content prepared by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber
Note: No “Out of the Bag” message has been prepared for Christmas Eve, but one for Christmas Day may be posted. Please check “Kathryn Schreiber” YouTube channel.
This service is one of a series designed to align us with the Living God during these pandemic-impacted times as social justice reforms arise.
- Read through this service beforehand and assemble items needed.
- Assemble Advent Wreath, Christ Candle, and candles to represent distant loved ones.
- An Advent Wreath can be any configuration of four candles with an additional Christ Candle (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvelGQTEt6M)
- A “Christ Candle” can be any candle or object which represents Christ’s presence.
- Additional candles may be lit at the close of the service.
- Assemble household Communion elements – “wine/juice” and “bread”.
- Choose songs (our suggestions or your favorites). Assemble what you’ll need to sing.
- If using a couple of readers, please practice beforehand.
- Ensure an uninterrupted place to worship.
- Decorate your space to welcome God’s presence on Christmas. White is the traditional liturgical color, but any joyful decoration is appropriate.
Please adapt to make this worship service your own. Your intention is what is important.
The Light Anticipated
Call to Worship/Advent Candle-Lighting (for one or multiple readers)
The Prophet Isaiah, speaking God’s words, said: “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.”
We join the long march of people traveling out of darkness into light. We gather with citizens of heaven and earth joyfully awaiting the arrival of The Great Light. The Light of Christ approaches! Rejoice! Amen.
Lighting the Four Candles of Advent
(Light the Advent Candles lit last Sunday. Do not light the new Christ Candle yet. It will be lit in the next section of the service.)
Candle Lighting Song “O Come All Ye Faithful” Words, Music: J F Wade; Tune: ADESTE FIDELES (Chalice #148); Performed by Martina McBride
The Light Born
Jesus Christ was born about two thousand and twenty years ago during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Caesar Augustus decreed that all residents of the Roman Empire should be registered. So Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, went to Bethlehem – the royal city founded by King David. While in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger. The child was born in a stable because there was no place for them in the inn. (from Luke 2:1-7)
Rejoice! A child has been born for us! Rejoice! God’s son is given to us! Rejoice! The Light of Christ is here! Amen.
Lighting the Christ Candle
(Light the Christ Candle)
Carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Words by P Brooks, Music by LH Redner (Chalice #144); Performed by the Gaither Vocal Band
The Light Announced
Beyond the city of Bethlehem shepherds were grazing their flocks carefully watching over them throughout the night. A heavenly light appeared – an angel glowing with the glory of God. The shepherds where were terrified! The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people. Today in the city of David, the Messiah – humanity’s savior – is born. Go to Bethlehem and look for a child wrapped in bands of cloth, lying in a manger.” A host of heavenly beings joined the angel. They praised God, singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” (from Luke 2:8-14)
Carol: “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” Words: E H Sears, Tune: CAROL (Chalice #153); Performed by Maranatha! Christmas
The Light Witnessed
After the angels left, the shepherds quickly went to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph. Their newborn baby was wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. The shepherds told the new parents everything the angels had said. Everyone who heard the shepherds speak was astonished, except for Mary. She treasured these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned to the fields, rejoicing. They glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen – just as the angel had described. (from Luke 2:15-20)
“The First Noel” Music: Traditional English melody (Chalice #151); Performed by Danny Wright
The Light Proclaimed
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV, adapted)
The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: 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, O Lord, 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 Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Parent, 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.
May God add a blessing to the reading and reflecting upon God’s Holy Word. Amen.
The Light Embodied
Reflection “Christ is Being Born”
Every year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Every year. Our annual celebration is not a birthday party or a remembrance of a person of significance – nor is it a Christianized version of older cultural winter festivals. Spiritually, Jesus Christ’s birthday celebration – Christmas – is a time to be open, again for the first time,* to God’s presence on earth in Christ.
What happened a couple thousand years ago in the Middle East in a very particular place, among a very particular group of people, in a very particular way continues to grow more diverse in location, culture, and expression. Christ is being reborn all the time. During Christmas we pause not only to celebrate what God has done – but what is God is doing.
Where is Christ being born now? What spiritually dim places are being illuminated with God’s glory? What plundered peoples are hoping for a joyful harvest? Who has been released from confining shackles? Whose war boots and blooded clothing have been burnt to welcome a new era of peace? Who speaks justice with righteousness leading us forward?
Where is Christ reborn this night? To whom are the angels announcing this wonder? Who has left their job to search for the being-born Christ? Who is filled with such wonder and joy moved by God’s faithfulness?
The Eternal Christ is always being born. Christ is right here. Christ is in each one of us. Christ is everywhere. The Great Light is here. Amen. Soli Deo Gloria. (Glory to God Alone)
Do you have a video of a previous Christmas Eve anthem in your sanctuary – playing it this year will be a blessing. If you don’t have such, look for a recording of “Give Him Your Heart”Words: Christina Rossetti; Arrangement:Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. It is a beautiful, inspirational piece.
The Light Petitioned
Prayers of Petition
Christmas Eve is a very special time to pray. The cosmos pulses with Christian adoration of God. We are connected to one another through the Holy Spirit. We never pray alone. Lift up your prayers. God is listening.
The Lord’s Prayer
Imagine being in your favorite holy place with your loved ones. May your soul fill with companionship as we pray together the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Light Honored
Christina Rossetti’s beautiful poem “A Christmas Carol” became the beloved carol “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Set in cold, snowy England, the poem captures a genuine moment of adoration of the infant Jesus Christ. Amid harsh conditions, a poor person offers the holy babe their heart. This Christmas, let us again offer our hearts to Jesus Christ. (also see donation footnote)
The Light Received
Invitation to Holy Communion
Though we are staying safe and apart, through the Holy Spirit we can share this meal intentionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Speak the names of those who are not physically present, but with whom you wish to share this meal. (Say names out loud.)
Consecration of Elements
Place your hands on the cup and the bread. Let us pray:
“Eternally being born Christ, may we receive you again this Christmas Eve. Fill this cup and loaf with Your presence. Amen.”
Sit with God in the silence of eternal contact. This may be a time of humble confession and earnest hope. Allow your soul to guide you in this silent prayer as you prepare for Holy Communion. When you are ready to move on, say “Amen” with gratitude in your heart.
No greater gift has ever been given – the presence of God in Jesus of Nazareth. May the wonder and majesty of this wondrous Christmas present bless our souls. Amen.
Sharing the Elements
Jesus lifted up the loaf, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said: “Take, eat. This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In this world of genuine hungers, may we receive Christ’s body given for us. (eat bread)
After super, Jesus lifted up the cup, gave thanks to God, and offered it to them saying: “Drink this, all of you. This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
In this world of genuine suffering, may we receive Christ’s forgiveness of sins. (drink from cup)
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Beloved God, giver of every good and perfect gift, on this Christmas Eve may we receive all that You have given us, and are giving us, through Jesus Christ. While we are grateful for Your providence and care, most of all we are thankful for Your wondrous love. May the blessing of this Holy Communion ripple out, touching others with Your Big Love. Amen.
Special Music: “O Holy Night” Music by A. Adam, arr. J. Rutter; Performed by Kings College Choir; Broadcast in the UK on Christmas Eve 2017.
The Light Shared
Often on Christmas Eve a live flame is passed from candle to candle as worshippers sing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” This year we will use our spiritual imaginations to gather with absent loved ones and pass the Light of Christ. Who do you really miss this Christmas, living or dead? Gaze upon photos or mementos of your distanced loved ones; write down their names. While singing, move the live flame from your new Christ Candle to the unlit candles.
“Silent Night, Holy Night” Words: J Mohr; Music: F Gruber; Performed by the Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Chalice #145)
The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: “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.”
The Light of Christ shines upon everyone.
The Light of Christ shines forth from every being.
The Light of Christ shines throughout eternity.
Merry Christmas! Amen.
(the service is concluded)
*“Again for the first time”: Marcus Borg’s Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, was one of a handful of ground-breaking books that encouraging historical study of Jesus of Nazareth as a means to Christian faith development.
Online Chalice Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/CH1995
Online New Century Hymnal: https://hymnary.org/hymnal/NCH1995
HOL: Hymns of Life, bilingual hymnal. ©1986, China Alliance Press.
YouTube Music Videos: search by title AND one of the authors for best results
Worship Resources: All content prepared and written by Rev. Kathryn M. Schreiber, including narrative from St Luke’s gospel, unless attributed to another source.
(LTP) The Psalter: A faithful and inclusive rendering from the Hebrew into contemporary English poetry, intended primarily for communal song and recitation. Liturgical Training Press ©1994
(Chalice) The Chalice Hymnal and (New Century) The New Century Hymnal, among other worship publications, have suspended copyright restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Online Publishing Date: December 21, 2020.
Permission: Permission is not granted to share or distribute this resource beyond your community without additional permission from the author.
Donation for Use of Content: Due to the current coronavirus pandemic this content is offered free. However, you may express your gratitude financially by supporting your church or a religious institution you respect. This has been a rough year for all non-profits. Your support, fiscal and emotional, means the world to those who serve God. Thank you! If you’d like to support the congregation I serve as pastor – Berkeley Chinese Community Church – we’d be most grateful for your support. Please send checks to: BCCC UCC, 2117 Acton Street, Berkeley, CA 94702, Attn: Diane Huie, Treasurer. Thank you!
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