Christmas Morning A, December 25, 2016

Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola

(This has been hanging in my family’s house for generations, and is Christmas to me)

Christmas Morning

A note on this service:
This is a service to be done at home on Christmas morning.  It is adaptable to be something done alone with quiet and reflection or with a group of people of various sizes and ages who hopefully are in a boisterous mood.  At my house there will probably be a toddler ripping apart wrapping paper or moving presents around the house or chasing a pet, and all of that is just as appropriate as the silence. 

A copy of the service to be printed is here: christmas-morning-pdf

The Beginning
John 1:1-14 
(To be read by one voice or shared among paragraphs)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
( To be read or sung aloud)
1 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.

2 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.

3 How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his 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.

4 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.

Psalm 98
(To be read quietly or interrupted by appropriate noises as directed in the text by children and those young at heart)

O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things.

His right hand and his holy arm have gained him victory.

The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,

with the lyre and the sound of melody.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

Let the floods clap their hands;

let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Angels from the Realms of Glory
(To be read or sung aloud)
1 Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth;
ye who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth:
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn king.

2 Shepherds, in the field abiding, watching o’er your flocks by night,
God with us is now residing; yonder shines the infant light:
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn king.

3 Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar;
seek the great Desire of nations; ye have seen his natal star:
Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn king.

The Story
(Feel free to just read this, have different people read different voices, or have it acted out as a play while being read or a play re-telling the story in its own voice)

Luke 2:1-20
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.

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: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, 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 favors!”

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.

Options for Reflections at Christmas:
-Remember (and share) stories of Christmas past that have been important to you.
-How do you think others are celebrating Christmas today around the world?  How do you think they are celebrating it someplace very hot/cold?
-Think or talk about a time of darkness for you and an experience of light.

Silent Night, Holy  Night
(To read or sing)

1 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.

2 Silent night! Holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing: “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born!”

3 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! Jesus Lord, at thy birth!

4 Silent night! Holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing Alleluia to our King:
“Christ the Savior is born! Christ the Savior is born.”

Prayers of the People
On this Christmas Day we remember the remarkable way that you joined us in human flesh living fully with us – and you came as a tiny, vulnerable baby. We are still in awe of the love and risk involved.  Today as we celebrate this tender yet profound act, we gather our prayers.

Suggestions for prayers:
-Where do you know of great need?
-Where do you know of great hurt?
-Where do you know of great celebration?
-Where do you know of great love?
-Where do you know of great change?
-Where do you know of great joy?

We give you thanks, O God for joining us.  May your act of togetherness and compassion teach us how to ever more understand compassionately those around us and far away who are also made in your image.

And together we still lift up our voices with those all around the world in the ancient prayer this little baby grown up taught us saying: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
1 Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new born 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 hosts proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

2 Christ, by highest heaven adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come, offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

3 Hail the heaven-born 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.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

The Blessing
And now may we go forth from here forever changed by what we celebrate today.  May we carry the love and joy around this child with us wherever we go.  May we continue to help bring God’s love, joy and peace into this world.

Go forth in the ever-lasting love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with you now and forever.  Amen.

The Passing of the Peace 
One: May the Peace of the newborn Savior who changed the world forever be with you.
All: And also with you.
For those in a group, peace, love and hugs around.  For those alone call someone you love whom you need or who needs you (great suggestion!). I now suggest hot chocolate as a follow-up.

My Lillie going off to pass the peace at church:


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