CHRISTMAS EVE & CHRISTMAS DAY SERVICE
24TH & 25TH DECEMBER 2020
A child is born to us! A Son is given to us!
He will be called Wonderful Counsellor!
Mighty God! Eternal Father! Prince of Peace!
Once in Royal David City sung by Sue Turner
WELCOME & GREETING
I bring you good news of great joy
a Saviour has been born to you. Alleluia.
Unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given. Alleluia.
He is Christ the Lord. Alleluia.
We worship and adore him. Alleluia.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
BLESSING OF THE CRIB
God our Father, on this Christmas day your Son Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary for us and for our salvation; bless this crib which we have prepared to celebrate that holy birth; may all who see it be strengthened in faith and receive the fullness of life that he came to bring, who is alive and reigns for ever.
CANDLE IN ADVENT WREATH
Christ the Light of the World
O God our Father, the light of whose Word has come among us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem; grant that the radiance of that true light, which enlightens our minds by faith, may shine brightly through our words and deeds; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION
Hear the words of the angel to Joseph:
‘You shall call him Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins’. Therefore let us seek the forgiveness of God. through Jesus the Saviour of the world.
The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus. Forgive our disobedience to your will.
We have sinned:
forgive and heal us
Your Son our Saviour was born in poverty in a manger. Forgive our greed and rejection of your ways.
We have sinned:
forgive and heal us.
The shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem. Forgive our self-interest, and lack of vision.
We have sinned,
forgive and heal us.
The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King. Forgive our reluctance to seek you
We have sinned
forgive and heal us.
May the God of all healing and forgiveness draw us to himself, and cleanse us from our sins that we may behold the glory of his Son, the Word made flesh,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
GLORIA in Excelsis Deo
sung by Dougie Byers
ISAIAH 9: 6-7 read by Annabelle Guthrie
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
LUKE 2: 1-20 read by Annette Beagrie
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And 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.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”
When 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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
O little town of Bethlehem sung by Sue St Joseph
JOHN 1: 1-14 read by Rev Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ from St John chapter 1 beginning at verse 1
Glory to Christ our Saviour
The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.
What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord.
The Christmas Carol “While shepherds watch’d their flocks by night,” has a special place in our hearts. It was the first Christmas hymn authorised to be sung by the Anglican Church. It brings to us the birth announcement of God’s Son.
Birth announcements are very special moments. I remember well the night when my younger sister was born. I was eight years old. My father woke me up in the middle of the night and said that he had to go in the ambulance with my mother to hospital but not to worry he would come straight back. I was not to waken my younger brother and I was to stay in the house till he got back. Nowadays you would never leave an eight year old with a younger sibling home alone. But then it was different and when the good news came on my father’s return that we had a sister… we were excited.. we told everyone the wonderful news.. the announcement was put in the Glasgow Herald and in our local rag… my father handed out cigars at work, glasses clinked in celebration, grandparents called and the community sent good wishes.
Tonight we see in Luke’s Gospel God’s version of a birth announcement. Nowhere else in the birth narratives does God directly proclaim to anyone that Jesus has been born. This is the one and only birth announcement and it’s pretty impressive for God sent the glory of the Lord and an angel choir.
Imagine for a second you don’t know this story, and I told you God went to someone to announce the birth of Jesus, God’s only son. To whom do you think God would go? Who would make the cut? You might first think of Caesar, the emperor of Rome. That’s a natural thought. What about King Herod, who ruled over the region? Makes sense. Maybe God went to the High Priest in Jerusalem, the religious elite. Or maybe God went to the Mayor of Bethlehem: “Organize a parade, Mayor, I’ve got good news.” All of these people would be logical recipients of God’s birth announcement, wouldn’t they? Of course, they would be on the birth announcement list.
But the palace doesn’t hear. The Temple doesn’t hear. Jerusalem doesn’t hear. This birth announcement that God gives out goes to a group of anonymous sheep herders on the outskirts of Bethlehem – sheep herders! These shepherds are forever immortalized in our Christmas hymns and nativity scenes. We picture them with their crooked canes and flowing robes, as if they actually belong at the birthplace of a king. But the reality is they didn’t belong there. In fact, they didn’t belong anywhere.
To see Christmas through their eyes, we have to understand their situation. There were few occupations more demanding or degrading than a shepherd. They were the last people you’d expect God to take notice of. First of all, they were religious outcasts. According to religious law, these men were unclean. Because their work was a seven-day-a-week job, it prevented them from participating in the feasts and holy days that made up the Jewish religious calendar. When everyone else was making the trip to Jerusalem to make sacrifices at the temple, they were out in the fields, watching over the sheep. They were excluded. They weren’t regular attenders, so they didn’t belong.
Not only were they religious outcasts, but shepherds were social outcasts as well. Since they were constantly on the move to find new pasture for their flocks, they were looked with suspicion as untrustworthy nomads, the way people today might look at gypsies or carnival workers. They were often accused of being thieves. If something came up missing – it must have been those shepherds. They were not permitted to give testimony in a legal proceeding, because their word wasn’t considered trustworthy.
On top of all that, they really didn’t have much contact with other people. Most of the time, they were “living out in the fields” This was not a job with regular hours. They didn’t come home every night for dinner. They were with the sheep 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the day, they led the sheep to grass and water. They watched while the sheep grazed. They kept an eye out for predators. And at night, they actually slept in the sheep pen to guard against theft and animal attack. They didn’t exactly smell nice and so the shepherds didn’t get a lot of invites to social gatherings. By profession and cultural status, they were loners.
Now, step back for a moment. Imagine you’re God and you want to announce the most amazing, incredible, joyous news ever, an event which will literally change the course of history – the birth of your only Son, Jesus Christ. The birth of the One who will be the Saviour of the whole world, the One for whom the nation of Israel has been waiting and hoping and praying for thousands of years. Finally, He has come! Who gets the announcement? Who makes the cut? Who do you invite to come and see? Not Caesar. Not Herod. Not the Pharisees. Shepherds. Smelly, dirty, socially and religiously excluded sheep herders.
Why go to them? Were they outstanding believers in God? Nothing shows us that. Had this visitation been a prophecy? Not that we have a record of. The shepherds were probably convinced God had no idea who they were. Didn’t go to church, rarely said a prayer, hardly read the Hebrew scriptures. Everyone in the local synagogue had told them they weren’t welcome, they didn’t belong, that God didn’t care about their smelly existence. Is it any wonder, then, that when the angel of the Lord appears to them, they were absolutely terrified?
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy.” Not bad news? Not condemnation? Not any sarcastic remarks about only coming to synagogue for Hanukkah and Passover? “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you, he is the Christ, the Lord.” The name David would remind them of a shepherd- someone just like them, and that this message was addressed to them. Wow!
The shepherds, who are normally obsessive in their protection of the flock, who lived to watch over their animals, leave the sheep behind, probably in the care of others and race off to see the baby. And after they do, they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child. They became living birth announcements. And I love how people responded to this. The Bible says, “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” I bet they were! This is not the kind of information to which a shepherd is usually privy. The going rate for wool, maybe, but not good news of great joy about the Messiah.
At first, the shepherds may seem like a strange choice, but I think God knew what God was doing here. If God had gone to Caesar or Herod or anyone else in power, they would have tried to turn this miraculous event to their advantage. “How can we use this to increase our prestige? Can we make money off this announcement?” People in power are always looking for ways to increase that power. The shepherds? They had absolutely nothing to gain, and certainly nothing to lose. They were empty vessels, waiting to be filled to overflowing with God’s joy. They were proof that God’s message is for everyone, from the highest to the lowest, from the faithful churchgoer to the seeker, to the sceptic. God’s word is for everyone.
With God, everyone makes the cut. The angels came to shepherds. People who were doing what they did every day and every night. People going through the routines of life. People living their ordinary lives. Isn’t that what the birth of Jesus is all about? It’s about God meeting us, not on high holy days, but on ordinary days, in ordinary places, in an extraordinary way. The birth of this child is about God coming to us in our everyday lives and saying to us, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news.”
I suspect the shepherds became the first-responders to the Christmas miracles, because they were the only ones listening. They were alone in the fields, they were not distracted, they weren’t worrying about other happenings or finalizing any travel plans. So when God called, they were attentive and responsive. They listened. Like the shepherds we are invited to listen to God this Christmas season.
The shepherds were in shock when the angels appeared. You can only imagine the first reaction of the shepherds. They were scared to death. They understood the appearance of angels as an omen, as though God were bringing His wrath upon them. To allay their fears, the angels said, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy. Today a Saviour is born!” With that, the heavens opened with glorious music. The heavenly chorus praised God and said, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favours!” In the midst of an ordinary night, ordinary shepherds encountered an extraordinary God. The shepherds must have been surprised that God broke into their ordinary lives. For us, Christ sometimes breaks into our lives when we least expect it. God met the shepherds when and where they least expected to be met. After all, that’s what the birth of Jesus means.
On that holy night there was a kind of birth in the shepherds. They felt accepted and loved. They were privileged and honoured to see the Christ child. Eventually, the whole world would celebrate the coming of this child, but for now, only the shepherds knew what had happened in Bethlehem. The result was the response that should arise from all God’s people: The shepherds returned to their flocks “glorifying and praising God”
After the Christmas season, we too will return to our “fields and flocks,” our normal routines and responsibilities. But we are not the same people we were before. Christ has come. God is with us. Therefore, let us go forth humbly as the shepherds, forever changed, transformed by the experience of Christmas, praising and glorifying God, and letting people know about the good news of Christ through the way we live our lives. Let’s go back into the world as living birth announcements. We can return to “business as usual” at the same places, but not as the same people.” Like the shepherds we glorify and praise God. Amen
Father on this holy night/ on this Christmas day, your Son our Saviour was born as a vulnerable and helpless child among us. We think of those children in our world that are vulnerable and helpless, particularly thinking of children living in conflict areas in the world, and those children living in poor conditions, either in places of asylum or in refugee camps. Father, bless them and help them, through us and through aid agencies.
Holy God Hear
On this holy night (day) there was no room for your Son in the inn, protect with your love those who have no home and all who live in poverty. Help us to work with them for better living standards.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day) in the pain of labour brought your Son to birth. Hold in your hand of protection all who are in pain or distress this night. Surround them with your compassion, courage and peace. Holy God
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day) your Son came as a light shining in the darkness. Bring light and comfort to those who mourn and to all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Hear our prayer.
In this holy night (day) the angels sang peace to God’s people on earth. Strengthen those who work for peace and justice.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night(day) Christians the world over celebrate his birth, open our hearts that He may be born in us today.
Hear our prayer.
Father on this holy night (day) angels and shepherds worshipped at the manger throne. Receive the worship we offer in fellowship with Mary, Joseph and the saints through him who sit the Word made flesh, our Saviour Jesus Christ, the wonderful Counsellor, mighty God everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Amen
O Holy Night sung by Dougie Byers
God our Father, in this night you have made known to us again, the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him until the day dawns and Christ the morning Star rises in our hearts to him be glory both now and forever.
Silent Night sung by Sue St Joseph
May God the Father who led the wise men by the shining of a star
to find Christ, the Light of the World lead you and bring you to wonder and worship and the blessing….