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A Christmas Eve Candlelight Carol Service - Year A

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-ch00su.y-a 960000

     Note that each scripture reading except the last (from John) is
     done by a different person of the congregation.  This involves
     recruiting six persons of different ages.  The Candle lighting
     Litany at the beginning of the service is generally led by the
     presider - with a family of the Congregation doing the actual
     lighting of the candles at the appropriate time.   The reflections
     between readings and the last reading are don by the Presider.  


MUSICAL PRELUDE


WORDS OF WELCOME
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 gather to praise God for the birth of the Messiah.
P    We assemble to greet the Saviour promised of old.


* ENTRANCE CAROL: "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"
     O come, O come, Emmanuel, 
     and ransom captive Israel 
     that mourns in lowly exile here 
     until the Son of God appear. 

         Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel 
         shall come to thee, O Israel.

     O come, O Key of David, come, 
     and open wide our heavenly home; 
     make safe the way that leads on high, 
     and close the path to misery.  R

     O come, O Dayspring, from on high, 
     and cheer us by your drawing nigh;
     disperse the gloomy clouds of night, 
     and death's dark shadows put to flight.  R

     O come, Desire of nations, bind 
     all peoples in one heart and mind;
     O bid our sad divisions cease,
     and be for us the Prince of Peace.  R


LIGHTING OF THE CANDLES:
L    Rejoice, the Lord has come.
P    Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, the son of God, is born this night.
L    The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  
P    Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness 
     - on them a light has shined.
L    For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the
     government shall be upon his shoulder.
P    His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
     Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
L    He is our Emmanuel, for in him God is with us.

          .....(After the Candles are lit all sing).....

          We honour Messiah with Christ candle's flame
          our Christmas Eve candles glad tidings proclaim.
          O Come all you faithful, rejoice in this night,
          as God comes among us, the Christian's true light.   (VU 6:5)


PRAYER OF INVOCATION
Let us pray....  Eternal God, as you came to the world in the birth of
the Christ child, come to us this night.  Come into our hearts and shine
your light upon our path.   As you brought your hope, your peace, your
joy, and your love to the world in the form of the babe of Bethlehem, so
bring to us his radiance and help us to glorify both Him and You.   We
ask that the fullness of his life might live in us, and that at his name
every knee bow, and every tongue confess, that He is Lord.  Amen. 
 

* CAROL:  "O Come All Ye Faithful"
     O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
     O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
     Come and behold him, born the King of Angels;
     O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him,
     O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
            
     Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
     Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
     Glory to God, in the highest.
     O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him,
     O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
             
     Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
     Jesus, to thee be glory given;
     Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
     O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him,
     O Come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.


                         THE BIRTH OF THE SAVIOUR

       
INTRODUCTION
     Tonight is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.   Let us hear
     again the glad story of how God chose to come among us and to keep
     the promises that he made to the world.  Promises to  Abraham and
     Sarah - to  Moses and Miriam - and to David and all the prophets -
     the promises to raise up an everlasting king and in him to bless the
     world and open the gates of heaven to all who believe in him and
     trust in his word.


LUKE 1:26-38: The Angel Visits Mary                                      

     The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....   

     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.


     REFLECTION
     "Here am I, the Servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to
     your word."   With these words - this "yes" of Mary, the plan of God
     from the beginning of time is realized.   Thank God, this night,
     that a young woman said "Yes" to God........


CHOIR:  "Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child"


LUKE 1:39-45: Mary and Elizabeth                                       - 

     The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....  

     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 fulfilment of what was spoken to
     her by the Lord."


     REFLECTION
     "For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my
     womb leaped for joy."  Both Elizabeth and John, the child within her
     womb, recognize the presence of the Holy One that Mary carries close
     to her heart.  And they rejoice..... 
                                        

CAROL:  "Gentle Mary Laid Her Child"
     Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger;
     there he lay, the undefiled, to the world a stranger.
     Such a babe in such a place, can he be the Saviour?
     Ask the saved of all the race who have found his favour.

     Angels sang about his birth, wise men sought and found him;
     heaven's star shone brightly forth, glory all around him.
     Shepherds saw the wondrous sight, heard the angels singing;
     all the plains were lit that night, all the hills were ringing.

     Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger;
     he is still the undefiled, but no more a stranger.
     Son of God of humble birth, beautiful the story;
     praise his name in all the earth; hail the King of glory!


LUKE 2:1-7:  The Birth in Bethlehem

     The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....  

     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 and family 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 firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of
     cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them
     in the inn.


     REFLECTION
     In Bethlehem, the 'House of Bread', Mary "laid him a manger," a
     feeding trough for the animals.  He still shows up in unexpected
     places and reveals himself as bread to those who are hungry.........

 
TRIO:  "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly"


LUKE 2:8-14:  The Angels & The Shepherds

     The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....  

     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!"


     REFLECTION
     "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those
     whom he favours."  Heaven is so full of joy this night of His birth
     that the rejoicing of angels with men and women bursts through time
     and space, even unto this night, and to here - in this sanctuary.... 
     Glory be to God!


CAROL:  "Hark, The Harold Angels Sing"
     Hark! the herald angels sing,
     'Glory to the newborn King,
     peace on earth, and mercy mild,
     God and sinners reconciled!'
     Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
     join the triumph of the skies;
     with the angelic host proclaim,
     'Christ is born in Bethlehem!'

          Hark! the herald angels sing,
          'Glory to the newborn King!'

     Christ, by highest heaven adored,
     Christ, the everlasting Lord,
     late in time behold him come,
     offspring of a virgin's womb.
     Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
     hail, the  incarnate deity,
     pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
     Jesus, our Emmanuel!  R

     Hail, the heavenborn Prince of Peace!
     Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
     Light and life to all he brings,
     risen with healing in his wings.
     Mild he lays his glory by,
     born that we no more may die,
     born to raise us from the earth,
     born to give us second birth.   R


LUKE 2:15-20:  The Shepherds Worship

    The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....  

     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.


     REFLECTION
     The shepherds returned to their fields and their flocks, "glorifying
     and praising God for all that they had seen and heard, as it had
     been told them."  The Shepherds sing and shall we silent be?  Raise
     your voice in exaltation, God inhabits history........

   
CHOIR: "In A Manger"


MATTHEW 2:1-11:  The Gifts of The Magi

     The Story of The Birth of Jesus.....  

     In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of
     Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is
     the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his
     star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." 

     When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem
     with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of
     the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 
     They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by
     the prophet:  'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no
     means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a
     ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" 

     Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them
     the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to
     Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when
     you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him
     homage." 

     When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of
     them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it
     stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the
     star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

     On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and
     they knelt down and paid him homage.  Then, opening their treasure
     chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


THE WORD MADE FLESH JOHN 1:1-5; 3:16-18
     The Star stopped over the place where the Child was and the wise men
     were overwhelmed by joy!  Tonight the Star has stopped over this
     little place in the mountains and filled us with joy.  Behold a
     Child has been born for us, a Son given to us.  

     This is the story of the Birth of Jesus:

     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
     the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All
     things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made
     that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of
     men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness
     comprehended it not.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
     among us, full of grace and truth.

     For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
     that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
     everlasting life.


* CAROL:  "Joy To The World" 
     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.
       
     Joy to the earth!  The Saviour reigns:
     Let men their songs employ,
     while fields and floods, rocks hills and plains,
     repeat the sounding joy...
  
     No more let sins and sorrows grow,
     nor thorns infest the ground:
     he comes to make his blessings flow
     far as the curse is found...
   
     He rules the earth with truth and grace,
     and makes the nations prove
     the glories of his righteousness
     and wonders of his love...


SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS:   The cash offering tonight is dedicated to the
work of the Mission and Service Fund - which helps people in Canada and
around the world in practical and important ways.  

     Offertory Carol "In The Bleak Mid Winter" (please stay seated)

     In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
     earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
     snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
     in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

     Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
     heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;
     in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
     the Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.

     Enough for him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
     a breast full of milk, and a manger full of hay.
     Enough for him, whom angels fall down before,
     the ox and ass and camel which adore.

     What can I give him, poor as I am?
     If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
     if I were a wise man, I would do my part;
     yet what I can I give him - give my heart.


     As Offering is Presented Stand To Sing The Doxology: (VU 541)

     Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
     praise God, all creatures high and low;
     give thanks to God in love made known:
     Creator, Word and Spirit, One.


* PRAYER OF DEDICATION AND A CHRISTMAS PRAYER (standing)
L    It was cold and Mary and Joseph were fearful.
P    But that did not stop the birth.
L    They were poor and had no place fitting for their child.
P    But that did not stop the birth.
L    They were uncertain about what God wanted from them.
P    But that did not stop the birth.
L    Today we are still sometimes cold and fearful, certainly poor in
     many ways.
P    We often feel we have no place 
     and are unclear about what God wants of us.
L    But these things did not stop the birth of Jesus then, 
     nor will they now. 
P    Lord Jesus be born in us today. 
L    Like Mary and Joseph, who trusted in your grace, may we trust all
     that we have and are to you.  Bless the gifts we bring, hallow our 
     thoughts and our actions, that Christ may  be glorified through
     them, that we might bring light to a world that is yet in darkness.  
     We ask these things in his name, saying together the prayer he
     taught us...
P    Our Father...


DUET  "What Child Is This"


A CHRISTMAS CONFESSION  (Walter Russell Bowie: A Christmas Creed)
L    I believe in Jesus Christ 
     and in the beauty of the gospel begun in Bethlehem.
P    I believe in the one whose spirit glorified a little town; 
     and whose spirit still brings music to persons all over the world, 
     in towns both large and small.
L    I believe in the one for whom the crowded inn could find no room, 
     and I confess that my heart still sometimes wants to exclude Christ
     from my life today.
P    I believe in the one who the rulers of the earth ignored 
     and the proud could never understand; 
     whose life was among common people, 
     whose welcome came from persons of hungry hearts.
L    I believe in the one who proclaimed the love of God to be
     invincible:
P    I believe in the one whose cradle was a mother's arms, 
     whose modest home in Nazareth had love for its only wealth,
     who looked at persons and made them see what God's love saw in them, 
     who by love brought sinners back to purity, 
     and lifted human weakness up to meet the strength of God.
L    I confess my ever-lasting need of God:
P    The need of forgiveness for our selfishness and greed, 
     the need of new life for empty souls, 
     the need of love for hearts grown cold.
L    I believe in God who gives us the best of himself.
P    I believe in Jesus, the son of the living God, 
     born in Bethlehem this night, for me and for the world. 


THE LIGHTING OF CANDLES:   The light of the World has come to give us his
     light for our lives.  Please come up the centre aisle to light your
     candles from the Christ Candle and then return to your seats by the
     side aisles.  As all do this we will sing "O Little Town of Bethlehem"
 
     O little town of  Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
     Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
     yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
     the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

     For Christ is born of Mary; and gathered all above,
     while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
     O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
     and praises sing to God the King, and peace to all on earth.

     How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
     So God imparts to human hearts the blessed gift of heaven.
     No ear may hear his coming; but in this world of sin,
     where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.

     O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
     cast out our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.
     We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
     O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.


DEPARTING PRAYER: The Canticle of Simeon
L    The holy child of Bethlehem has come to us this night.
P    We have welcomed the Prince of Peace.
L    Now, like Simeon, that righteous and devote man who looked forward
     to the consolation of Israel and who beheld the coming of our Lord
     Emmanuel, we pray:
P    Lord, let your servants now depart in peace, 
     according to your word; 
     for our 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: Silent Night (Remain Seated)
          Silent night!  Holy Night!  
          All is calm, all is bright
          round yon virgin mother and child.
          Holy infant so tender and mild,
          sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace!

          Silent night!  Holy night!
          Shepherds quake at the sight;
          glories stream from heaven afar,
          heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
          Christ, the Saviour, is born!

          Silent night!  Holy night!
          Son of God, love's pure light
          radiant beams from thy holy face,
          with the dawn of redeeming grace,
          Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
     

BENEDICTION & THREEFOLD AMEN
Go in peace and may the Love of God keep your hearts and minds 
in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ our Saviour and our Lord.
Both now and forevermore.  Amen


CHORAL BLESSING "Go Now In Peace"



                        MERRY CHRISTMAS
                       And HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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

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