STEVE Rejoice, the Lord has come.
TANIA Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, the son of God, is born today.
STEVE The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
TANIA Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness
– on them a light has shined.
STEVE For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder.
TANIA His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
STEVE He is our Emmanuel, for in him God is with us.
OPENING PRAYER (DAVID)
Eternal God, as you came to the world in the birth of the Christ child, come to us today. Come into our hearts and shine your light upon our path. As you brought your hope, your peace, your joy, and your love to the world in the form of the babe of Bethlehem, so bring to us His radiance and help us to glorify both Him and You. We ask that the fullness of his life might live in us, and that at his name every knee bow, and every tongue confess, that He is Lord. Amen.
CAROL MEDLEY (Standing)
It came upon a midnight clear
Angels from the realms of glory
O come all ye faithful
Christmas is the celebration of our Saviour’s birth. So let us hear again the glad story of how God chose to come among us and to keep the promises that he made to the world.
Promises made to Abraham and Sarah – to Moses and Miriam – and to David and all the prophets –
the promises to raise up an everlasting king and in him to bless the world and open the gates of heaven to all who believe in him and trust in his word.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galiliean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
STEVE (to TANIA)
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.”
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her:
“Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great, Be called the ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
No end, ever, to his kingdom.”
“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.
And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six month’s pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
“Yes, I see it now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.”
“Yes, I see it now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.”
With these words – this “yes” of Mary, the plan of God from the beginning of time is realized.
Thank God, this day, that a young woman said “Yes” to God……..
Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang our exuberantly,
“You’re so blessed among women,
And the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, the babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
“I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Saviour God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
The God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him.
“The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, the babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.” Both Elizabeth and John, the child within her womb, recognize the presence of the Holy One that Mary carries close to her heart. And they rejoice…..
And Mary is bursting with God-news. Dancing to the song of her Saviour God. Overflowing with joy…
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
In Bethlehem, the ‘House of Bread’, Mary “laid him a manger,” a feeding trough for the animals. Jesus still shows up in unexpected places and reveals himself as bread to those who are hungry………
There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
“Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”
” Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” Heaven is so full of joy this day of His birth that the rejoicing of angels with men and women bursts through time and space, even until today, and to here – in this church….
Glory be to God!”
CAROL MEDLEY (Standing)
O little town of Bethlehem
Away in a manger
As the choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.
Mary kept these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly as they had been told.
The shepherds returned to their fields and their flocks, “glorifying and praising God for all that they had seen and heard.”
The Shepherds sing and shall we silent be? Raise your voice in exaltation, for our God inhabits history……..
But wait, there’s more
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory—this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religious scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
‘It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land,
No longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.’
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: they were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled an worshipped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
The Star stopped over the place where the Child was and the wise men were overwhelmed by joy! Today the Star has stopped over this little town of Merredin and filled us with joy. Behold a Child has been born for us, a Son given to us.
CAROL (Katherine Jenkins)
O Holy Night (Played through sound system)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
To God be the glory
How shall we worship this God who has been revealed to us in a babe in Bethlehem’s stable?
How shall we worship this Christ who is Emmanuel –God with us?
How shall we worship the One before whom all nations shall bow and whom every tongue will confess?
Gold, frankincense and myrrh?
Symbols for royalty, priesthood and ultimately the ointment for death?
What can we offer Him for the salvation which He bought by His love?
He has called us to Himself, He has made us His own.
We can but give Him ourselves –for all we have, all we are are His. Purchased with His Love.
And so we give to Him ourselves as a holy offering.
Lord, receive the gifts we bring –they are nothing; but they are the symbol of ourselves.
We give ourselves to You and to those You came to save.
We will love as You love, we will care as You care and we will give as You give.
We now worship God by the giving of our offering for His sake and service.
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
TANIA It was cold and Mary and Joseph were fearful.
STEVE But that did not stop the birth.
TANIA They were poor and had no place fitting for their child.
STEVE But that did not stop the birth.
TANIA They were uncertain about what God wanted from them.
STEVE But that did not stop the birth.
TANIA Today we are still sometimes cold and fearful, certainly poor in many ways.
STEVE We often feel we have no place and are unclear about what God wants of us.
TANIA But these things did not stop the birth of Jesus then, nor will they now.
STEVE Lord Jesus be born in us today.
TANIA Like Mary and Joseph, who trusted in your grace, may we trust all that we have and are to you. Bless the gifts we bring, hallow our thoughts and our actions, that Christ may be glorified through them, that we might bring light to a world that is yet in darkness.
We ask these things in his name, saying together the prayer he 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
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory
Forever and ever.
A CHRISTMAS CONFESSION
I believe in Jesus Christ and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.
I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world,
in towns both large and small.
I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ from my life today.
I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored and the proud could never understand; whose life was among common people, whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.
I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be invincible:
I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother’s arms, whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth, who looked at persons and made them see what God’s love saw in them, who by love brought sinners back to purity, and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.
I confess my ever-lasting need of God:
The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed,
the need of new life for empty souls,
the need of love for hearts grown cold.
I believe in God who gives us the best of himself.
I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God, born in Bethlehem, for me and for the world.
CLOSING PRAYER: The Canticle of Simeon
TANIA The holy child of Bethlehem has come to us this day.
STEVE We have welcomed the Prince of Peace.
TANIA Now, like Simeon, that righteous and devout man who looked forward to the consolation of Israel and who beheld the coming of our Lord Emmanuel, we pray:
STEVE Lord, let your servants now depart in peace,
according to your word;
for our eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light to lighten the Gentiles
and the glory of your people Israel.
SONG: Love, love changes everything
Go in peace and may the Love of God keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Saviour and our Lord. Both now and forevermore. Amen