Christmas Eve

Lectionary Texts

Isiah 9.2-7: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… for a child has been born for us,… the Prince of Peace.”

Psalm 96: “Sing to God a new song!” God has done great things, and will judge the world with righteousness.

Titus 2.11.14 God’s grace has come with salvation for all…to redeem and purify: so live godly lives.

Luke 2.1-20. The nativity story we all (think) we know: Bethlehem, the baby, the manger, the shepherds, the angels… and Mary pondering all these things in her heart.

Preaching Thoughts

       I recommend avoiding the cute message that “one magic night this magic thing happened;” instead reflect on the eternal nature of the Incarnation. This was not “one special night.” This is all the time. God is with us always, even in the most ordinary situations (shepherds, just doing their jobs…) and even situations of difficulty, pain and uncertainty (a newborn infant is just about the most vulnerable creature to be in this world). God is among us. God’s presence is most easily seen not in the rich and powerful, but in the poor and simple. (Shepherds were lower class folks.) The temptation to focus on the warm, sweet Hallmark images of a sanctuary full of candles and a home full of gathered family members is often overwhelmed by the need to address the pain and struggle in the wold and in our people’s lives. But that pain is actually the “reason for the season:” in our deep human struggles we need God to come alongside us and walk with us in this difficult but blessed human journey of life. The message of the Nativity is the good news of Emmanuel, God with us.
       The message, especially in Luke’s telling, is that God’s grace works on a greater scale and at a deeper level than we can see in the moment. What may seem now to be ordinary, or challenging, or even disturbing, may turn out later to be just what we need. Justice, liberation and the healing of the world won’t come in the hands of a heroically invading savior, nor all in a dramatic moment, but bit by bit, over years, beginning with humble acts like giving birth, choosing love, and living with integrity even in the face of oppression, injustice and the forces of Empire.

Call to Worship

Leader: In the darkness, stars shine.
All: In the cold of winter, a warmth rises.
In the silence, angels approach.
In the mystery of this night, your people gather, O God.
Your Word is made flesh, and we come in humble awe.
Your grace unfolds among us, and we come to witness,
to worship, and to wonder. Alleluia!

In the dark of our night, stars, shine your light!
      Moon, give us your gentle beams!
Sun, be hidden now, to make way for a greater light.
     Earth, breathe deeply now, for your time has come.

On this night Word becomes flesh.
     Human and divine are married and give birth.
All earth is hushed, as God comes among us.
     Angels sing, as a woman brings forth Love.
People of God, come in wonder and joy.
     God of love, we give you thanks and praise!


        Blessed God, we praise you on this holy night for the mystery of your Incarnation. We bless you for the birth of Jesus, and for the gift of your salvation. We thank you that you dwell with us in love.
       In the name of the infant Jesus we pray for all children, and their families. We pray for peace. We pray for those for whom Christ came: those who suffer, those who are lost or lonely, the sick, the powerless and the rejected, those who struggle in life; and those who do not know you. Blessed are the poor, and those who mourn. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted: for among them is Emmanuel.
        Holy Spirit, make of our hearts an open manger, that Christ may be born in us anew and live in us always. By your grace help us to receive the gifts of this holy season, to share them with all the world, and to live always in the light of Jesus’ presence. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

O God, turn out the lights in our busy lives,
that in the darkness your stars may shine.
Silence the chatter of our minds,
that we may hear the angels sing.
Bring us to our knees,
that we may see the holy child.
Make hearts open mangers
for your Christ to be born in us.
You who are always with us, come to us again;
make your Word flesh in us.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

God of light and healing, we thank you for the blessed mystery that you give yourself to us. You have come to dwell with us, and within us. Blessed, transformed, and sustained by your presence, we go into the world in your name to bring good news to the poor, to set the captives free, and to proclaim your grace. Send us in the power of your Spirit, with the blessing and the company of your Son, our Chief, Jesus Christ, who is present among us, now and to eternal life. Amen.

Suggested Songs

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

Drawn by Your Light (Tune: Away in a Manger)

In darkness we gather, God, drawn by your light,
your glorious presence that blesses the night,
the light and the deep peace that Jesus imparts,
the Spirit’s bright radiance that burns in our hearts.

The light of Creation that made the first dawn,
the pillar of fire that led Israel on,
the star that led magi to where Jesus was
now draws us to worship with alleluias.

Your light shines so even the darkness is blessed
this night as we wait for the coming of Christ.
God, shine your light warmly in us by your grace,
that we may bear healing and justice and peace.

Emmanuel       (Original song)

How dark is the night and how cold is the home
we have made in our pain and our sin!
How could it be that a savior would come
to be with us? Please enter in!
Welcome, Emmanuel! Welcome in!
Welcome, Emmanuel! Welcome in!

Are we alone in our failure and terror,
struggling, confused in the night?
We cannot save ourselves, weary from error,
Who will bring us the light? Welcome…

Closing our doors to the wind of Creation,
alone, we are living in fear.
Emmanuel comes now, our healing salvation,
to dwell with us, bringing love here. Welcome…

Wait, though, dear Jesus, this life will be trying:
you’ll die in sorrow and scorn.
“Yes, but I’ll bless all your living and dying.
See, in the manger I’m born.” Welcome…

Peace, Peace, Peace         (Tune: Still, Still, Still)

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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