Christmas Day Service of Lessons and Carols
Opening Carol Joy to the World #59
Call to Worship
Like eager children waiting for dawn, tearing at the wrapping to get to the gift,
waking sleeping parents with shouts of joy, we welcome Christmas morning.
Like Mary cradling her baby in her arms, we celebrate that the waiting is over.
Like shepherds returning to the fields after standing in awe before the manger, we reflect on the meaning of this day. And so in joy, in celebration and in awe, we gather in worship.
Christmas Morning Prayer
Out of the noise, glitter and ho-ho-ho of the world’s Christmas, we have come in this hour to rediscover the true meaning of the joy that lies beneath the surface of this day. Help us to see beyond the baby in the manger to the Christ who, by his teachings and his example truly became God-With-Us, Emmanuel. Amen.
In The Beginning
Our first reading this morning comes from the Gospel According to John. John does not tell a story about angels, shepherds, stables, or even magi. For John there is no birth narrative because, for him, Jesus, as the word made flesh, has always existed. We’re actually going to hear a paraphrase of the story that John begins with.
A Paraphrase of John 1:1-4, 14
In the beginning …
Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills,
before the beginning of the earth:
In the beginning …
Before the birdsong or the breath of life lifted its gift to the warmth of the sun:
In the beginning … was the Word.
And the Word was with God…
When God established the heavens, when God drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when God marked out the foundations of the earth,
The Word was with God … and the Word was God.
The Word was Power, empowering all.
The Word was Light, enlightening all.
The Word was Love, loving all.
And the Word became flesh and lived with us;
Ultimate Truth, Source of Grace, made of our world a holy place.
And it was the beginning…
Is now and shall be always and forever.
Carol What Child is This #74 (verses 1 & 2)
Our second reading is the song of praise and adoration that Mary offers when
Elizabeth confirms for her that the child she carries truly is blessed.
It is read from the New International Version of the Bible
Luke 1:39-55 (New International Version)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Carol All Poor Ones and Humble #68 (verse 2)
Our next reading is taken from the words of the prophet Micah. It promises that an obscure, unimportant little town by the name of Bethlehem would one day become great, for it would produce a mighty ruler. It is read from the Good News Translation.
Micah 5:2-4 (Good News Translation)
The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.” So the Lord will abandon his people to their enemies until the woman who is to give birth has her son. Then those Israelites who are in exile will be reunited with their own people. When he comes, he will rule his people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God himself. His people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge his greatness.
Carol O Little Town of Bethlehem #64 (verses 1 &4)
The familiar story of Jesus’ birth as it is told in the Gospel According to Luke begins with a journey to that now famous town of Bethlehem. All of the readings we will hear from the Gospel According to Luke are from the King James Version of the Bible.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Carol Away In A Manger #69 (all verses)
We continue with the familiar Christmas Story as an angel visits a group of shepherds.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks #75 (verses 1,2,3 &4)
Song of Celebration
That one angel I joined by others.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Carol Angels, We Have Heard on High #38 (verses 1 & 2)
Following the instructions given by the angel, the shepherds go to Bethlehem.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
Carol Infant Holy, Infant Lowly #58 (all verses)
The joy and exuberance of the shepherds is much more subdued in his mother.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
Carol Gentle Mary Laid Her Child #46 (verses 1 & 3)
He’s Grown, That Baby
I want to share a reading with you that was written by Ann Lewin. It is titled,
He’s Grown, That Baby.
He’s grown, that baby. Not that most people have noticed.
He still looks the same, lying there in the straw, with animals and shepherds looking on.
He’s safe there, locked in that moment where time met eternity.
Reality of course is different.
He grew up, astonishing people with his insight,
disturbing them with ideas that stretched them into new maturity.
Some found him much too difficult to cope with,
nailed him down to fit their narrow minds.
We are more subtle. We keep him helpless, refusing to let him be the man he is, adoring him as the Christmas Baby, eternally unable to let him grow up.
By all means let us pause here at the stable and marvel at the miracle of birth.
But we’ll never get to know God-with-us, until we learn to find him at the Inn,
a fellow guest who shares the joy and sorrow, the host who is the life we celebrate.
He’s grown, that baby. Not that most people have noticed.
In our last reading, the shepherds return to their normal everyday lives, but they do so praising God for all they have experienced. As we leave here today, will we do the same?
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Carol Go Tell It on the Mountain #43 (verse 3)
Sending OutWe have gathered here today to celebrate the birth of that Baby of Bethlehem. But the reason we have gathered is because we have committed ourselves to follow the example of the man he grew to be. And so, as we go out from here, we carry with us the song of the angles, the wonder of the shepherds, the quiet contemplation of his mother, and the never ending and eternal love that he was born to teach us. We go to share this same joy, wonder, questioning and undying love with all those we meet. We go with God.