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Story and Liturgy for The First Sunday After Christmas - Year A
Carols and Readings For Christmas
"Why The Bells Chimed" - by Raymond Macdonald Alden


READING:  Various Christmas Readings
SERMON :  "Why The Bells Chimed"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ch01sn 813

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday. Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

   Sources: The story "Why The Bells Chimed" is by Raymond 
   MacDonald Alden and has become a traditional Christmas tale.


ATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* GREETING & CALL TO WORSHIP
L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you
L  In many and various ways God spoke of old to our ancestors through the
   prophets.
P  But in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son,
   whom he appointed to be the heir of all things,
   through whom he also created the world.
L  Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name;
   for to us has come a saviour, Christ the new born king..

                                                                           
* CHRISTMAS INTROIT
   Joy to the world!  The Lord is come: 
   let earth receive her King! 
   Let every heart prepare him room,
   and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing,
   and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

   
* CANDLE LIGHTING AND PRAYER OF INVOCATION
   VOICE  As we light these candles today, we thank God for hope he gives
          us, for the peace he bestows, for the joy he pours into our
          hearts, and for the love that redeems us and shows us the way.

   VOICE  We thank God for his gift of Jesus.  We thank him that thru
          Christ his light has come into the world and made it possible
          for us to see, and in seeing, to rejoice.  His  truth, his love,
          his very self, transforms all who receive him.

   Light the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Christ Candle

   VOICE  Loving God, Emmanuel, we thank you for being with us - for
          sending your Son to walk with us and to lead us.  As Christ
          Jesus was born of Mary, so may he be born in us and through us
          revealed to the world.  Grant that the hope, the peace, the joy,
          and the love of which we have heard and spoken of throughout
          Advent may be fully realized in us as we worship and serve you
          through him, this both now and forevermore.  Amen.


* CAROL: "Joy to The World" (verses 2-4)                            - VU 59


               -- THE CHRISTMAS STORY IN WORD AND SONG --


THE BIRTH FORETOLD
- Leader: Introduction
   The prophet Micah proclaimed that the Christ would be born in the city
   of David.  These are the words that God gave to him to say:

- Reader: Micah 2:2-4
   But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans
   of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in
   Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.  He shall
   stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty
   of the name of the Lord his God.  And his people shall dwell
   securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the
   earth.  He will be their peace.    (Micah 2:2-4)


CAROL: "O Sing A Song of Bethlehem"
O sing a song of Bethlehem, of shepherds watching there,
And of the news that came to them from angels in the air.
The light that shone on Bethlehem fills all the world today;
Of Jesus' birth and peace on earth the angels sing alway.

O sing a song of Nazareth, of sunny days of joy;
O sing of fragrant flowers' breath, and of the sinless Boy.
For now the flowers of Nazareth in every heart may grow;
Now spreads the fame of His dear name on all the winds that blow.

O sing a song of Galilee, of lake and woods and hill,
Of Him who walked upon the sea and bade the waves be still.
For though like waves on Galilee, dark seas of trouble roll,
When faith has heard the Master's Word, falls peace upon the soul.

O sing a song of Calvary, its glory and dismay,
Of Him who hung upon the tree, and took our sins away.
For He who died on Calvary is risen from the grave,
And Christ, our Lord, by heaven adored, is mighty now to save.


THE ANGEL VISITATION
- Leader: Introduction
   The prophet Micah foretold the birthplace of the Christ.  The prophet
   Isaiah, many years earlier, spoke of how the Christ would be conceived
   and what he would do.  In fulfilment of the word that was delivered to
   him that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and they he would be
   called Emmanuel, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Mary.  This is
   the account of that visit.

- Reader: Luke 1:26-38
   (NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a
   town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose
   name was Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin's name was Mary. 
   And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is
   with you."  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered
   what sort of greeting this might be.  The angel said to her, "Do not
   be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  And now, you
   will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him
   Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most
   High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor
   David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his
   kingdom there will be no end."  Mary said to the angel, "How can
   this be, since I am a virgin?"  The angel said to her, "The Holy
   Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
   overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will
   be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old
   age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her
   who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with
   God."  Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it
   be with me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from
   her.


CAROL: "Jesus Our Brother"                                          - VU 56


THE BIRTH IN BETHLEHEM
- Leader: Introduction
   This is the account of the birth of Jesus, the child of promise, the
   one who came to save us from our sin and to bring the Kingdom of God
   close to hand to all who believe.  Hear again the story of Christmas
   Day:

- Reader: Luke 2:1-7
   In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the
   world should be registered.  This was the first registration and was
   taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own
   towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth
   in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because
   he was descended from the house of David.  He went to be registered
   with Mary, to whom he was engaged, and who was expecting a child. 
   While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 
   And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of
   cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them
   at the inn.


CAROL: "Once in Royal David's City"                                 - VU 62


THE SHEPHERDS AND ANGELS
- Leader: Introduction
   At the time of the birth heaven and earth could not keep still.  The
   angels of God proclaimed the birth as the stars danced in the sky. The
   word they shared - they shared with the poor and the humble - the very
   ones who needed then, and still need now, to hear the angel song.  It
   was word that Mary would treasure and all after her who have the ears
   to hear it.

- Reader: Luke 2:8-20
   "In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping
   watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood
   before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they
   were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for
   see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to
   you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the
   Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a
   child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."  And
   suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
   praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on
   earth peace among those whom he favours!"  When the angels had left
   them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let
   us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
   which the Lord has made known to us."  So they went with haste and
   found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  When they
   saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;
   and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 
   But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 
   The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had
   heard and seen, as it had been told them."


CAROL: "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"                                  - VU 58


THE DEDICATION OF JESUS
- Leader: Introduction
   Jesus was born the child of God.  But he was also born under the law of
   God - the law that Mary and Joseph loved and kept.  So it was that
   eight days after his birth he was circumcised to proclaim that he was a
   child of the Covenant God had made with Israel.  Then, on the fortieth
   day after his birth he was taken to Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph so
   that the laws concerning purification before God might be fulfilled. 
   While they were there the prophet Anna saw the infant Jesus and, moved
   by God's spirit, proclaimed to all that he was the one who was sent by
   God to redeem his people.  God touched not only Anna at that time, he
   also fulfilled a promise that he had made to a man by the name of
   Simeon, the promise that he would see the Saviour of all the world
   before he died.  This is what occurred.

- Reader: Luke 2:22-32
   When the time came for their purification according to the law of
   Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him
   to the Lord.  Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was
   Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the
   consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had
   been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death
   before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon
   came into the temple, and when the parents brought in their child
   Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took
   him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Lord, now you are
   dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word, for my
   eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the
   presence of all peoples, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the
   glory of your people Israel."


CAROL: "Joy Is Now In Every Place"                                  - VU 45


A CHRISTMAS STORY: "Why The Bells Chimed" by Raymond MacDonald Alden

   Source: "Why The Bells Chimed" by Raymond Macdonald Alden.  This
   story is found all over the Internet and apparently comes originally
   from Alden's  Why the Chimes Rang and Other Stories, (The
   Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc). 

Today I wish to share with you a wonderful Christmas tale written by
Raymond MacDonald Alden many years ago.  It is a story that is delightful
and warm and I pray that you may be blessed by it as have many others.  It
is called "Why the Bells Chimed".

There was once, in a far-away country where few people have ever travelled,
a wonderful church. It stood on a high hill in the centre of a great city;
and every Sunday, as well as on sacred days like Christmas, thousands of
people climbed the hill to its great archways, looking like lines of ants
all moving in the same direction. 

When you came to the building itself, you found stone columns and dark
passageways, and a grand entrance leading to the main room of the church.
This room was so long that one standing at the door-way could scarcely see
to the other end, where the choir stood by the large altar.  In the
farthest corner was the organ, and this organ was so loud that sometimes
when it played, the people for miles around would close their shutters and
prepare for a great thunderstorm. Altogether, no such church as this was
ever seen before, especially when it was lighted up for some festival, and
crowded with people, young and old. 

But the strangest thing about the old building was the wonderful chime of
bells.  At one corner of the church was a great, grey tower, with ivy
growing over it as far up as one can see. I say as far as one can see
because the tower was quite grand enough to fit the grand church, and it
rose so far into the sky that it was only in fair weather that anyone
claimed to be able to see the top.  Even then one could not be certain that
it was in sight. Up and up climbed the stones and the ivy, and, as the men
who built the church had been dead for hundreds of years, everyone had
forgotten how high the tower was supposed to be. 

Now, all the people knew that at the top of the tower was a chime of
Christmas bells.  They had hung there ever since the church had been built,
and were the most beautiful bells in the world.  Some thought it was
because a great musician had cast them and arranged them in their place;
others said it was because of the great height, which reached up where the
air was cleanest and purest.  However that might be, no one who had ever
heard the chimes denied that they were the sweetest in the world.  Some
described them as sounding like angels far up in the sky; others, as
sounding like strange winds singing through the trees. 

But the fact was that no one had heard them for years and years.  There was
an old man living not far from the church who said that his mother had
spoken of hearing them when she was a little girl, and he was the only one
who was sure of as much as that.  They were Christmas chimes, you see, and
were not meant to be played by men or on common days.  It was the custom on
Christmas Eve for all the people to bring to the church their offerings to
the Christ- child; and when the greatest and best offering was laid on the
altar, there used to come sounding through the music of the choir the
Christmas chimes far up in the tower.  Some said that the wind rang them,
and others that they were so high that the angels could start them
swinging.  But for many years they had never been heard. 

It was said that people were growing less careful of their gifts for the
Christ-child, and that no offering was brought great enough to deserve the
music of the chimes.  Every Christmas Eve the rich people still crowded to
the altar, each one trying to bring some gift better than any other,
without giving anything he wanted for himself, and the church was crowded
with those who thought that perhaps the wonderful bells might be heard
again.  But although the services were splendid and the offerings plenty,
only the roar of the wind could be heard, far up in the stone tower. 

Now, a number of miles from the city, in a little country village where
nothing could be seen of the tower when the weather was fine, lived a boy
named Pedro, and his little brother.  They knew very little about the
Christmas chimes, but they had heard of the service in the church on
Christmas Eve, and had a secret plan, which they had often talked over
when by themselves, to go and see the beautiful celebration. 

"Nobody can guess, Little Brother," Pedro would say, "all the fine things
there are to see and hear; and I have even heard it said that the
Christ-child sometimes comes down to bless the service.  What if we could
see Him!" 

The day before Christmas was bitterly cold, with a few lonely snowflakes
flying in the air, and a hard white crust on the ground.  Sure enough,
Pedro and Little Brother were able to slip quietly away, early in the
afternoon; and although the walk was hard in the frosty air, before
nightfall they had trudged so far, hand in hand, that they saw the lights
of the big city just ahead of them.  Indeed, they were about to enter one
of the great gates in the wall that surrounded it when they saw something
dark on the snow near the path, and stepped aside to look at it. 

It was a poor woman who had fallen just outside the city, too sick and
tired to get in where she might have found shelter.  The soft snow made of
a drift a sort of pillow for her, and she would soon be so sound asleep in
the wintry air that no one could ever waken her again.  All this Pedro saw
in a moment, and he knelt down beside her and tried to rouse her, even
tugging at her arm a little as though he would have tried to carry her
away.  He turned her face toward him so that he could rub some of the snow
on it, and when he had looked at her silently a moment, he stood up again
and said: 

"It's no good, Little Brother.  You will have to go on alone."

"Alone?" cried Little Brother, "And you not see the Christmas Festival?" 

"No," said Pedro, and he could not keep back a bit of the choking sound in
his throat.  "See this poor woman.  She will freeze to death if nobody
cares for her.  Everyone has gone to the church now, but when you come back
you can bring someone to help her.  I will rub her to keep her from
freezing, and perhaps get her to eat the bun that is left in my pocket." 

"But I cannot bear to leave you, and go on alone," said Little Brother. 

"Both of us need not miss the service," said Pedro, "and it had better be
I than you.  You can easily find your way to the church; and you must see
and hear everything twice, Little Brother, -- once for you and once for
me.  I am sure the Christ-child must know how I should love to come with
you and worship Him; and oh! if you get a chance Little Brother to slip
up to the altar without getting in anyone's way, take this little silver
piece of mine, and lay it down for my offering when no one is looking.
Don't forget where you have left me, and forgive me for not going with
you." 

In this way he hurried Little Brother off to the city, and winked hard to
keep back the tears as he heard the crunching footsteps sounding farther
and farther away in the twilight.  It was pretty hard to lose the music and
splendor of the Christmas celebration that he had been planning for so
long, and spend the time instead in that lonely place in the snow. 

The great church was a wonderful place that night.  Everyone said that it
had never looked so bright and beautiful before.  When the organ played and
the thousands of people sang, the walls shook with the sound and little
Pedro, outside the city wall, felt the earth tremble around him, for the
sound was so great. 

At the close of the service came the procession with offerings to be laid
on the altar.  Rich men and great men marched proudly up to lay down their
gifts to the Christ-child.  Some brought wonderful jewels, some baskets of
gold so heavy that they could scarcely carry them down the aisle.  A great
writer laid down a book that he had been making for years and years. 

And last of all walked the king of the country, hoping with all the rest
to win for himself the chime of the Christmas bells.  There went a great
murmur through the church as the people saw the king take from his head
the royal crown, all set with precious stones, and lay it gleaming on the
altar as his offering to the holy Child.  "Surely." everyone said, "we
shall hear the bells now, for nothing like this has ever happened before."

But still only the cold old wind was heard in the tower, and the people
shook their heads, and some of them said, as they had before, that they
never really believed the story of the chimes, and doubted if they ever
rang at all. 

The procession was over, and the choir began the closing hymn.  Suddenly
the organist stopped playing as though he had been shot, and everyone
looked at the old minister who was standing by the altar holding up his
hand for silence.  Not a sound could be heard from anyone in the church,
but as all the people strained their ears to listen there came softly, but
distinctly swinging through the air, the sound of the chimes in the tower.
So far away and yet so clear the music seemed -- so much sweeter were the
notes than anything that had been heard before, rising and falling away up
there in the sky, that the people in the church sat for a moment as still
as though something held each of them by the shoulders.  Then they all
stood up together and stared straight at the altar to see what great gift
had awakened the long-silent bells. 

But all that the nearest of them saw was the childish figure of Little
Brother, who had crept softly down the aisle when no one was looking, and
had laid Pedro's little piece of silver on the altar......
 

CAROL: "Good King Winceslas"
Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter's rage freeze your blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING JOYS AND CONCERNS
 

ANTHEM: "What Child Is This"


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE AND THE LORD'S PRAYER: 

      Some of the following prayers are based on those found in a note by
      Chris Udy , "Prayers and Readings For A Carol Service" 1998 

Come Lord Jesus, light of the world.  Shine into our lives like the
Bethlehem star - and reveal your truth and grace.  Dawn on our darkness
like the rising son - and renew our faith and hope.  Scatter the shadows
with your Spirit's fire - and banish our shame and fear.  Fill us with the
glory the angels sang, and let us live like beacons of your love...  Lord
hear our prayer...

Loving God, we praise you for the prophets who told us to wait in hope,
for the word you gave them has always come true.  We praise you for the
promise of one would who would reveal to us the face of God, and show us
the way to your kingdom, for a child has been born to us, a son has been
given to us.  In him we see your faithfulness, your promises, the entirity
of your very nature made flesh.  We praise and we thank in his name....
Lord hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus we thank you for our families, with all their tensions and
awkwardness.  Thank you for days that go well, when we feel proud and
hopeful and warmly embraced.  Thank you for times when we love them beyond
question, and we see them strong and good and caring.  And thank you for
memories of courage and joy, when we see skills and values and character
passing and growing from generation to generation.  Heal us of hurts too
long remembered, and childhood jealousies never released.  Help us to see
you in the faces around our table, to hear your voice in those family phone
calls and to know your presence in comfortable silence - For you are
Emmanuel, "God with us", at home with us, making every meal holy, and every
family member a child of God... Lord, hear our prayer....

Lord, help us to see that the power of Christmas isn't exhausted with the
music and the lights and the gifts and the food, but grows as slowly as a
baby, to become a living treasure, a reservoir of peace and love, to
sustain us, not only through December and into the holidays, but each and
every day of the days you grant to us.  Indeed, O Lord, bless us that we
may see your presence with ever greater brightness and that we may
ourselves become more and more like unto him whose birth we celebrate this
season.  Lord hear our prayer...

Lord, hear our prayer too for those particular persons and those particular
things that have been shared within this holy place today:

(Prayers of The Community)

Lord hear our Prayer....

Gracious God, we ask all this knowing that you indeed hear us - for we pray
as your son Jesus, he who is our brother and Lord taught us, saying....
Our Father...


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of
Dedication

       Dear Lord God, we give you thanks for all that you
       accomplished at the time of Jesus's birth.  We thank you for
       the life you gave him, and through him, for the life you even
       now give us.  As did the wise men, so do we - we offer gifts
       to him, for his work, for his life, in the world today. 
       Bless us and what we offer - we ask it in Jesus' name.  Amen


* DEPARTING CAROL: "Go Tell It On The Mountain"                     - VU 43


* COMMISSIONING (Unison): In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of
   Christ.


* BENEDICTION
Go in peace; and may the joy of Mary upon seeing her new born son be in
your hearts.  May God fill you with his Spirit and speak to your innermost
being, guiding you in the way you should go.  And may the love of Christ
surround you and shine forth from you; both now and forevermore.  Amen


* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964
 

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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