Christmas Day

Lectionary Texts

Isaiah 52.7-10 celebrates the sharing of the good news that God has come to us: the “return of the Holy One to Zion.”

Psalm 98 celebrates what a mighty thing God has done in remembering God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

Hebrews 1.1-4 says God speaks to us in love, both through the prophets, and now through a Son, who is a perfect reflection and exact imprint of God’s glorious nature.

John 1.1-14 proclaims the great news of the Incarnation: the Word is made flesh and camps out among us.

Preaching Thoughts

The Word (“logos” in Greek), is the organizing energy, the “logic” of all Creation. The Word is God’s love, which is a creative, life-giving force, and the ultimate source and meaning of all creation. God speaks that Word to God’s beloved people, particularly in the person of Christ—both the eternal person of the Holy Trinity, and the earthly incarnation of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. But the Logos isn’t just in Jesus: it’s in everything. “Nothing ever created came to be, except through the Logos.” Part of the paradox of the Incarnation is that we see in Jesus a unique embodiment of God’s love; and at the same time Jesus convinces us that he’s not unique: God’s love, and God’s Spirit, is in each of us—in fact in all Creation. Everything that exists is an emanation of God’s love.

On Christmas morning it’s natural to want to focus on the sweet little baby Jesus in the manger. But John’s gospel makes it clear that this isn’t about “once upon a time there was a cute baby and all the angels sang.” It’s about something cosmic, earth-shattering and life-changing. The Incarnation opens our eyes to the Divine Presence surrounding us, and it calls us to live in harmony with that vision. It’s a summons to deeper awareness, reverence and commitment to justice.

It’s also a reassurance. Inevitably, bad stuff happens around Christmas time; and disaster, upheaval and injustice can feel like it “spoils” the season. But evil, suffering, loneliness and uncertainty isn’t an interruption: it’s the reason for the season. Jesus comes to be with us precisely because this life is hard, and we need God by our side. In the Incarnation God says, “Don’t worry. I’m here with you. No matter what.” That’s what gives us courage to grieve losses, love neighbors, confront injustice and live with hope amid uncertainty. Welcome, God. Golly, do we ever need you.

Worship note: When Christmas falls on a Sunday it becomes clear to what degree in our culture it’s really a secular holiday, not a religious one. “What?” people say. “Come to church on Christmas Day? Are you kidding? That’s presents and turkey and football and family time!” So make your service a little short, a little different, and especially inviting for children.

In fact you might swap the sermon and kids’ time. Give the adults their obligatory 5 minutes, but spend some real time with the kids talking about Christmas. (The adults will eat it up.) Talk about how it’s nice to have mommy or daddy there especially when you’re scared. Jesus is God’s way of being with us. Jesus came to show us how God is always with us, because love is always here. Sometimes it feels especially scary to be a kid in this big world that’s arranged for adults. But God is a little kid, too. Even when you’re a little kid, God will help you. Imagine how hard it was for Mary and Joseph: traveling a long way, finding no place to stay, delivering a baby in a strange, rough place. People treated Mary and Joseph and Jesus as if they weren’t important: “There’s no room for you here.” But they were very important to God. And you, too, are just that important to God. No matter what happens to you, you are God’s very special child.

Music note: Christmas Day is a great opportunity to sing all those “B side” less familiar carols we don’t get to sing much because we’ve been busy going through all the top ten hits. Besides, your people may already be sick of the standard Christmas carols because they’ve been hearing them in the popular culture for a month. And they just sang them all last night. Introduce them to the other ones. (They’re in most hymnals.) Preach short and sing extra.

Call to Worship

1. from John 1.14-18
Leader: In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was present to God, and the Word was God.
All: In the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen the glory of the Word,
the delight and attention given an only child,
full of grace, full of truth.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

Leader: Love is infinite, enveloping all that is.
All: Love is as invisible as gravity, and just as strong.Love is the seed of the universe, the the womb of life.
Love is God, eternal and perfect.
And yet love is also made flesh, right here and now.
Love has been born among us, and within us.
Christ is born! Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Loving God, in the birth of Jesus you have given yourself to us. May your love be born in our hearts and your light shine in our eyes. By your image in us and your grace in us and your presence in us, may others experience your presence and trust your love.2.
Womb of Love, you have given birth to Jesus, who is not only our Chief and our Leader, our Teacher and Savior, but also our brother. In awe we celebrate. In gratitude we thank you. In wonder we worship. Alleluia! Amen.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Leader: “In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was present to God, and the Word was God.”
All: The Word is love, and it is love we honor and love we live.
In the Word was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Love has blessed us; love has birthed us and brought us to this day.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen the glory of the Word,
the delight and attention given an only child,
full of grace, full of truth.”
In Jesus we have seen God’s love.
It is that love we give ourselves to, to receive from,
to learn from, and to practice.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. “
As shepherds returned to their fields telling of the good news,
we go into the fields of our daily lives, proclaiming in words and deeds,
in devotion and in justice, the new birth of God’s love among us. Alleluia!

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

In the dark night, stars shone.
In the winter wind, angels sang.
In the child’s ears, the mother whispered love.
In the mystery of this moment,
you murmur your love to us,
and we listen.


            Christmas Blessing

May the coming of Christ
deepen your wonder
and widen your gratitude.

May the helpless child
bring forth your tenderness
and strengthen your love.

May the gentle mother
give you courage to embrace the holy
and find the divine in yourself.

May the child who shares our death
bring light into your darkness,
and hope to your weariness.

May the holy family in the stable
open your heart to the poor,
the homeless, the refugee.

May the child sought by soldiers
embolden you to cry out
and empower you to resist injustice.

May the angels who sing above you
awaken your heart
and surround you with beauty.

May the One Who Comes
remind you of your belovedness
and fill you with kindness and mercy,
and give you joy.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

Creator God, from the beginning
you have made all things through your Word,
in which is life, and the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness
and the darkness cannot overcome it.

The true light that enlightens everyone
was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him,
yet the world did not know him.
[… The Blessing and Covenant…]

But to all who received him
he gave power to become children of God,
born not of the flesh nor of human will,
but born of God.
Memorial Acclamation

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
full of grace and truth; and we have beheld his glory.
And from this glory we all receive, grace upon grace.
No one has ever seen God; Christ makes God known.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ.
God of all Creation,
may your Word be made flesh
by all your holy Church,
in the love of Christ
and the power of the Holy Spirit.

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, you are with us in the flesh. In gratitude for your presence and your grace, we give of ourselves, to make your love real in the world. And so we give you our gifts as symbols of our lives. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion / Sending

God, we thank you for the great mystery that you give yourself to us in love. May we continually receive the gift. May we live as gifts of love for others, by your Spirit, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, on the Music page)

Peace, Peace, Peace (Tune: Still, Still, Still)
[Music includes optional parts for two flutes.]

Peace, peace, peace. God grant you peace, my friends.
The Christ child comes, so sweet and tender.
Greet him with your trust and wonder.
Peace, peace, peace, God be with you, my friends.

Love, love, love, love light your way, my friends.
Here at the manger humbly kneeling;
gladly going, serving, healing.
Love, love, love, love light your way, my friends.

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