Christmas Eve 2020
At-Home Worship Service
- If you have a nativity scene in your home that you could incorporate during this worship service, remove baby Jesus, so He can be placed at the proper time in the service.
- If you have something you can use as a Christ candle, place it in your worship space to be lit at the appropriate time.
- Candles to light and hold during the “Procession of Lights” and during the singing of “Silent Night”
- Communion Elements. This service includes communion.
- I encourage you to watch the YouTube Video of this Service. If you prefer to read the service, I am providing links to a music video for each song in this worship plan.
Prelude – Mary Did you Know? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE)
During the Prelude, light the candles you will hold during the Procession of Lights. If you can, turn your artificial lighting down as much as possible as you sing, watch, or listen to “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MY964-5OMY – during the Procession.)
Procession of Lights
Hymn: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (There’s no need to have a walking Procession; just hold your candle(s) as you sing.)
Extinguish your “Procession” candles.
Call to Worship (If you have more than one person, you can read this responsively. Choose one person to read the part of “one”, while everyone reads the part of “all”. If you have only one person, read the whole thing as one reading.)
One: Tonight old dreams die and new dreams come to life. The promise
All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!
One: Hope gives way to joy and prayer to proclamation.
All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!
One: Our candles illuminate our story. Dawn invades midnight. The
Light of the World has come.
All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!
One: And this light is a light for all; igniting a flame in the soul, warming
us from within, radiating love, lighting our lives with the presence of
God-come-alive in human flesh within us and among us now and
All: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace!
Hymn: “O Come All Ye Faithful” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZ4BtqWX7Jw
The Telling of the Christmas Story
Reading One – Hope for the Coming of A Savior
Sometime in the middle of the millennium before Jesus’ birth, during a time of great darkness for God’s people, God sent a word of hope to God’s people. God’s people had been exiled from the Promised Land and scattered across the land of the Middle East. God’s people wondered if God cared for them any longer; they wondered if God even existed. In the midst of darkness, God sent this word of hope that foretold the coming of a new day, a joyous day, a wonderful day for God’s people. Hear the word of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus,
2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Hymn – “People, Look East” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kqoIf-OzzQ
Reading Two – The Birth of Jesus Foretold
Almost 500 years later, God’s people still lived in darkness. The promised day had not yet come. The Romans ruled God’s people harshly. Hope was nearly gone. But then, at an unexpected hour, new word of God’s great plan arrived…to a startled recipient.
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Hymn – “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vxd7rWLhCMc
Reading Three – The Birth of Jesus
NOTE: If you have a nativity scene in your home, you can place baby Jesus in the nativity scene during this reading.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Hymn “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEdHUVZX6BM
Reading Four and Lighting of the Christ Candle – For God So Loved the World
Introduction. Throughout this Advent Season, as we’ve lit the candles on our Advent wreath, we’ve been preparing for Jesus’ coming by considering the stories of some of Jesus’ physical and spiritual ancestors. Today, we move past the ancestors and arrive at Jesus, himself.
Scripture Reading – John 3:16
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
Devotion. We yearn for the simple beauty of Christmas—for all the old familiar melodies and words that remind us of that great miracle, when He who made all things was to come as a Babe on that first Christmas night, to be born in a stable and to lie in the crook of a woman’s arm. Before such mystery we kneel, as we follow the shepherds and wise men to bring Him the gift of our love–a love that we confess has not always been as warm or sincere or real as it should have been. But now, on this Christmas Eve, our love finds its Beloved, as we come to the manger of Christ. At that humble manger may we receive from God the grace to make our love pure, warm and real again. Tonight we bring our gratitude for every token of His love.
[Light the Christ Candle if you have one.]
Prayer. Welcome, Jesus—King of our hearts—King of the universe! Overwhelm us today with Your coming and Your presence, that we may never be the same. Welcome to our world, Prince of Peace! Amen.
Hymn: “One Candle is Lit” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VR_rKBRzbRU
Reading Five: Shepherds and Angels
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Hymn: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCt1s44cfMM
Reading Six: Spreading the Word
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Hymn: “Go Tell it on the Mountain” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAfIKeh04KU
Meditation – “Jesus, Not COVID”
I struggled with the idea of mentioning COVID at all tonight. I’m guessing most of us have what has been termed “COVID Fatigue”: we’re tired of being cooped up, we’re tired of being scared, on this Christmas Eve we’re tired of not being able to be with our church family…we’re just tired of this COVID thing. And so you’re probably thinking the pastor mentioning COVID in his Christmas Eve meditation isn’t helping: it’s just causing you to think even more of this disease that has absolutely DOMINATED our lives during this past year.
I get it; I really do. Actually, this COVID-fatigue thing is why I decided to mention COVID at all. I’m guessing that if someone had asked you a year ago if you had room in your life to add something new, something so big that it would dominate pretty much every moment of your existence, you would have said something like, “No way; it’s just not possible. I’m too busy. There’s no room in my life for something like that.”
Even if someone – if I – would have asked you if you had just a spare thirty to sixty minutes a day to give to God, to Jesus, thirty to sixty minutes you were giving to something ELSE, I’m guessing you would have given pretty much the same response: “No way. There’s no room in my life for something like that. I’m just too busy.”
Now, looking back on the past year, I’m guessing the only way you can have “COVID fatigue” is if you’ve given this virus time, energy, and attention you didn’t even know you had. Somehow, you’ve found time to allow something to dominate your life that you didn’t even know existed a year ago.
Fortunately, it’s almost gone. Limited quantities of Pfizer’s vaccine have already been made available, Moderna’s vaccine is on the way this week, and more doses of each are being distributed every day. Within six months, we probably won’t be worried about COVID anymore. Which means, there’s time you didn’t know you had a year ago for something else. There’s energy you didn’t know you had a year ago for something else.
And it’s all coming together just as we’re about to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Y’all, COVID was a big deal; it really was; it really is. And we’ve given it time and attention. But, Jesus is a MUCH bigger deal than COVID, wouldn’t you agree?
I’m reminded of a verse of one of my favorite Christmas songs. It goes like this:
Mary shivers in the cold…Trying to keep the Savior warm…Born among the animals…Wrapped in dirty rags because there was no room for him…In the world he came to save. (“While You Were Sleeping” by Casting Crowns)
I wonder: is there room at the inn of our lives for Jesus? Somehow, we find time to give to things we don’t like, even things that terrify us. Can’t we find time to give to the Savior of the world, the Son of God, who brings “peace on earth and goodwill to men?” In the year to come, can we think back to all the hours we spent scouring the internet for updates on the virus, watching the news, cleaning our hands and our homes, making masks and finding the right ones to wear…and give that time over to something good, something wonderful, something that will lead to abundant life…like Jesus? I hope so; I really do. Merry Christmas!
Hymn: “Joy to the World” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyciMYZq2-Y
The Lord’s Supper
Call to Communion
Sometimes, approaching this table is the MOST DIFFICULT thing I do all week. I know, I’m probably alone in this, but let me explain. When I come to the table, I remember God-with-Us who gave everything, even his life, for all people throughout the ages. When I remember and encounter THAT person, I can’t help but remember every single time in the past week when I was selfish, when I was less than willing to provide help, when I had negative thoughts about someone. When I approach the table of one who gave everything and who, by this table, is still giving, I feel mightily unworthy to dine here…until I remember…that’s the point. If I was perfect, if ANY of us were perfect, there would be no reason for this table. On this night, let’s prepare for this meal the way we probably always should. Let’s confess our sins to God so we can remember that we NEED this table.
Prayer of Confession – (to be said in unison by all worshippers)
Light of the World: / you gave us the transforming birth / of the child Jesus / as a light for our path. / Yet we confess / that we shut our eyes to the light. / We admit / that we do not want / to see the gift you have given us. / We acknowledge our reluctance / to see and share our gifts / with our sisters and brothers. / We are often dazzled / by the glitter and tinsel / the world has made of Christ’s birth. / We ask that your Spirit be lit within us, / that the light of peace and justice / may shine through us. / We seek to receive, / and to share / the gift of Christ’s birth and death / again and again. / Amen
Prayer. God of Christmas joy, thank you for sending Jesus – your Light – into the world to shine among us. Bless these elements, and help us to receive your gifts of bread and cup with joy and humility. As we receive and partake, may we open our hearts to receive your love and grace in Jesus, and may we receive Jesus’ strength to share your love in Christ with all the world.
Words of Institution. We remember that on the night Jesus was to be betrayed, he sat around a table with his disciples and shared a meal. While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread and, after giving thanks, broke it and gave it to them, saying, “Take, eat. This is my body, broken for you.” In the same way, Jesus took a cup, and after blessing it, said, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Partake of the bread and cup in your own time.
“Silent Night” by Candlelight
Charge for Bearers of Light. Jesus said he was the Light of the World. Now He sends us out to be light to the world, sharing the gifts of God’s love to all people. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Lighting Candles. Take time to light individual candles that can be held, if you have them. Light them from your Christ candle…or by whatever means you have available.
Singing Silent Night as Your Benediction. Sing or listen to (and sing along with) “Silent Night”. Hold your candle as you sing. Sing for as long as you would like. Soak in the moment. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGC4iSTwkdQ