MIDNIGHT / CHRISTMAS DAY EUCHARIST OF THE NATIVITY 2022
A child is born to us! A Son is given to us!
He will be called Wonderful Counsellor!
Mighty God! Eternal Father! Prince of Peace!
I bring you good news of great joy
a Saviour has been born to you. Alleluia.
Unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given. Alleluia.
He is Christ the Lord. Alleluia.
We worship and adore him. Alleluia.
COLLECT FOR PURITY
to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
BLESSING OF CRIB
God our Father, on this night,
your Son Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary
for us and for our salvation;
bless this crib which we have prepared
to celebrate that holy birth;
may all who see it
be strengthened in faith
and receive the fullness of life
that he came to bring,
who is alive and reigns for ever. Amen
CANDLE IN ADVENT WREATH
Advent candles tell their story on this Christmas Day.
Those who waited for God’s glory; they prepared the way.
Christ is with us: loving, giving, in us living, here today!
Christ the Light of the World.
Eternal God, who made this most holy night
to shine with the brightness of your one true light:
bring us, who have known the revelation
of that light on earth,
to see the radiance of your heavenly glory,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Light of the World. Amen
PRAYERS OF CONFESSION
Hear the words of the angel to Joseph:
‘You shall call him Jesus,
for he shall save his people from their sins’.
Therefore, let us seek the forgiveness of God.
through Jesus the Saviour of the world.
The Virgin Mary accepted your call
to be the mother of Jesus.
Forgive our disobedience to your will.
We have sinned:
forgive and heal us
Your Son our Saviour
was born in poverty in a manger.
Forgive our greed and rejection of your ways.
We have sinned:
forgive and heal us.
The shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem.
Forgive our self-interest, and lack of vision.
We have sinned,
forgive and heal us.
The wise men followed the star
to find Jesus the King.
Forgive our reluctance to seek you
We have sinned
forgive and heal us.
May the God of all healing and forgiveness
draw us to himself,
and cleanse us from our sins
that we may behold the glory of his Son,
the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
GLORIA sung by Sue Turner
FIRST READING ISAIAH 9: 6-7 read by David Kerr
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
SECOND READING LUKE 2: 1-20, read by Margaret Morton
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: 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.
GOSPEL READING JOHN 1: 1-14 read by Reverend Janice Aiton
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ from St John chapter 1 beginning at verse 1
Glory to Christ our Saviour
The Word Became Flesh
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.
Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious Gospel
Praise to Christ our Lord.
The birth story of Jesus is shrouded in mystery-it is incredible, can it be true? There seems to be so many differences in the four gospel accounts, can we trust them? The gospel of Mark makes no mention of Jesus’ birth at all. Matthew looks at Jesus’ birth through the eyes of Joseph and the wise men. Luke looks at Jesus’ birth through the eyes of Mary and the shepherds, and John well he makes no mention of Mary or Joseph, or the stable, or the manger or the shepherds or the wise men. What are we to make of this? Is this incredible birth story true? Before exploring this further, let me ask you first whether the following incredible stories are true or false?
The firemen’s strike of 1978 made possible one of the great animal rescue attempts of all time. Valiantly, the army had taken over emergency fire -fighting and on 14th January they were called out by an elderly lady in South London to retrieve her cat which had become trapped up a tree. They arrived with impressive haste and soon discharged their duty. So grateful as the lady that she invited them all in for tea. Driving off later, with fond farewells completed, they run over the cat and killed it. True or false? It is incredible but true!
In 1978 workers were sent to dredge a murky stretch of the Chesterfield-Stock with canal. Their task was to remove all the rubbish and leave the canal clear. They were soon disturbed during their tea break by a policeman who said that he was investigating a giant whirlpool in the canal. When they got back, however, the whirlpool had gone and so had one and a half mile stretch of the canal. In its place was a vast expanse of mud thickly punctuated with old prams, bedsteads, and rusting bicycle accessories. In addition to this the workmen found a flotilla of irate holidaymakers, stranded on their boats in a brown sludge. They discovered that among the first pieces of junk they hauled out had been the 200 year- old plug that had ensured the canal’s continuing existence. We don’t know there was a plug said one workman explaining that all the records had been lost in a fire during the war. Anything can happen on a canal, a spokesman for the British Waterways board said afterwards. True or false? It is incredible but true!
It might be tempting to dismiss these stories on the grounds that they are incredible but to do so would be to dismiss the truth. In the case of the incarnation -God became man – it might be tempting to dismiss the incredible but to do so would be to dismiss the truth. The four different angles of the gospel accounts do not detract from the truth but rather enhance the significance of this incredible story, showing it from different perspectives and understandings.
John’s perspective differs the most from the others in that he chooses to leave behind the traditional images of the incarnation-inn, stable, manger, Mary and Joseph and lead us to the meaning and mystery behind the incarnation. John does not deny the accounts of Matthew and Luke. He sees no need to reiterate what has already been told but incorporates in his writings, that which serves best his purpose. His purpose is to awaken in us deeper layers of meaning and truth in the incarnation.
What are these deeper layers of meaning? Firstly, he does not want us to miss the incredible- the invisible God becomes visible in Christ. It is God himself who becomes man. The introduction ‘in the beginning was the word’ would echo back for the readers of that time to the book of Genesis and to God himself. God who by his speech, by his word brought all that is into being-who flung the stars into space, who separated the waters of the earth from the heavenly realms, who made all that lives and breathes was now begotten as a baby. A helpless baby that wears nappies, and needs fed and clothed! So, God is the Word made flesh. God is Christ, and He is Lord over all. He is supreme over us. Through him ‘all things were made; without him nothing was made that has not been made.’ At the start of John’s Gospel we are left in no doubt to Christ’s supremacy; he is God over us. This baby has supremacy over us-incredible but true!
But his supremacy is not one to be feared. We learn that Christ is God for us. In him was life and that life was the light of men.’ Christ the light of the world came to shine upon us. The fact that he left his throne in glory to do that should testify to the fact that he cares for us. He did not wait for us to come to him-he came to us. God is for us-he has our best interests at heart. He came to give us life in all fullness. Indeed, from the fullness of his grace we have received one blessing after another. Christ is God for us. He is rooting for us, cheering us on in the heavenly race. He is on our side. Isn’t it great to know someone is on your side? To know this fills us with hope and confidence. This baby is for us. Incredible but true!
This hope and confidence is strengthened when John underlines that Christ is with us. ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ This is the great truth of the Incarnation. Christ has identified with us and has become one with us.
There is a story about a good and upright man who had a problem with the Incarnation. He couldn’t believe that God’s Son became one of us and was too honest to pretend. So on Christmas Eve when his wife and children went to church, he stayed at home. Shortly after his family left, it began to snow. He went to the window to watch it fall. ‘If we must have Christmas’, he thought, ‘then let it be a white Christmas.’ Sometime later he heard a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He went to investigate. There he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in their desperate search for shelter, had seen the light and flew into the window. I can’t let these little creatures lie there and freeze to death, he thought. How can I help them? Then he remembered the barn. It would provide warm shelter for them. He put on his coat and made his way to the barn. There he put on the light but the birds would not come. Food will bring them. He thought. So he scattered a trail of bread crumbs all the way to the barn. But the birds would still not come. Then he tried to shoo them into the barn by walking around them and waving his arms at them. But they took alarm and scattered in all directions. Then he said to himself. ‘They find me a strange and terrifying creature. If only there was some way, I could get them to trust me.’ ‘If only I could speak their language.’ Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silently as they rang out the glad tidings of Christmas. ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ Then he sank to his knees in the snow and said ‘Lord I understand why you had to become one of us.’ You needed to speak to us in our language- you had to see what we see, hear what we hear and live as we live.’ ‘You had to draw near to us.’ Jesus lived among us. This was no loving from a distance, but loving from close quarters. This baby is “God is with us” – incredible but true!
Christ’s presence with us brings hope in the deep shadows of life. Christ’s presence beings hope in those deep shadows of violence, where life has been needlessly taken. Christ presence beings hope in those sorrow filled shadows, where a husband-and-wife whisper “I love you and goodbye’ to one another as the husband lies dying and his wife dreads his departure. Christ’s presence brings hope in those heavy hard shadows where a corporation doesn’t know if it can stay financially solvent, unless it takes drastic action. So, the lay-off notices go out and thousands of jobs are lost. An entire community is devastated. Families struggle to survive. Financial pressures mount; bills to pay, food to put on the table. In these dark shadows Christ is with us and offers hope.
Hope is in those oppressive shadows where democracy is denied. Hope is in those cruel shadows of domestic violence. Christ’s presence brings hope in those shadows of broken relationships where a husband came home from work on Friday to find his wife gone, and the prospect of how to raise his children alone staring him in the face. You may think that is incredible to speak of hope in a world such as ours yet where Christ is, there is hope.
The reality of Jesus’ coming is greater than the reality of shadows. Jesus’ coming dispels the shadows with the glory of God. Hold fast to this truth- there is a greater reality than the shadows. It is the reality of a Saviour who comes to us, who came to us as a babe in a manger in Bethlehem, who comes to us in the midst of our struggles. He comes day after day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. No matter how deep the shadows get, no matter how dark it may seem, no matter how bad it is, there is a greater reality than the shadows. It is the reality of Jesus. In him we have hope for he is in the business of making all things new. When we walk through shadows-intense, dark shadows- we find hope in Jesus as he journeys with us and helps, strengthens and renews us. Christ is God, he is supreme and he is our hope.
This birth story of Jesus is incredible and true! Its truth will change your life! It will bring hope, peace and love to your life. Amen.
Father on this holy night/ on this Christmas day,
your Son, our Saviour was born
as a vulnerable and helpless child among us.
We think of those children in our world
that are vulnerable and helpless,
particularly thinking of children living in conflict areas in the world,
and those children living in poor conditions,
either in places of asylum or in refugee camps.
Father, bless them and help them,
through us and through aid agencies.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day) there was no room
for your Son in the inn,
protect with your love
those who have no home
and all who live in poverty.
Help us to work with them
for better living standards.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day) in the pain of labour
brought your Son to birth.
Hold in your hand of protection
all who are in pain or distress this night.
Surround them with your compassion, courage and peace.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day) your Son came
as a light shining in the darkness.
Bring light and comfort to those who mourn
and to all who suffer in the sadness of our world.
Hear our prayer.
In this holy night (day) the angels sang
peace to God’s people on earth.
Strengthen those who work for peace and justice.
Hear our prayer.
On this holy night (day), Christians the world over
celebrate his birth,
open our hearts
that He may be born in us today.
Hear our prayer.
Father on this holy night (day) angels and shepherds
worshipped at the manger throne.
Receive the worship we offer
in fellowship with Mary, Joseph and the saints
through him who is the Word made flesh,
our Saviour Jesus Christ, the wonderful Counsellor, mighty God
everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and whose prayer we say together .
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those+
who sin against us.
Do not bring us
to the time of trial+
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours,
now and forever. Amen.
May God who led the wise men by the shining of a star
to find Christ, the Light of the World
lead you and bring you to wonder and worship
and the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
in the name of Christ. Amen