24th & 25th DECEMBER 2023
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!
WELCOME & GREETING
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 THE CRIB
God our Father, on this Christmas day
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
Christ the Light of the World
O God our Father,
the light of whose Word has come among us
in the Holy Child of Bethlehem;
grant that the radiance of that true light,
which enlightens our minds by faith,
may shine brightly through our words and deeds;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
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 in Excelsis Deo
sung by Sue St Joseph
ISAIAH 9: 6-7
read by Annette Beagrie
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.
LUKE 2: 1-20
read by Mark Toner
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.
JOHN 1: 1-14
read by Rev 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.
“Unto us a child is born.” “He will be called Emmanuel- God with us.”
I had the tremendous privilege 10 years ago of cradling a tiny Nigerian baby in my arms during the Christmas Day Service I was leading in Maynooth in the Republic of Ireland. This gorgeous baby was called Emmanuel and it brought home poignantly to all present the reality of the Incarnation of Emmanuel, God with us. This Nigerian baby, Emmanuel reminded us of the vulnerability and helplessness of a tiny baby. Here was God the creator of the universe living amongst us as the created Christ child. It is truly remarkable.
J. Philips captured something of the wonder and miracle of the incarnation through these words “A senior angel is showing a very young angel around the splendours of the universe. They view whirling galaxies and blazing suns, and then flit across the infinite distances of space until at last they enter one particular galaxy of 500 billion stars:
As the two of them drew near to the star which we call our sun and to its circling planets, the senior angel pointed to a small and rather insignificant sphere turning very slowly on its axis. It looked as dull as a dirty tennis-ball to the little angel, whose mind was filled with the size and glory of what he had seen.
“I want you to watch that one particularly,” said the senior angel, pointing with his finger.
“Well, it looks very small and rather dirty to me,” said the little angel. “What’s special about that one?” To the little angel, though, Earth did not seem so impressive. He listened in stunned disbelief as the senior angel told him that this planet, small and insignificant and not overly clean, was the renowned Visited Planet: “Do you mean that our great and glorious Prince. . . went down in Person to this fifth-rate little ball? Why should He do a thing like that?”
The little angel’s face wrinkled in disgust. “Do you mean to tell me,” he said, “that He stooped so low as to become one of those creeping, crawling creatures of that floating ball?”
“I do, and I don’t think He would like you to call them ‘creeping, crawling creatures’ in that tone of voice. For, strange as it may seem to us, He loves them. He went down to visit them to lift them up to become like Him.” The little angel looked blank. Such a thought was almost beyond his comprehension.
It is almost beyond my comprehension too, and yet this notion is the key to understanding Christmas and is, in fact, the touchstone of my faith. As a Christian I believe that we live in parallel worlds. One world consists of hills, lakes, kings, and shepherds watching their flocks by night. The other consists of angels and powerful forces somewhere out there. One night in the cold, in the dark, among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem, those two worlds came together at a dramatic point of intersection. God, who knows no before or after, entered time and space. God, who knows no boundaries, took on the shocking confines of a baby’s skin, the ominous restraints of morality.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation,” an apostle would later write; “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” But the few eyewitnesses on Christmas night saw none of that. They saw an infant struggling to work never-before-used lungs.
Could it be true, this Bethlehem story of a Creator descending to be born on one small planet? If so, it is a story like no other. Never again need we wonder whether what happens on this dirty little tennis ball of a planet matters to the rest of the universe. Little wonder a choir of angels broke out in spontaneous song, disturbing not only a few shepherds but the entire universe in joyous delight that God came and dwelt among us, Emmanuel, God with us. This is the good news we have been waiting for- as it is all about hope.
If ever our world needed hope, it is now. We look at the chaos in the world and it is so easy to be despairing. When will the war in Ukraine ever end? Can the war between Israel and Palestine cease? What about all the people travelling over in small boats escaping oppression and cruelty – is all that we can offer them a trip to Rwanda? What about the refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, are they offered a warm welcome and hospitality in our country? What about the increasing need for food banks in our own country- something is seriously wrong in our country, if, so many people have to rely on food banks. To us all seems hopeless and dark, but this world is not in uncontrolled “turmoil;” “God is with us”! God has a plan for this world, and He is working it out and no one can stop it: not Vladimir Putin, nor any other smoking firebrand. GOD IS WITH US here in this world.
This is good news that Emmanuel, God is with us. For what is impossible to man is not impossible to God. Let’s not forget the past-no one thought it would be possible to remove apartheid in South Africa, yet they did! No- one thought that an African American would be president of the United States and yet it happened in the election of Barack Obama as president. No- one thought the Berlin wall would come down and communism in East Germany would come to an end. No one thought the researchers would come up so quickly with a Covid vaccine and yet they did! We could list many more incredible but true events that seemed to the human eye impossible but with God’s help were accomplished.
Take heart in this messy world Emmanuel, God is with us. God has not turned against us; He is not out to destroy us. He wants to save us. He CAME to us that day in Bethlehem because He is still working with us; He still has a plan for us. God is weaving his threads of peace, reconciliation, comfort, support and help behind the scenes. All we can see is the reverse of all the threads and it looks a mess but on the other side a beautiful picture is gradually forming; things are taking shape and changing, for God is truly at work.
Often, we might not be aware of his presence in the background but when we look back at the messy threads, we see the picture; we see God’s hand and we marvel at his touch in our lives. So, whatever you are facing tonight, take heart God is with you in your anxiety. God is with you in your cancer or medical suffering. God is with you in your difficult work- place. God is with you in your family life and in your church life. God is with us in every aspect of our lives, so make room for him and welcome in your hearts.
God came to be with us that first Christmas to bring and show us love; to demonstrate us how much we matter to him, and how much he wants to be involved and be part of our human lives. Emmanuel is the most trusted friend you will ever have- he will never abandon you; he will always be there for you and he will be forever seeking to do what is in your best interests; he will be your confidante, and will offer sound help and advice. He will be ever present to strengthen and help you and fill you with joy and peace. As many gifts are exchanged over Christmas- in Christ we have the best gift ever-the indescribable gift- the gift of his abiding presence Emmanuel, God with us. So, let’s celebrate and rejoice for God is with us. 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 guest room,
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
Mary 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.
On 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. Amen
God our Father, in this night/day you have made known to us again,
the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him
until the day dawns and Christ the morning Star rises in our hearts
to him be glory both now and forever. Amen
May God the Father 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 now and always. Amen