CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE #2

by Rev. Stephen Wallace

Prelude                                                                                                   

 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            

 *Responsive Reading:                                                                                          

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 all

                          generations 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 to

                          generation.

 

*Invocation                                                                                                    

 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.

            Communion Prayer                                                               

            Words of Institution                                                                          

            Sharing in the Meal              

 

SHARING CHRIST’S LIGHT

            Lighting of the congregation’s candles and singing of “Silent Night”                   

Benediction

 
 

CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE #1

 

PRELUDE

 

GREETING AND MEANING OF THIS SERVICE                                         

            Isn’t it wonderful to receive a gift especially selected for you!  I’m talking about that gift which is painstakingly chosen so that it will be a delight to you. A gift which is meaningful, useful and cherished.  Tonight we celebrate such a fantastic gift.

            Christmas is a gift which is for each one of you. From the very beginning of Jesus’ life, God made it clear that we are the ones to whom this blessing was given.  The angels declared that this was “good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” Tonight you are invited to take hold of that good news and joy which God sent especially to you.

LIGHTING OF THE ADVENT CANDLES AND CHRIST CANDLE Tonight we light all the candles of the Advent Wreath.  We remember the candle of HOPE, PEACE, JOY AND LOVE that we have lit over the past four weeks.  Tonight we add the central candle which is called the Christ Candle.  (Light all the candles)

 Into the darkness of that night near Bethlehem a blazing light shown and angels told the shepherds of a great joy that God was bringing to all the people.  Those angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will among all the people.”  The shepherds were awestruck.  They were simple people, not at all accustomed to being part of such an experience.  But this was an event to bless all people; the greatest and the least.  So tonight may we come to celebrate Christ’s birth with humility and awe.

Let us pray: Almighty God, tonight we light these candles symbolizing the hope, peace, joy and love you bring to us through Christ.  Illuminate the darkness of our world by your presence.  Set our faith on fire with your good news so that we may show the world what rich blessings you offer.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

RESPONSIVE READING Leader:            My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

People:            FOR THE MIGHTY ONE HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR ME –

                            HOLY IS HIS NAME.

Leader:            Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and 
                            has redeemed His people.

People:            HE HAS RAISED UP A HORN OF SALVATION FOR US AND REMEMBERED TO BE MERCIFUL TO HIS CHILDREN.
 

The Prophets             For many years the messengers of God told of the coming of the Messiah. They told of the one God would send to help us. Hear again the words of the prophets. Jeremiah 23:5-6 and Isaiah 11:1-4a

 “Do you promise?” asked the little child with ears peaked to hear the answer. “Yes” came the answer and the celebration began. The child already was rejoicing. Even though the promise had not yet been fulfilled, he could rejoice because he knew it would be. The celebration could begin because the promise was trustworthy. The promise was reliable.

            God gives us His promise. A promise of salvation and of forgiveness. A promise of a new life so much richer than anything we have known. We can begin the celebration now because that promise is trustworthy. God’s word is reliable. We do not have to wait and wonder if it is true, but can rejoice for what will certainly be. The prophets knew the truth of God’s word and they rejoice in the promise. Tonight you are offered those promises, too . . . and you are invited to start the celebration of what will be.

 HYMN:                                              Joy to the World”                           (verses 1 & 4) 

Mary and Joseph The message of Christmas tells us that God sees something of value in us. He reaches out to us because we are precious to him. This is what we find in Matthew 1:18-24

How wonderful it is to have another give us a genuine compliment. It is uplifting to have others see our potential and to appreciate our efforts. It is a joy when others believe in us.

God believed in Mary and Joseph. He saw in them the faith and loyalty necessary to make something great happen.  If they would trust the Lord then a great thing would be done. God believed in Mary and Joseph and because they trusted God, a Savior was born.

God also believes in you. He sees in you wonderful possibilities. He calls you to trust in Him and help another great work to be completed. It is not a matter of whether we have the abilities or the resources, but only a question of trust that God can do what is needed. Will you trust in the Lord and the wonders God has planned? God believes in you – will you believe in Him?

 

“O Come All Ye Faithful”                          (verses 1 & 3)  

The Shepherds                                                                                                                     

God came to us, but are we open to Him? In order to walk with God we need to allow the Lord to get our attention. In Luke 2:8-14 we read: The day had been hectic with the usual headaches and demands. Then the phone rang. It was tempting to ignore it and to keep working, but instead she took a chance and answered it. How grateful she was that she allowed herself to be interrupted as she heard the precious voice of an old friend say “hello”.

            The shepherds too must have wondered if they should ignore the interruption into their workday. They had a lot to do and it was risky to leave a flock alone . . . Yes, it is a bit harder to turn your back on a band of angels, but it can be done. How grateful they were that they listened to the message and followed the angels’ command.

            Today God continues to break in on peoples’ lives. He asks for our attention. He calls for our participation in His work. He wants us to allow ourselves to place Him first; even if it means interrupting our schedule/plans. This Christmas will you open yourself to the interruption of God? Will you take the risk and follow? How glad you will be if you do.

 

“Angels We Have Heard on High”     (verse 1 & 3)  

The Wise Men                                                                                                                      

We all are faced with the question of how much effort we will give to building a relationship with Christ. The Wise Men too had to decide how important Christ was to them as we see in Matthew 2:1-11.

 Some things take lots of planning to achieve. There are too many details to be able to stumble through and arrive in the proper places. Only by being intentional in action can the goal be reached.

That is how it was with the Wise Men. The distance to travel was too great to go with no guidance. The length of the trip too long without making preparation for food and transportation. The objective too important, the birth of a King, to bring just any gift. They made careful plans to be part of this moment.

We too need to make careful plans so that we can share in the blessing God offers us. This relationship is too valuable to let it rely on chance. The potential blessings too great to let them be determined by what we do on the spur of the moment. As we think about the planning and preparation the Wise Men made in order to see the King of kings, let us also do some planning on how we are going to seek out the King.

 BRINGING OF OUR GIFTS

 OFFERTORY SPECIAL MUSIC          “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”  or other piece    

 Jesus                                                                                                                                      

The Messiah did come just as God promised. Yet reality sometimes does not fit our preconceived vision as Luke 4:14-21 tells us.  “Today this scripture is fulfilled.” Jesus is the one. He is whom we have longed to find. He is the one who has the will and ability to bring us freedom and wholeness. Yet, just like the people of long ago, who did not expect the Messiah to act like Jesus did, we can have false expectations.

 They expected a King to come in royal splendor – the King came, but in a stable. They expected a conqueror to come with armies and swords – the conqueror came, but he conquered sin through his death. They had to rethink their expectations so that they could see the Messiah who did come to them.

 This Christmas, ask yourself if there are images or expectations about Jesus you need to change. Will you let him come as he desires and act on the ways he knows are best? Today the Messiah stands before us, will you accept him?

 

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”      (verses 1 & 3) (Elders come forward during hymn)

 

COMMUNION THOUGHT                                                                                  

            Tonight, we celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. It is a night filled with joy and hope because the promises are being fulfilled. This birth brings new possibilities to our world and to each of us. Possibilities that our lives can be different – they can be richer. Possibilities that our world can be different – it can be just and compassionate. But remember that Christmas cannot be separated from Easter.  The hope of Christmas was fulfilled only because of the Cross of Calvary. As we rejoice tonight, let us invite Christ into our hearts as we gather at his table.

 WORDS OF INSTITUTION AND PRAYER

 You are invited to come and share in the Lord’s Supper. After you have taken communion you are invited to pick up a candle symbolizing your willingness to carry the Light of Christ out into our world. Then we ask you to return to your seat with the candle.

 SHARING IN THE MEAL

 The Church                                                                                                  

Isaiah 9:2 & 6 tells us. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  ---  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The light has come and you are invited to carry it to our world. Carry it to others so that their lives may find the peace of Christ and the salvation of our Lord. Tonight rejoice because a precious gift is given to you and to our world.

 

“Silent Night”

 

BENEDICTION                                                                                                        Go in peace. Go with the message of Good News on your lips and the love of God in your heart. For the Savior has come.

 

POSTLUDE

 

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