Welcome everyone and Merry Christmas! I invite you to take a moment and breathe deeply the wonder and awe of this holy night. Enter into the mystery of a holy night long ago. Enter into the mystery still present and powerful today. Leave behind your expectations, your assumptions, and your skepticism. Enter into the mystery of stars and shepherds, of music and angels, of evergreens, candles, and a tiny baby wrapped in cloth and laid gently in the hay of a manger. Come, enter into the mystery of this night as we celebrate the birth of the Holy Child of Bethlehem.
Opening Carol Joy to the World #59
Call to Worship
It’s Christmas Eve and for a moment the world stops spinning around us.
It’s Christmas Eve and for a moment, time stands still.
The here and now drifts away and we find ourselves enveloped in the story.
Tonight we are both here and on a lonely hillside overlooking Bethlehem.
Tonight as we listen to the music of carols,
We hear the songs of angels.
Tonight as we huddle against the cold outside,
We sense the warmth of a stable.
Tonight as past and present are woven together
We await the one who unites, past, present, and future.
So on this Christmas Eve, let us worship God together.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a
land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
This night these words are fulfilled – for the promise of God has come to us. The child born in a stable 2000 years ago is born again this day into our world and into our lives. The Christ Child who was laid in a manger is now cradled within our hearts.
No longer do we seek light from another source; now that light burns within our hearts and we have become love’s light to the world.
The circle of our wreath is now complete, and we are encircled within God’s hope, peace, joy and love. And at the center of all things is Christ.
So, we light the candle at the center of our wreath and of our faith. We light it in the name of the One who is the light of the world, and, as Mary did so long ago, we name this light Jesus. (light Christ Candle)
Let us join together in our Christmas Eve prayer.
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, we bow before you tonight. In wonder and amazement, we hear again the story of a humble birth in a lowly stable. Tonight we celebrate the birth of that tiny child, and we welcome him among us now as Emmanuel, God with us. Amen
Blessed News Luke 1:26-35
God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee with a message for a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to Joseph from the family of King David. The angel greeted Mary and said, “You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. Then the angel told Mary, “Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God Most High. The Lord God will make him king, as his ancestor David was. He will rule the people of Israel forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am not married!”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. Your relative Elizabeth is also going to have a son, even though she is old. No one thought she could ever have a baby, but in three months she will have a son. Nothing is impossible for God!”
Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Through the Eyes of Mary
To be perfectly honest, I fully expected to wake up in the morning and find that it had all just been a strange dream. After all, it was impossible for me to be pregnant. Yet … somehow, I just couldn’t dismiss it. There was something in his voice as he stood before me that was so compelling. I can’t explain it but I couldn’t help but wonder. Does that sound crazy? It certainly did to me. And why would Yahweh choose me? I mean, I have always believed that nothing is impossible for God, but this? I was just so confused.
But there was something else the angel said. He told me Elizabeth was pregnant. That’s almost as impossible as me being pregnant. Maybe I should go and see her and talk to her. If anyone can help me sort all this out it would be Elizabeth. Yes. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll go to see Elizabeth.
Carol To a Maid Whose Name Was Mary #14
Leap of Faith Luke 1:39-45
A short time later Mary hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea. She went into Zechariah’s home, where she greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, her baby moved within her.
The Holy Spirit came upon Elizabeth. Then in a loud voice, she said to Mary:
God has blessed you more than any other woman! He has also blessed the child you will have. Why should the mother of my Lord come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby leaped with joy inside me. The Lord has blessed you because you believed that he will keep his promise.
Through the Eyes of Mary
I couldn’t deny it any longer. It was true. It hadn’t just been a dream. Elizabeth had confirmed it. I was going to have a baby, and not just any baby. I was to bear the holy Son of God. It was all so overwhelming. It’s true I was frightened, but I knew that it would be OK. Yahweh had chosen me! Despite my fear and uncertainty, I couldn’t help but sing out in joy!
Carol My Soul Cries Out MV#120
A Good Man Matthew 1:18-21
This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David’s family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God’s Holy Spirit. Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding.
While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Through the Eyes of Mary
I was terrified to tell my family. I was promised in marriage to a carpenter named Joseph, but I was certain that when he found out I was pregnant he would never accept me as a bride. He could even demand my death if he chose. But I knew that Joseph had a reputation of being a good man so I hoped he would not demand my death. After all, why would Yahweh go through all this if the child was never to be born? But once again, I guess I underestimated the Divine power. It turns out that Joseph believed that the child was Yahweh’s child and he agreed to marry me. What an amazing God we have!
Carol When Joseph Went to Bethlehem
The Journey Luke 2:1-5a
About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family.
Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem.
Through the Eyes of Mary
It was a difficult journey. I was so uncomfortable. A lot of people wondered why Joseph would take me with him when I was so close to delivering. But there were still people who believed that I was guilty of adultery and Joseph was worried that if he wasn’t there to protect me, I would have to face their accusations alone. He also worried that people might think he was abandoning me. So, we made the journey together. It wasn’t easy. So many others were traveling to Bethlehem as well and by the time we got there, the town was absolutely full. There wasn’t a single room left. And then, at the worst possible moment, I went into labour.
Carol O Little Town of Bethlehem #64
The Birth Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room available for them.
Through the Eyes of Mary
All I could do was cry. There was no place for us to stay and I was about to deliver my first child. There was no one to help me and the only warm place that Joseph had been able to find for us was a stable. It seemed like a total disaster. But then, he arrived. I was well prepared by my mother for what would happen, but I had no idea how to overcome I would be with love for this tiny child, this tiny miracle. Joseph was amazing and somehow the horror of giving birth in a stable faded. It actually became very peaceful. The animals provided warmth and the quiet that surrounded us was like a protective blanket. Laying there in the hay, gazing into the face of my baby, I felt the presence of Yahweh in a way I had never felt before. He was with me. He was with us.
Carol Away In A Manger #69
Shepherds Hear the Message Luke 2:8-14
That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once, an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy. This very day in King David’s hometown a Savior was born for you. He is Christ the Lord. You will know who he is because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”
Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said: “Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”
Through the Eyes of Mary
I wasn’t there for this part of the story, but after everything else that had happened, how could I possibly doubt it? Some people question why Yahweh would choose to send angels to a bunch of poor shepherds. Why not announce the birth to people of importance and influence? I don’t know. Perhaps it was because they were the ones who would believe. Sometimes I’m not sure that the important, influential people are capable of believing in something so amazing, so impossible. But the shepherds… they believed.
Carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks #75
What Child is This Luke 2:15-19
After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay. When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him. Everyone listened and was amazed. But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.
Through the Eyes of Mary
I’m still trying to make sense of what happened next. The peaceful quiet of our humble stable was interrupted, when a band of tattered, scruffy-looking shepherds suddenly appeared. They rushed into the stable looking apprehensive and yet somehow hopeful. They didn’t even ask for permission to enter. They just walked right in and then crept over to where I had laid baby Jesus to sleep. At first, I was rather annoyed, but then I saw the looks on their faces. In the faces of these shabby, raggedy men I saw reflected all the wonder and awe within my own heart. I couldn’t help but smile. And then they told me their story, and I was more convinced than ever just how wonderous that night was.
I still think about that night so often. I still marvel at it. And I still wonder if I will ever fully understand the significance. But there is one thing that I am certain of. On that one night long ago in Bethlehem heaven reached down and touched the earth. The Divine and the human were united in a way that is beyond explanation. On that night everything changed, and not just for me. It changed for all of us. Because of that night, because he was born that night, things would never be the same again.
And that is as true today as it has ever been. And it is not just because a baby was born in a stable. It’s because of who that baby grew up to be. It is because, in him, heaven and earth united, and we were given a glimpse of the divine, here on earth.
Carol What Child is This #74
Invitation to Give
The gift of angels singing. The gift of stars dancing. The gift of shepherd’s devotion. The gift of a baby boy. This night, these gifts have been given to us and in response, we offer our gifts. Because of the current pandemic we are not able to pass our offering plates, so instead, you are invited to drop your Christmas offering into the offering plates at the back of the church either on your way in or on your way out. You can also arrange for your offering to be taken directly from your bank accounts through PAR or you can go to our Beacon website and donate online. But it is important to remember that our financial contributions are only part of what we offer to God. We also offer our time, our talents and abilities, and our commitment. And so as we reflect on all that we have to offer God this day, let us pray.
Angels offered songs. Stars offered light. Those who knelt at the manger so long ago offered whatever they had to the Child of Bethlehem. And so tonight we offer our gifts, whatever those gifts may be, and we ask that you bless them, in the name of the holy child we gather here today to celebrate. Amen.
Carol O Come, All Ye Faithful #60
Christmas Prayers for All People
On this Holy Night, we come to worship and adore the one born to show us God’s love demonstrated for us in human form. With hope filling our hearts and our eyes stretched wide with wonder and awe, we await a miracle. The faint melodies of angels, the quiet awe of shepherds, and the gentle cooing of a newborn baby, all draw us into the mystery of all that lies beyond this night, and so in this place surrounded by wonder and joy, we come before you in prayer.
We pray … for those whose hope has been broken, those who cannot experience wonder, and those who no longer believe in joy.
We pray … for those with empty stomachs and fear-filled hearts, those who are hungry and afraid, without food or shelter, those living in conflict and fear, those facing war and terrorism, and those living in situations of violence, both around them and within their own homes.
We pray … for those whose hearts and whose spirits are ragged and broken, those who are alone and lonely, those who feel unloved and unlovable, those who long for a friendly smile or a reassuring word of comfort.
On this blessed night as we turn our faces ever toward you, turn our faces towards others as well, that the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love that we have experienced through you, may be shared with all. Divine One, on the night we come to bow down and adore you, Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Carol Il Est Ne / He Is Born #50
The story had been told! The Good News has been shared! A child is born, and his name is Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us. But that is only the beginning of the story, a story that has not yet ended. A story that includes us, a story of which we are apart. So we go out from here to live that story, to tell of the Hope that is born among us this Christmas, to share the Love of the season with the whole world, to be agents of peace in times of trouble, and to sing songs of deep and abiding Joy.
We go out from here knowing that God goes with us, challenging us to respond to God’s call in ways that are new, unexpected, and perhaps a little unsettling. And so, as we go out from here may we know that the Christ of Christmas is with us, not just today, but always. Amen.
Carol Silent Night #67