A Morning Service for Christmas Morning

 

HYMN - In the bleak mid winter BCS 22

1 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.

2 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.

3 Enough for him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk,
And a mangerful of hay:
Enough for him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

4 Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and Seraphim
Thronged the air
But only his mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

5 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.

PRAYER OF PREPARATION
Almighty God, 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

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE
Christ the light of the world has come to dispel the darkness of our hearts. In his light let us examine ourselves and confess our sins.

Lord of grace and truth, we confess our unworthiness
to stand in your presence as your children.
We have sinned:

Forgive and heal us.

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 love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen


FIRST READING - Isaiah 61.10  -  62.3

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. 

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

HYMN - Of the Father’s love begotten BCS 17 

1 Of the Father's love begotten,
ere the worlds began to be,
he is Alpha and Omega;
he the source, the ending he,
of the things that are, that have been,
and that future years shall see,
evermore and evermore.

2 O that birth for ever blessèd
when the Virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bare the Saviour of our race,
and the babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed his sacred face,
evermore and evermore.

3 O ye heights of heav'n, adore him;
angel hosts, his praises sing;
pow'rs, dominions, bow before him,
and extol our God and King:
let no tongue on earth be silent,
ev'ry voice in concert ring,
evermore and evermore.

GOSPEL - Luke 2.15-21

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.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

SERMON - Keith Atton

After all the family fun, the presents (more or less appreciated), the food and drink (for many), the carols and even the church services ( rather fewer this year), what have we left? The empty space where the family have gone back home? The presents that are now less exciting? The rest of the Christmas food and drink to consume? What remains?

Some Christians focus on the promise of heaven. What this might mean to us, who by definition have never visited heaven is unclear – sufficiently unclear that there is a book which describes what Christians have thought about heaven over time in 350 pages with a further 40 pages of footnotes and references. Describing heaven is as difficult as describing Black Holes; the late Professor Stephen Hawking, not long before his death, was reported to have suggested that the holes were not black ones at all but grey ones. I am none the wiser by this revelation. So, if we are confused about the nature of heaven, like the early Christians in Corinth, whose confusion Paul described in 1 Corinthians 15, it is hardly surprising that we cannot be precise about our destination beyond this world. This is not to say that, in the area of knowledge of God's realm there was no present that Jesus brought; what he did give us was help in our understanding of the nature of God.

Fortunately Jesus' message was mostly about this world. It was as if he were saying “Here and now you can have a better world – follow what I say and what I do.” For example, if you bully other people, if you put them down, that is not right for them or for you; you must see others as children of God, just as you are too. Indeed, you should give loving care to others. Of course, Jesus could be very forceful in His condemnation of ideas which He saw as contrary to God's will. Standing up openly for what you believe to be right is not bullying. Some newspapers today are full of headlines which state that this person was “mocked” or another “lashes out” at someone or “shames” another person. A constant diet of descriptions like these encourages some readers to conduct their relationships in this sort of way - mocking, attacking, shaming. Frustrated as Jesus was by the lack of understanding of his disciples, he is never reported as treating them in this way. His criticism of others – for example, the Pharisees - was because they were the powerful who used their power as channels of God's message to oppress the weak instead of bringing the good news of God's love.

Telling the truth as you see it, is not the same as lying even when you are wrong. Many years ago, I was on a course with a young woman who started a conversation with me. Very soon that conversation turned to the innocence of Richard 111 of the murder of the princes in the tower about 1484. As a fully paid up member of the Richard 111 society, she was on a mission to convert everyone to her view. She was most likely wrong, but she was not lying; she truly believed what she said. But in our political world today, too many politicians throughout the world are clearly lying and that sets a terrible example to the rest of us. Jesus spoke the truth as he saw it and set all a very powerful example of how to behave for the good of all.

Our lasting Christmas present, as a result of Jesus' birth, is not in monetary terms or in Christmas food and drink; it is not only in giving us a clearer understanding of the nature of God, but also it is mainly in showing us how to live a good life and the temptations to avoid, so that we and others may all be able to live a life of which we can be proud, a life from which those around us can gain. The food will no longer so tasty or it will be all gone, the clothes will no longer fit (or be “cool”), the presents will fall apart or be something no one would want or could wear anymore, but Jesus life and teaching is a sure light to guide us on our pilgrimage throughout our life. Now that really is a fine, a lasting Christmas present, then, now and in the years to come and it is a present which no one has less of however many people share it - a really magic Christmas present.

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH 

Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried;
he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles:
this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 15.3-7

INTERCESSIONS - Val Etteridge

Dear Lord of hope, the message brought to the world when Jesus was born. We bring before you the past Christmas days and the near end of another year. The year for the whole world has been difficult and extraordinary because of the pandemic, but it has been a shared experience and we pray that your message of hope to all nations may unite and bring peace to our world. 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the Christian Church throughout the world, for bishops, ministers and all who proclaim your message. Give them wisdom and strength to continue the good they are doing in their work and ministry. Be with all those in this benefice who have faithfully served you and been a comfort and inspiration to many.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We remember the queen and royal family and all statesmen, ministers, judges and leaders in this world. They are faced with much responsibility and difficult decision making. We ask that they act with wisdom and compassion for the good of all their people. 

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We praise you Lord for the wonder and beauty of this world and we thank you for all nature, the mountains and hills, the trees and flowers, the rivers and seas and the whole universe. We thank you for the healing and peace given to us during these difficult times by the bounty of nature.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Dear Lord there is much deprivation and suffering throughout the world and here in our own country. We pray for refugees, those with no homes, the hungry and those who have lost their jobs, those who live in fear or are lonely and over anxious, those in hospital and those suffering with Covid 19 and those who mourn the loss of someone dear to them. We pray for inspiration and endurance for those who try to help them, the doctors and nurses, the scientists making and testing vaccines. Help us to remember we can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone. We bring before you the sick in this benefice and name those known to us.  Father we pray for those who are sick in body, mind or spirit. Please bring them your peace, your strength and your comfort.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord of hope, show yourself to those who are vulnerable and be with the poor and weak of this world. Warm our hearts with the fire of your Spirit. Help us to accept the challenge of the pandemic. Protect the healthy, calm the frightened, give courage to those in pain, comfort the dying, console the bereaved. May we your people, using all our energy and imagination and trusting in your love be united with one another in conquering disease and fear

Merciful Father, 
accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

HYMN - Good King Wenceslas  BCS 20 

1 Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep, and crisp, and even;
brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gath'ring winter fuel.

2 'Hither, page, and stand by me,
if thou know'st it, telling:
yonder peasant, who is he,
where and what his dwelling?'
'Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence,
by St. Agnes’ fountain.'

3 'Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither;
thou and I will see him dine,
when we bear them thither.'
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together;
through the rude wind’s wild lament,
and the bitter weather.

4 'Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger;
fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.'
'Mark my footsteps, my good page;
tread thou in them boldly:
thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze your blood less coldly.'

5 In his master’s steps he trod,
where the snow lay dinted;
heat was in the very sod
which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christians all, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
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.
Lead us not into temptation 

but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, 

and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

BLESSING
May the eagerness of the shepherds,
the joy of the angels,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ-child
be yours this Christmas,
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you and remain with you always.  Amen

HYMN - Joy to the world BCS 16

1 Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev'ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heav'n and nature sing,
And Heav'n and nature sing,
And Heav'n, and Heav'n and nature sing.

2 Joy to the earth! The Saviour reigns;
Let us our songs employ,
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

3 He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord
In the name of Christ. Amen