, fear covered the land. Hope was a dimly flickering flame, hidden deep within some hearts, extinguished in others. Darkness was again gaining a foothold in all the lands. Cries were heard “O Lord, how long will you hide your face from us?” But it was not God who was hidden. It was the hearts of the people, hungering and fearful. Are you ready to receive the Light?

All: We want to be ready.

One: In the fullness of time, God again sent someone who is to be the Light to the world. This someone is God’s Son Jesus, who teaches us how to live, how to witness to God’s love, and how to serve. This is the true light, which illumines everyone. Are you ready to receive the Light?

Loving God, help us to be ready. We so easily live in the darkness and long for the true Light. Open our eyes, our hearts, our ears, and our spirits. Help us to witness to Your most blessed gift, your Son Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Communion

God be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to God.

Let us give thanks to God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.

God of all times and places, we gather at your table of grace to recall your vision of hope for all people and for your world. Through Abraham and Sarah, you revealed your promise in the surprise of a child. Through your prophets, you called your people to make way for peace and justice. In Jesus, you revealed your way of forgiveness and love. Through the ever-circling year, your Word discloses to us—again and anew—your promise for the restoration of all creation.

As we gather to share this sign of hope and fulfillment, we remember Jesus, the child born into obscurity, amid fear and uncertainty. We remember the fragility of that revelation, as well as the hope he stirred and imagination he inspired, and we sing…

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
        Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
        Snow had fallen, snow on snow; snow on snow
        In the bleak midwinter,long ago.

We remember Jesus, the One who blazed a new and risky path of extravagant generosity and of passionate concern:  temple-shaker, world-maker, rule-breaker, risk-taker; the author and finisher of our faith.

We remember Jesus’ self-giving love and the offer of himself for others, even those who gave him over to death, and we sing…

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
         Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;
         In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
         The Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.

On that night, in the midst of great confusion and fear, Jesus broke bread with friends, saying, “This is my body, which I give for you and for all. When you do this, remember me.” With a blessing, he took the cup and offered it to them saying: “This cup is God’s covenant which is given for all. When you drink this, remember me.”

Enough for him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
        A breast full of milk, and a manger full of hay.
        Enough for him, whom angels fall down before,
        The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Come to us, life-giving Spirit of God. Bless us, these gifts, and what we do here, so that we might sing your song of love for your people and for your world.

Prayers of the People

God of All, we pray for your people. For those who are afraid and oppressed, may you give courage.

For those suffering conflict and fear, may you bring peace.

For those who long for food and water, may they be filled.

For those who long for justice, may it be fulfilled.

We pray also for ourselves and our community.

That those in hospital and in care feel your strength.

That those who are alone and anxious feel you near.

That those who are ill in body and in spirit be comforted.

That our friends and family be blessed by healing and love.

Hear our prayers, O God, and in your mercy, answer.

We pray these things, trusting in God’s faithfulness revealed:

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

What can I give him, poor as I am?
          If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
          If I were a wise man I would do my part;
         Yet what I can I give him—give my heart.

Communion Distribution A Communion of Carols” (Praise Singers)

Prayer after Communion

God of shepherds and kings, you gather us by the light of the star of promise. You lead us not only to hope for the future, but to trust in your presence and renewal of life in every time and place. Guide us this night, by the light that has been brought into this world, the true light that was illuminated by that star. Lead us to the mangers of this world, where uncertainty is met with the renewal life and the transformation of this world is most deeply felt in love, one with another.  Be with us on this most wondrous of nights, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

(Rev. Andrew O’Neil, St. Paul’s United Church, Riverview, New Brunswick)

Carol – VU #59 – “Joy to the World

Joy to the world!  The Lord is come:  let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth!  The Saviour reigns:  let all their songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Benediction

God of Light and Hope, in whom there is no darkness, cause your light to shine on us and through us to others, that they may know of you and of your Love. Let us witness to your gift of Jesus who came and taught us how to live as children of Light. Go from this time together in peace, dear friends, and know that the God of light, hope, peace, and joy goes with you. AMEN.

Response – VU 38 v. 3

Come to Bethlehem and see Christ whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee, Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!

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