Sunday after Christmas: Christ is Born!
Sunday December 27th, 2020
Welcome to Christmas! As the Ghost of Christmas Present told Scrooge -- Christmas is not just one day of the year, but the whole 365! So, even though Christmas Day and even Boxing Day are behind us, Christmas continues!
Unto us a child is born!
Unto us a son is given!
He will establish and uphold God's kingdom,
with justice, love, and righteousness,
from this time and forevermore!
O come, let us adore him!
O come, let us adore him!
O come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord!
Opening Christmas Carol, "Hark the Herald, Angels Sing."
In preparation for the following service, you may wish to have your Advent Wreath and Candles ready. Always practice safe candle-burning! We light candles in church because they remind us of the presence and beauty of God. Even though we're now past Advent, we light the candles one last time, ending with the beautiful light of the Christ Candle.
God be with you!
Lighting of the Advent Candles and the Christ Candle.
Scripture Reading: Rosi reads from Luke, the story of Jesus that follows from the Nativity to his return to Nazareth.
Instead of a Sermon:
The story of Jesus' presentation at the Temple and the revelation, awe, and even satisfaction that Simeon and Anna take from seeing Jesus, reminds us that God surprises us in the most astonishing ways and in the most unexpected moments. We may not be literally living in the Temple like Anna, but as Christians, we are bound and compelled to look for God's presence and Jesus' Good News all around us, all the time. Whether it be a chance encounter with a long-time friend, a brief conversation with a stranger, a thrilling book, a rom-com movie, or any tidbit of life, we can always ask, "Where is God in all this?" At Christmas, when God comes into the world not on chariots of fire, but in the innocence and vulnerability of a babe in a manger, this question seems all the more relevant.
What follows here are two beloved, modern stories that take place at Christmas time. Neither mentions Bethlehem, angels, shepherds, or even Jesus. I don't know about the truth of either story -- I suspect much of both is a creative work of the imagination.
Nevertheless, like all good stories, while they may be fictional they contain deep truths. And, they reveal something about God and about God's promises to us: the Advent promises of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, and the fulfillment that Simeon and Anna saw revealed one day when a tired, poor, and wandering couple arrived with a new-born son.
Listen to either one (or both) of these stories, and be mindful as you listen to ponder, "Where is God in all this?"
The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry.
The Shepherd, by Frederick Forsyth.
Music: 'Go Tell It on the Mountain' is one of those gospel standards that have to be sung with passion and a bit of jive. These guys and gals seem to have figured that out.
Gifted by the promise of Christmas, surrounded by the abundance of grace and goodwill, we share from all that we have, returning to God ourselves and our offerings to bring about God's Christmas dream for the world: a world overflowing with hope, peace, joy, and love.
Our offering is both a practical and symbolic act of our commitment to serve Christ and build His church. Although we can’t actually ‘pass the plate’ online, you are encouraged to continue your gift to the church, as the work of the St Paul’s and the staff continues:
Drop your envelope (cheque or cash) at the church;
Mail your cheque to the church;
Go on PAR (call the church for details);
Use the Donate button at the top of the page (it will take you to SPUC’s Canada Helps page where you can donate online and get an instant tax receipt).
May these gifts open others to the blessings you, O God, give this Christmas:
the gift of childlike wonder,
the gift of peace that passes all understanding,
the gift of joy that knows no bounds,
and the gift of grace that overcomes all obstacles.
With these gifts, we bring ourselves, O God, in response to the greatest gift of all, the Babe in Bethlehem, Emmanuel -- God with Us, Jesus the Christ child.
Prayer. You're invited to listen to the Christmas Prayer on the video below, after which, you can recite aloud or in your heart the Lord's Prayer.
And, of all the prayers silent and spoken, we pray the one prayer that unites us in your presence:
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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Closing Carol: How could we possibly go wrong with 'Angels We Have Heard on High,' sung by Andrea Bocelli?
As we leave our time of worship this Christmas Sunday,
may the joy of the angels sing in our voices;
may the hope of the shepherds calm our fears;
may the confidence of Mary and Joseph strengthen our spirits;
may the courage of the Wise Men stir us from our complacency;
may the love of Jesus shine in our hearts;
and may God's blessings be upon us this holy moment and always.
One Last Thought. If you didn't get all your shopping done, it still isn't too late to give the perfect gift.
Don’t forget to extinguish your candle(s)
Note that portions of this service are drawn and adapted from 'Gathering,' a worship resource published by The United Church of Canada.
Thanks to Rosie for reading and to Golden Ear United Church.
Wishing all our members, friends, and neighbours the blessings of Christmas; and, may 2021 bring Good News beyond measure. Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow.