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A Service of Carols and Readings for The First Sunday After Christmas - Year A
Various Christmas Texts
Various Narrations and A Meditation


READING:  Various Christmas Texts
SERMON :  Various Narrations and A Reading

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild and Taffy Cole
c-ch01su 961

   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 following service is based in large part on "The
   Nativity in Scripture, Song, and Meditation with Prayers For All" 
   by  Taffy Cole (taffycole@bigpond.com) as sent to the Preaching 
   The Word mailing list in December 2001.  It is has been adapted 
   and used here with permission.  The Oscar Romero quote and the 
   "Jesus and The Map" story are from e-mail tag lines and stories 
   received on the Net over the previous weeks.

   We see a team of two persons leading this service, with one 
   person reading the scriptural sections of the narration and the 
   other doing the non-scriptural portions.  Alternately the 
   persons could alternate the narrative sections. 

              
GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)


* GREETING AND 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  We come to worship the Saviour born on Christmas day.
P  We come to greet the promised one - the child of Mary.
L  We come to adore the King - born a servant in Bethlehem.
P  We come to praise the Son of God - our Lord and our brother.


* INTROIT                                                    - VU 59 (Verse 1)
       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
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.

              (RETURN TO YOUR SEATS AS SONG IS SUNG)


* CAROL:  "Joy To The World" (Verses 2-4)                          VU 59


NARRATION
Archbishop Oscar Romero, wrote about Christmas, before he was killed before
the alter of his church for his faith in God and his love for the poor and
the dispossessed of Central America.  In a work titled  "God With Us" he
said:

   No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor.

   The self-sufficient, the proud, 
       those who, because they have everything, look down on others,
       those who have no need even of God --
   for them there will be no Christmas.

   Only the poor, the hungry,
       those who need someone to come on their behalf,
   will have that someone.

   That someone is God,
       Emmanuel, God-with-us.

   Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God...

Without poverty of Spirit there can be no abundance of God.  
Hear the word of God about the child who was born on Christmas Day.

   The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who
   dwelt: in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined....  For
   to us a child is born, to us a child is given; and the government
   will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called 'Wonderful
   Counsellor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'.

Hear also this word concerning the birth Jesus - as proclaimed by Mary to
Elizabeth shortly after the Holy Spirit came upon her and the child was
conceived in her womb. 

   My soul glorifies the Lord, 
       and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
       for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me blessed, 
       for the Mighty One has done great things for me - Holy is His Name.
   His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
   He has performed might deeds with his arm,
   He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
   He has brought down rulers from their thrones 
       but has lifted up the humble.
   He has filled the hungry with good things 
       but has sent the rich away empty.
   He has helped his servant Israel, 
       remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever,
       even as he said to our Fathers.


CAROL:  "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice"                          - VU 35


NARRATION
When the Son of God laid aside his glory with the Father and was born of
Mary,  the angels sang for joy and proclaimed glory to God in the highest.  
From that time their call to us has ever been the same - to worship with
them the one born to be our Saviour and our King.
   

CAROL:  "Angels From the Realms of Glory"                          - VU 36


NARRATION
Just as God spoke to the prophet Isaiah and told him that a virgin would
conceive and bear a son, the one to be called the Prince of Peace and
Emmanuel, God with us - so in ancient times it was foretold by the prophet
Micah that it was in Bethlehem that the Christ would be born.  Moved by the
Holy Spirit he wrote these words:  

  "Bethlehem... out of you shall come forth a governor for Israel.  He
   shall appear and be their shepherd in the strength of the Lord and
   he shall be a man of peace"  (Micah 5:2)

Like the countless millions before us at this time of year, we turn our
thoughts to that town of Bethlehem, a simple farming community, with fields
of wheat, groves of olives and vineyards.  The centre of our interest is
the fulfilment of the prophecy of Micah and of Isaiah...... where in a
simple, lowly place a child is born, the one we call the Son of Mary and
the Son of God.

This is how St Luke tells us about it: 

   The angel Gabriel was sent from God to the town in Galilee called
   Nazareth with a message for a girl betrothed to a man named Joseph,
   a descendant of David; the girl's name was Mary.  The angel went in
   and said to her 'Greeting, most favoured one!  The Lord is with
   you".  But she was deeply troubled by what he said and wondered what
   the greeting might mean.  The angel said to her 'Do not be afraid,
   Mary, for God has been gracious to you; you shall conceive and bear
   a son and you shall give him the name Jesus.  He will be great, he
   will bear the title 'Son of The Most High'.... his reign shall never
   end".

   "How can this be?" said Mary "I am still a virgin".  The angel
   answered: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the
   most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child to
   be born will be called 'Son of God'. 

Months later they were compelled to travel to Bethlehem and while they were
there the time came for her baby to be born, and she gave birth to a son,
her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a
manger because there was no room in the house....

Now let us sing of Bethlehem in a hymn that was written in Bethlehem
itself, by Dr Phillip Brooks on Christmas Eve in 1866.

 
CAROL:  "O Little Town of Bethlehem"                                - VU 64


NARRATION
One of the best loved of all Christmas stories is the one where the
wonderful news was announced to the humble shepherds who were watching
their flocks in the fields near Bethlehem.  How exciting it must have been
as God's messengers came to them in the middle of the night.  How thrilling
to hear a voice from heaven tell of the birth of a saviour!  How great the
angelic message of "Peace on earth goodwill to all mankind".   


CAROL:  "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks"                      - VU 75


NARRATION
How humble and lowly was the birth of God's Son... not in a palace, or
amongst rich and important people, but as the angel said "You shall find
the babe lying in a manger".  How proud and happy the young mother must
have been to receive the first visitors to her baby son.  And how wonderful
it must have been for her to hear their message and to know that her child,
the child of promise, was indeed the one who would shower's God's care upon
all the lowly and humble ones of this earth - all the little ones and the
ones who, like us today, turn to him in faith and are called  the children
of God.   


CAROL:  "Away In A Manger"                                         - VU 69


NARRATION
We have heard the words of the prophet Isaiah and of Micah and of Mary
concerning the Christ..  And we have heard part of the story of Christmas
as written by Luke.  Let us now hear, once again, through the words of St.
Luke, how it was that night when Jesus was born:

   Now in the same district there were shepherds out in the fields,
   keeping watch over their flock, when suddenly there stood before
   them an angel of the Lord, and the splendour of the Lord shone
   around them. They were terror stricken, but the angel said "Do not
   be afraid; I have good news for you; There is great joy coming to
   the whole people. Today in the city of David a deliverer has been
   born to you - the Messiah, the Lord. And this is your sign; you will
   find a baby lying wrapped in his swaddling clothes in a manger",.
   All at once with the angel there was a great company of the heavenly
   host, singing the praises of God:

   "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth his peace for men on whom
   his favour rests"

   After the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds
   said to one another, "Come, we must go straight to Bethlehem and see
   this thing that has happened, which the lord has made known to us." 
   So they went with all speed and found their way to Mary and Joseph,
   and the baby was lying in the manger. When they saw him, they
   recounted what they had been told about this child; and all who
   heard were astonished at what the shepherds said.  But Mary
   treasured up all these things and pondered over them.  Meanwhile the
   shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for what they had
   heard and seen; it had all happened as they had been told.


CAROL:  "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear"                            - VU 44


NARRATION
Not only from close at hand but far away, visitors came to see the baby. 
Not only of Jewish background but Gentiles too.  Not just unlearned simple
folk but scholarly, influential mystics who read God's heavenly messages. 
In a strange land in the distant East the Magi sensed the outreach Divine
Love and were compelled to search for the great one who had been born. 
They were led to the feet of Christ to offer their gifts of love.

Here are a few selected verses from St Matthew's Gospel which recall that
event.   

   Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod,
   After his birth astrologers from the east arrived in Jerusalem
   asking 'Where is the child who is born to be King of the Jews?  We
   observed the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him homage. 

   King Herod was greatly perturbed when he heard this; and so was the
   whole of Jerusalem.  He called a meeting of the chief priests and
   lawyers of the Jewish people and put before them the question :
   "Where is it that the Messiah is to be born?" 

   "At Bethlehem in Judea" they replied. 

   Herod next called the astrologers....... they set out at the Kings
   bidding; and the star which they had seen at its rising went ahead
   of them until it stopped above the place where the child lay.  At
   the sight of the star they were overjoyed.  Entering the house they
   saw the child with Mary his mother and bowed to the ground in homage
   to him; then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts:
   Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.   ( Matthew 2: 1-5. 9-11.)

Now let us sing together this part of the story as it was using the words
of the Carol, "As With Gladness Men of Old".


* CAROL:  "As With Gladness, Men of Old"                           - VU 81


CHRISTMAS THOUGHT, SILENT MEDITATION, AND PRAYER
Today there is no sermon.   I simply want to share a simple little story
with you that I received a couple of weeks ago - and then have you consider
in a minute or two of silence what the Christmas story means to you - and
then, in a time of prayer lead you further into the conversation with God
that you have already started with our hymns and readings and with the time
of silence.

The story goes like this:

  There once was a father wanted to read his news magazine, but he was
   being bothered by his little daughter, Vanessa.   

  In the manner of children everywhere, she was bouncing around where
   he was sitting - asking her Daddy to pay her some attention - asking
   him to look at this - and to tell her about that - and generally she
   was more in his face than was his magazine.

How many of you have been there with a child of yours?

   After a while, and with a certain sense of exasperation, Vanessa'
   father came up with scheme to keep her busy so he could read in
   peace.  

   He pulled a page out of his magazine, on which was printed the map
   of the world.  Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to her along
   with some tape and said, "Go into the other room and see if you can
   put this together."

   After only a few minutes, Vanessa returned and handed her Father the
   map - correctly fitted together.  

   Her father was surprised and asked how she had finished so quickly.

   "Oh," she said, "on the other side of the paper is a picture of
   Jesus.  When I got Jesus in His place, then the world came out all
   right."

When I got Jesus in his place, the world came out all right.

Both the wonder and the challenge of Christmas is this:  - it is about
getting Jesus in his place and keeping him there so that the world, and so
that our lives, come out all right.

Think now about the place of Jesus in your life and ask - is he is his
place - the place he wants?  That place where, when he is there, causes the
world to come out all right.....

Let us be silent for two or three minutes as we think about this and
whatever else God may be putting upon our hearts - and then we will
pray....

                          (TWO MINUTE SILENCE)

PRAYERS
Loving God, as Christmas comes each year we are tempted to say, "We have
heard all this so many time before; we know the story of by heart."   Lord,
remind us of the difference between  knowing the story and  knowing the one
that the story is about.  Help us to see ourselves and our attitudes lived
out by the people in the Christmas story and help us to embrace the good
and turn away from the bad....  Lord, hear our prayer....

We think, O Lord, of the inn-keeper who couldn't find room for you in his
inn....  Dear Father, may we cease from cluttering our lives with countless
things - things that don't really matter -  things that crowd you out..... 
Lord hear our prayer

We think, O Lord, of Herod -  hostile, jealous, and hating, because he was
afraid of what your coming might do to him...  Dear Father, replace our
jealousies with unselfish joy, our fears with hope, and our hates with
forgiveness...  Lord, hear our prayer....

We think, O Lord, of the shepherds who were scorned by others as unskilled
labourers and regarded by many as ignorant sinners,  but who heard the
music of your coming even while they worked...  Dear Father, deliver us
from pride that thinks some tasks too menial, and from prejudices that
blind us to your glory...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We think, O Lord, of the wise men from the east; who journeyed far to find
you and who heeded the dreams that you gave to them....  Dear Father, grant
to us a will like theirs - the will to seek you out despite the obstacles
the world puts in our path - the will and the desire to listen to you and
to worship you and to give you our most precious gifts.......  Lord, hear
our prayer...

We think, O Lord, of Mary and of Joseph who gave over their lives to you
and who did all that you asked of them so that through Christ Jesus,
Emmanuel, you might show your love for the whole world.... Dear  Father,
help us to surrender our lives to you and to Christ Jesus as did they and
to know the glory that they received because of their faith....  Lord, hear
our prayer....

We think, O Lord, of the Angels who proclaimed the birth of Jesus with a
song of joy and who announced that peace comes to all who with whom you are
pleased....   Dear Father, help us to joyfully proclaim the good news of
Christ Jesus through our lives.  This year let those love now who have
never loved before; and let those who always loved - now love even more.... 
Lord, hear our prayer...

0 God, our loving Father, help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus
and to put him in his right place so that we may share in the songs of the
Angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. 
May Christmas this year make us happy to be your children.  We pray our joy
in the birth of Christ will last forever and that our love for Christ will
be a light to the world, both now and forevermore.   Amen.


* 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

   Almighty God from whom all good things come; mercifully accept 
   these our gifts as a token of our love and gratitude for your gift
   to us of your Son.   And teach us, 0 Lord, to bring to you that
   which you desire the most, the offering of all of our heart, mind,
   soul, and strength to you and the work of your eternal kingdom
   through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SHARING TIME
- Announcements  
- Birthdays and Anniversaries 
- Time For St. Andrew's 
- Joys and Concerns for Prayer


CAROL:  "Silent Night"                                              - VU 67


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Father, you make this holy season radiant with the splendour of Jesus
Christ our Light. We welcome him as Lord, the true light of the world.  And
we pray, O God for your light to be upon all those we hold before you now
in the silence of our hearts and with the words of our lips.... 

.....(BIDDING PRAYER).... Lord, hear our prayer...

Loving God, touch all whom we have prayed for - and bring them with us to
eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven, where Christ Jesus lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, both now and forevermore.   Amen.


* DEPARTING CAROL:                                                  - VU 71
For our departing Carol today let us sing Canada's first Carol - that
written by Jean de Brebeuf in 1641 as he communicated the Christmas story
to the First Nations people of Quebec and Ontario.   It is called both "The
Huron Carol" and "T'was In The Moon of Wintertime"


* 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 AND THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ Jesus;  
- and the wisdom of the Wonderful Counsellor guide you, 
- the strength of the Mighty God defend you, 
- the love of the everlasting Father enfold you,  
- and the grace and the light of the Prince of Peace shine all about you,
both now in this festive season, and forevermore.  Amen


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

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild and Taffy Cole 2001, 2004
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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