This year, while Joe was off enjoying some much needed and deserved vacation time I led the Christmas Eve service. After reworking our liturgy from last year, here is what I ended up doing. Each of the readings were done from someone in the congregation and I tried to get a lot of kids to be involved and do the readings. Feel free to use this, its under this creative commons license.
-the format of the evening
-stay for desserts following
In the Beginning
Before there was something, there was nothing. This has always been one of our longest and hardest mysteries to deal with as humans. Many thousands of stories have been written to try and deal with this reality. At this time, almost all stories left humans empty handed and pawns of a plethora of God’s that did not care for them and used humans to achieve their own selfish desires. Genesis was written as an alternative story on how to see the world apart from these stories. Instead of multiple God’s fighting, it is only one God who is responsible for everything. Instead of humans being born out of the chaos of the abyss, humans were created with a specific order and purpose in mind. The story was written to show how crucial of a role humans have in the order of creation. God created creation and he thought it was good; not bad. God created humans in his own image. We were created to create and take care of what has been created. This story is unlike any other story told in this time. It is in the first chapters that we see the first markers of hope because we can see what was intended all along. God’s intention is good.
Reading 1: Genesis 1:1-5; 26-30
Hymn: “O Holy Night”
If there is one thing that we know about history it is that something went awry from God’s initial setup. Intentions of goodness seemed to be lost. Humanity is no longer all good. 350 people make more than 40% of the world’s population. Children are being sold into the sex trade at an alarming rate. While most of the world starves, a select few are dying of obesity. Wars have killed millions of people. People have been tortured and ridiculed for their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The world is a mess. The world is not the way it was intended to be. Isn’t this just what happens though when free will is an option. When someone opens themselves up, to be truly love, the option of rejection has to be allowed. At some point we walked away from living the life that we were intended to live. The even harder part to admit is that we, each and everyone of us in the world are part of the problem. It lies in us just as much as it lies in the world. We are sinful, we are not being who we are created to be.
Reading 2: Genesis 3:8-19
Response: Corporate Prayer for Humanity; Moment of prayer for forgiveness
Good thing God did not give up on us at this point. The pursuit is quite clear. He tried it with Adam, he tried it with Noah, and eventually he decided to try it with an entire nation. He chose a very special people who he wanted to shape and form in hopes that he could bless the entire world through these people. God seems to have a thing with using his creation to bless his creation. He didn’t want it to come directly from him, but somehow show that his original order was the best possible way to live. He had something very specific in mind when he created humans and he thought that if he could just setup a group of people who lived this way specifically, then maybe the rest of the world would see what humans were created for. So he chose a complete no-name random man, called him out and blessed him. It was a very specific blessing though, it was an intentional blessing that was meant to eventually change the entire world. The point of this blessing was so that it could be used to bless the nations.
Reading 3: Genesis 22:15-18
Response: “How have you been blessed this past year? Where have you seen God at work? How have you seen your blessing directly bless others?” (Verbal response by participants)
Of course, like every other time with Adam and Noah, the desire to have an entire nation live a specific life just never came about. The entire Israelite nation had very specific laws in place that were designed to help them truly live out their calling as a chosen nation. Beautiful laws like the year of Jubilee, where every 50 years all debts in the nation would be forgiven. Or laws that were meant to take care of the other nations, like leaving tons of leftovers in their fields for the poor, or how to welcome a stranger into your home. Unfortunately, Israel didn’t heed these laws. The sinful desires were just to built into them. They ended up becoming like every other nation; participating in crazy genocides, becoming an arms dealer and oppressing other nations. They followed this pattern for too long and eventually became enslaved to their sin and shrugging God off completely. Out of this ignorance came one of God’s messengers. This messenger had a hope that rested in someone, some type of child that was from Israel and from God. This child would be called great names and do great things and finally start to put things back together again.
Reading 4: Isaiah 9:2,6-7
Response: Hymn – “O Come Emmanuel”
Change is in Order
Eventually Isaiah starts to get a bit more specific. There will be a person that will come from a certain genealogy. There is very specific things that this new person will do and a lot of it has to do with putting things back in their proper order; the order that was intended from the beginning. Listen to the voice of Isaiah crying out for the kind of justice and equality that this new person is going to bring.
Reading 5: Isaiah 11:1-9
Response: Kids Video (They wrote it and filmed it for the month of Dec)
A Left Handed Infant
Israel is excited at this point. There is a promise now of a Messiah, some type of Saviour that will come and finally free them from their oppression. Many would have expected a very right handed approach to getting the job done. Many of them would have expected some type of revolutionary to come in and wipe away with the Romans, or all other religions. Others were expecting someone to come and get rid of all the impure and the unclean in their midst. Others were expecting a political take over where someone would rise to the top and change the system to be more God-like. It seemed though, that the typical ways of power; through war, manipulation, force and politics wasn’t working. All these did was deepen the cycle and cause one to be more stronger and more powerful to come out on top. God had something else in mind. He decides to send a baby. Not only that, he sends this baby to no-name parents, in a non-important town, in the stable of an inn when these no-name shepherds show up to worship him. What was God thinking? Did he not know that this was a horrible way to get the word out?
Reading 6: Luke 1:26-35
Response: Hymn – “Hark the Herald”
Placenta & All
The nativity scene is what we remember about the Christmas story in our days. Now it might be up in our house, or we may drive by it on the way to the mall. It really should be the most powerful scene in the history of the world, but now its been reduced to another product you buy on the shelves or a decoration in a front lawn. It really has lost its significance. The nativity scene happened. There was a real baby. There was most likely real animals and visitors. There was a pregnancy for God’s sake. Have you ever been there for a pregnancy? That means someone had to cut the umbilical cord. Someone had to do something with the placenta. This was dirty and messy and this was our Lord.
Reading 7: Luke: 2:1-7
Response: Painting by Brian Kershisnik (click on painting for larger version) while Sara G
I want us tonight to look at this painting that was done by Brian Kershisnik and listen to this song by Sara Groves. Let’s practice the art of silence for the next three minutes and just stare at this painting. Note some of the qualities of it. I’ve been staring at it on my desktop for the last few weeks and it keeps becoming more beautiful.
1. See the size of Jesus. He is almost unnaturally small, taking up such a small part of the painting, really emphasizing how insignificant of a move this is for someone like God to actually become human.
2. Look at the expression on the face of Joseph. He looks exhausted, showing his humanness during the entire situation.
3. The biggest part of the painting is the angels, coming in and barely being able to take their eyes of Jesus but then they keep moving out into the world to spread the great news about this new game-changer of a baby that was born.
God chose the most random people to let in on the secret of Jesus’ birth. No name shepherds and some maggi; basically astrologers. It would be the equivalent of Jesus showing up to the variety store clerk and a a group of fortune tellers. It just didn’t make any sense. This of course though becomes a pattern with Jesus. He picks those that are marginalized, outcasted and hated and brings them the closest. He eats with the tax collector. He turns failing students into his disciples. He makes the failures into the heroes of his stories. Jesus did everything backwards from what any successful person did. It is in this story that we are shown again that God refuses to use our expectations to play out his plan. Through this story we are reminded that God uses anyone, and usually the people we don’t expect or want him to, to accomplish his purposes.
Reading 8: Luke 2:8-16; Matthew 2:1-12
Response: Journal – the people who are last that have a voice in your life
Sight for Sore Eyes
While Jesus was a game changer, there is an obvious disconnect for many. Many simply did not believe it. What kind of Messiah is born in a stable? What kind of Messiah dies? These things just did not make any sense. Even Jesus’ own parents were shocked at some of the things said about him. Jesus was slowly figuring out his role and the people around him were slowly picking up on who he was. The hope is that who he is and what he has done becomes known across the world. There is purpose that lies in his words. His role is to bring peace and justice to the world and his followers are doing the same. If we want to follow him we can. The hope and prayer of ours should be that all men see the truth and life of Jesus for what it is. His role was to die, and to bring as many people down with him in his death as possible. This is not an easy message to spread event though we try to sugarcoat it sometimes. This was the kind of life, that first needed death.
Reading 9: Luke 2:25-33
Response: Silent prayer for all to see Christ for who He really is
The Light Has Come
Today is the day that we acknowledge Jesus’ birth. We acknowledge it because it was a game-changing day. Without Jesus, the world would still be going in a downward spiral of violence and hate and sin and destroying itself from the inside out. Every force would be met with a larger force and every blow with a larger blow. But Jesus steps in and reverses these cyclic systems. Instead of becoming more powerful, he dies on a cross. Instead of becoming more controlling, he offers a free choice. Now he calls us, to follow him in recreating this world with peace, and justice and love. He calls us to start living in the Kingdom of God here and now. He calls us to participate with him in te reconciliation of all things and bringing the world back to the proper order like in Genesis. He calls us to incarnate this good news of a new kingdom, of a new way of living called salvation into every aspect of our lives. The light has finally come. Let us rejoice that Jesus has come and is finally bring hope.
Reading 10: John 1:1-14
Response: Christmas Prayer/ All Candles lit from the Christ Candle
Song: O Come Let Us Adore Him