Please note that recordings of this service have been added to each section and may be listened to as well as read.
Welcome & Intimations
Call to Worship (from John 1: 1-5)
We proclaim the Word of life which was from the beginning:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
We proclaim the Word of Life.
HYMN 320 Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Blessed are you, our God,
maker of heaven and earth,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As Christ, your living Word
became one of us
taking on the weakness of flesh,
so may the light of hope be born in us.
May it fill our hearts as we celebrate.
Blessed be you, Our God.
Blessed be God for ever.
The Lord’s Prayer
HYMN 296 While shepherds watched their flocks by night
Isaiah 9: 2-7
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
HYMN 301 Hark! the herald angels sing
Luke 2: 15-21
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
HYMN 309 Silent night, holy night
We have arrived; it is Christmas Day, and our journey through Advent has come to its natural end. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus – God with us.
The story of Christmas is a tale of the improbable, the unlikely. God becomes human through the birth of a vulnerable baby. The parents are poor and outcast – the story of the census tells us that Joseph was in his ancestral home, yet there is no family to welcome him or offer accommodation. Mary is heavily pregnant, yet it is not Joseph’s child. It is a deeply fragmented society. The land struggles under both occupation and dictatorship. It is a place of unrest, poverty, and violence. Into this Jesus is born – God with us.
Change only a few minor details in this story and it could be one of many places in our world today
Today we celebrate the incarnation – God with us. At the same time we are acutely aware that so many of us are separated from those we love. How do we make real in our circumstances the truth of the presence of God? How can we meaningfully reach out and share the love of God through the unreal gathering via the internet? How do we celebrate when we are wearied by all that the pandemic has drained from us? How do we feast when UNICEF are diverting funds to aid hungry children in our land? How can we be a wealthy nation, yet the reality of Brexit threatens in just days from now?
Christmas – God with us. How can this be?
Perhaps we are looking at this from the wrong angle. Perhaps we should be looking for the presence of God not in the big celebrations and signs but the small and subtle. Perhaps we should be looking for God in the neighbour and the stranger. Perhaps we should be looking for God in the simple gesture of care or concern. Perhaps we should be looking for God in the simple gift of another’s presence, real or virtual. In the pain and confusion of the present crisis perhaps we should be looking for God in places other than the usual.
God is present when we are concerned for others. God is with us when we get it wrong too. God is with us in the midst of our pain and isolation. God is with us in the smallest of things. God came to us in the most vulnerable of ways – the birth of a child. That is the clue for where to find to find God. If we open our eyes to the least obvious of things, there we will see God. He is both present and at work. – in you – in me – in the friend – in the stranger. We just need to look at the world a little differently from our usual ways.
Christmas – God with us – if we would simply look.
Your Son was born, to us Your Son was given;
we pray for the people He came to save.
in wisdom you made and sustain all things:
guide the Church as it seeks to reveal the mystery of your love
and fill her with the Spirit of truth.
the government is upon your shoulders:
guide the leaders of the nations,
bringing them to work for your kingdom of justice and peace.
you call us to live as one:
in your mercy watch over your people,
blessing our families and renewing our communities.
Prince of Peace,
you bring healing through the cross:
by your Spirit touch all who suffer
giving them gifts of wholeness and peace.
we commend to you the world that your Son came to save;
praying for its mercy and protection.
HYMN 306 O come, all ye faithful
May God, who calls us out of darkness
bring us into his marvellous light,
filling us with his peace.
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV®
Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Here is a link to a rather different arrangement of our final hymn, in its original Latin, by Irish singer Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin: