CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE #2
by Rev. Stephen Wallace
Greeting and Meaning of this Service:
In the Old Testament we hear the story of Moses and how he brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and wandered with them for 40 years in the wilderness. After Moses’ death, Joshua was chosen to lead the people into the promised land. For 40 years they had been wandering around looking for the promised homeland and now it was about to become a reality. But before Joshua allowed the people to cross over the Jordan River he had the people gather a bunch of stones and set them together. Then he reminded them of all the good things that God had done for them and said: “When your children ask in times to come, ‘what do these stones mean?’ then you Shall let them know what God has done for us so that all the peoples of the earth may know
that the hand of the Lord is mighty.”
At Christmas we celebrate an even mightier act of God—the gift of God’s Son. During the past four weeks we have been preparing ourselves by remembering the promises which God has made to us. We have also been remembering the needs which we have that only God can meet. Tonight we come together to rejoice over the fulfilling of those promises and the meeting of those needs. We come to hear the Scriptures, lift our voices in song, and to open our hearts to the loving God who has done such great things. Let us prepare ourselves tonight for the day when children ask us, “What do these things mean?” so that we may tell them of the mighty and loving acts of our Lord!
Special Music: “Birthday of the King” or another piece
Leader: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior,
Congregation: God has looked with favor on me, a lowly servant. From this day allgenerations shall call me blessed.
Leader: The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is the name of the Lord,
Congregation: God is merciful to those who fear the Lord, from generation togeneration.
Introduction to the Advent Wreath:
Over the past several weeks we have been lighting candles to symbolize what the coming of Christ was all about. Tonight, as we celebrate Christ’s birth, let us once again remember what these candles symbolize.
THE CANDLE OF HOPE:
Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7 and 11:1-5---- Lighting of the Hope Candle-
Reflection: Throughout the ages people have struggled with life. They have struggled to find a place to fit in. They have struggled with the desire to feel important. They have struggled with how to treat others and how others treat them. They have struggles that were painful and frustrating and that sometimes seemed to have no solution.
So the cry went up to God asking for help. Pleas for comfort and protection, wisdom and strength. Pleas for God to come to our aid. God heard our cries and promised to send one who would help; one who would be a counselor full of wisdom, a king full of power to accomplish the task, a judge who would bring peace to all.
Tonight we light the first candle which symbolizes the hope that we have in God. Hope such as the prophets had who knew that God should not leave them desolate but would send a Messiah, a Christ, a Savior to help them with their struggles.
Congregational Carol: “O Come all Ye Faithful” (verses. 1 & 4)
THE CANDLE OF PEACE:
Reading: Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-7 --Lighting of the Peace Candle-
Reflection: The second candle of the wreath is the peace candle. It reflects the peace that comes when we find God. Peace that is present even when the situation around us is turbulent and chaotic. Mary and Joseph must have known that peace for in the midst of a very difficult situation they found comfort and strength. Beginning with a pregnancy that created gossip and snide looks to her giving birth in a stable far from home, to narrowly missing having her newborn child murdered by King Herod’s soldiers, to having to flee to a foreign country in the middle of the night they were lifted up and supported. God send Mary and Joseph and incredible peace to help them live through those turbulent times.
Likewise we are promised a wonderful peace for our turbulent times. If we will look to the Lord we will find peace for our struggles—God doesn’t promise that we will never have turmoil or hurt but the Lord does promise strength to draw upon and comfort.
Congregational Carol: “It came upon a midnight clear” (verses 1-2, 4)
THE CANDLE OF JOY:
Reading: Matthew 2:1-12 and Luke 2: 8-20
Response: The third candle is the candle of Joy. This candle reminds us of the joy that the news of Jesus’ birth brought to the shepherd and the Wise Men. They rejoiced that the waiting was over and the promise of God was being fulfilled right before their eyes. The Shepherd were so excited that they left their flocks to come and see this new baby. The Wise Men came from far away seeking the one who even the stars pointed to as God’s Son.
For you and me as well, the news of Jesus’ birth is joyful news. It is a message to celebrate and get excited about. It is worthy of a time of praise and worship. For this truly is good news of a great joy!
Offering and Special Music: “Joy to the world” Praise Band
THE CANDLE OF LOVE:
Reading: John 3:16-21 ---Lighting of the Love Candle-
Reflection: The fourth candle is the candle symbolizing love. Love is the foundation of what we celebrate during the Christmas Season. Because of God’s love for you and for me the Lord would not turn away and forget us. It was that love which motivated God to reach out through the prophets and finally through Jesus the Son.
It is easy to become judges of others and of our world. It is tempting to condemn those who do not fit into our mold of what a person should be or who do not do things how we think they should be done. From that judging it is just a small step to mistreating the people and even hating them. Yet God’s way is not that of hating, but of loving. Even when mistakes are made or we simply ignore the will of the Lord, the Christmas message proclaims that God continues to love us.
Congregational Carol: “Away in a Manger”
THE CHRIST CANDLE:
Reading: John 1:1-5, 9-18 -- Lighting of the Christ Candle
Reflection: The Central Candle in the wreath is the Christ Candle. It reminds us of the one who came that we might have life and have it abundantly. For in Jesus, God’s only Son, we find the truth we long for. In Christ we receive the grace that we need. Jesus came to us to show us who God is and to restore our relationship with God. He came to help us rebuild our relationships with each other as well. He came to push away the darkness that has overtaken our lives; the darkness of frustration and fear, hatred and hurt, hopelessness and despair. As we light the Christ candle let us remember the hope we can cling to during the bad times and the good. May we receive the peace that Jesus can bring into our lives. Let us join together and joyfully proclaim the love that God has for each of us. For truly Christ the Lord has come today!
Special Music: “O Holy Night”
THE CANDLE OF DISCIPLESHIP:
Reading: Mark 14:22-24
Reflection: From Christ’s birth in Bethlehem to his death on a cross outside Jerusalem, Jesus showed us God’s love. He taught God’s message of grace and sought to bring us closer to God; preparing us for a relationship with our creator. Then on the Cross he took away the barriers between us and opened the pathway to God. Each time we gather around the communion table we celebrate the opportunity Jesus gives us to draw close to God; an opportunity that is more precious than silver or gold. It is a gift bought at a terrible price but one that is freely and generously offered to us.
Words of Institution
Sharing in the Meal
SHARING CHRIST’S LIGHT
Lighting of the congregation’s candles and singing of “Silent Night”