A Morning Service for Christmas Morning

HYMN - O come all ye faithful BCS 13 - Adeste Fidelis

1 O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
Refrain:
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

2 God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created: [Refrain]

6 Sing, choirs of Angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God
In the Highest: [Refrain]

7 Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesu, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing: [Refrain]

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
 Almighty God,
long-suffering and of great goodness:
I confess to you, I confess with my whole heart
my neglect and forgetfulness of your commandments,
my wrong doing, thinking, and speaking;
the hurt I have caused others,
and the good I have left undone.
O God, forgive me, for I have sinned against you;
and raise me to newness of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

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,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen


FIRST READING - Isaiah 9.2-7

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. 

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

HYMN - Infant holy, infant lowly BCS 23

1 Infant holy, infant lowly,
for his bed a cattle stall;
oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the babe is Lord of all.
Swiftly winging angels singing,
bells are ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the babe is Lord of all!
Christ the babe is Lord of all!

2 Flocks were sleeping; shepherds keeping
vigil till the morning new
saw the glory, heard the story,
tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the babe was born for you!

Christ the babe was born for you!

GOSPEL - Luke 2.8-20

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.

SERMON

God meets us in the ordinary and we celebrate the fact in the extraordinary. In this extraordinary place, at this extraordinary time.

Mary gave birth like countless millions of women have done before and since, and every birth, every single birth that has been, and will be - full of fear and agony, deepest joy or deepest sadness. In the extraordinary and surreal moment of new life, as it hangs in the balance, all the risk and glory, pain and intensity of life meets. It was the same for Mary as it has been and will be for every human mother across the world and across time.

The point of the theology of the incarnation is that it is God’s complete revelation of himself. And it begins here in the mess and agony of birth. 

Some Roman Catholics believe the birth of Jesus to be like light projected from Mary’s womb, no pain, no mess - she must, after all, be ‘ever virgin’. But that completely misses the point. It is in the mess and the pain of human life that the theology of the incarnation insists that God can be revealed, experienced, even understood. It maintains that God does not step back from the consequences of life as it is. 

If he is not in it up to his elbows then what on earth is it all for. 

Belief in the incarnation is the final affirmation of the point of life, the value of living. It is in this life, in all its discomfort, mess and pain that we may perceive God. Because we know he comes to us in the ordinary, the human and the physical we know that he is not remote or distant for us, and has not abandoned us to our fate. We know that the writer of the book of Exodus was correct when he termed his God as ‘the God who will be there’. God is not just spirit but it's in the warp and weft of every fibre of the world's being.

This is, in the end, what we come here tonight to celebrate, not just an extraordinary birth at an extraordinary time in extraordinary place, but an ordinary birth at an ordinary time in an ordinary place. It is its very ordinariness that St Luke tries to impress upon us. To him being born in the humblest of circumstances under oppressive power was ordinary, it was what the majority of humanity experienced, and still does. 

What makes this birth remarkable is that we see in it the presence of God, and it is that presence that makes holy every birth to every woman in every place. 

Hallelujah! let us praise our God.

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 - Sheila Forbes

God our father, the stones of our churches have been here through plagues, civil war and two world wars. They have stood as a symbol of faith and trust in God throughout time; a God whose love is made manifest this morning in the gift of the child. This birth promises peace as the world has yet to know and a kingdom based on justice and love. May we now take this into our hearts, make our way to the stable and be joyful! 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

God of healing, as the virus spreads, we feel, at times, as if we are sailing into dark, unfathomable waters. We pray for our leaders making decisions for us: endue them with foresight, with courage and with the confidence to act for the common good. Alongside them, we pray for the scientists to whom we turn for answers and the doctors and nurses providing medical care whom we rely upon to restore us to health. The virus is no respecter of holidays: refresh, renew and guide all those working to protect and keep us safe. 

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

God our Mother, stretching from Scotland to Jersey, we have family whom we can neither visit nor invite into our homes. We know of people who are anxious and of parents struggling with the demands of Covid on family life. Thousands are unwell and many are spending today in hospital. We bring them all to you and ask that as a loving mother you hold them in your arms, bringing the comfort and reassurance so needed.

Lord in your mercy Hear our prayer.

God our comforter, Christmas brings back memories of times past; console those who carry grief within them. Steer them towards the images of the richness and blessings we received from those we still love - but who now dwell with you.
Merciful Father, 

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

 

HYMN - O little town of Bethlehem BCS 3 - Forest Green

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 to-night.

2 O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the king,
And peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary;
And, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

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 Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to thee,
Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

5 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.

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 - Hark the herald angels sing BCS 12 - Mendelssohn

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 host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem:
Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King.

2 Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel: [Refrain]

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 man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth: [Refrain]

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