Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Eve liturgy with communion

Texts: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

Call to Worship
With eyes wide open
and our ears on edge,
we look for shepherds
and listen for the songs of angels.
In the light of winter’s moon,
with the Southern Cross lighting the way,
we gather outside the door of a mystery,
wondering if we dare go enter.
With folks and friends we love,
with strangers we have just met,
we gather, becoming the holy family
for this time and in this place.
Christmas Eve Prayer
Now in the silence,
   whisper of joy which comes
   into every life.
Now in the comfort of carols,
   sing of hope which
   takes away the despair
   which envelops us.
Now in familiar words heard anew,
   speak to us of grace
   which is born into barren lives,
      of peace which is birthed
      in war’s shadowed fears.
Now leaning next to those
who have always been a part of us,
and those from whom we have been apart,
   remind us of your heart
   which always accepts us,
   always welcomes us.
Now in the love which is ours forever,
   draw us closer to your heart,
   so we can be surprised by wonder,
                         swaddled in serenity,
                         embraced by tenderness.
Now touch us once again with Christmas,
God in Community, Holy in One,
as we join in praying as we are taught,
(The Lord’s Prayer)
Call to Reconciliation
This is the night we are reminded that God loves to be with us.  Yet all too often – by our choices, our words, our silence – we choose not to be with Go.  Join me as we pray on this holy night to the One who was born to gift us with mercy and hope.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   This was going to be the year, God of silent nights, when we were going to give away more than we spent, but we didn’t.  This was going to be the season when we spent more time with others, but we filled our calendars with meetings.  This was going to be the Christmas when we wrote personal letters to friends and family, but spent too much energy filling out our to-do lists.  This was going to be a truly holy season, but it just got to harried and hurried.
   Forgive us, Love Gifter, and draw us closer to the Baby born not into wealth and power, but into poverty and weakness; to the One who loves unconditionally and welcomes all; to the Child who gathers other children to him, to bless them and serve them; to the One who drew near to us, so we might be drawn to your heart – Jesus Christ, our Brother, our Lord.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Into the valleys of our death, Jesus comes with life;
into the shadows of our world, Jesus brings light;
into the brokenness of our lives, Jesus brings forgiveness and peace.
Thanks be to God for the gift of the Baby of Bethlehem, who brings joy and peace to us in these moments of forgiveness and in all the days to come.  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
Now, on this night of giftedness, remind us of those who struggle to put food on the table, to buy a single gift for their child, to wrap a warm blanket around a grandparent, so we might realize how blessed we are and share from our abundance.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of silent nights be with you!
May the God of herald angels be with you!
Open your hearts to the One born in the little town of Bethlehem.
May Emmanuel come to abide in our hearts.
Join all believers in singing of our joy this night.
May our voices blend with those of the angels and shepherds.
You crept into chaos so long ago,
so creation might be born:
   sheep gathering on hillsides,
   stars glittering in the night skies,
   sea horses frolicking in warm waters.
Silently, you gathered up the dust,
shaping us in your image
as the Spirit breathed life into us.
All the gifts of your heart were for us,
   but we slammed the door of our hearts,
   saying there was no room for you in our lives.
Prophets came time and again,
scattering your clues throughout the Story,
   but we were too busy enjoying
   the sleights of hand done by sin and death.
When you saw we could not
understand the Mystery on our own,
you sent Jesus, to reveal everything to us.
As we gather with children dressed in bathrobes,
as we join with the voices around us,
we sing praises to you this Christmas night:
We will not be afraid,
   for great joy is ours this night;
we will look for the signs of your presence,
   grace swaddled in hope,
   love wrapped around broken hearts.
Glory to you, God in the highest heavens!
May peace fill the lives of all your children!
Leaving your side, God of holiness,
your Child came to walk with us
through the cold streets of our lives.
Born in poverty’s shadows,
   he is the light which illumines
   your heart for us.
Unwrapped from glory’s embrace,
   he gathers us from all the corners
   of our confused choices to make us one with you.
Placed in a rude feeding trough
layered with our fears and doubts,
   he breathes in your hopes
   and lives your will, until
      he is placed in death’s cold embrace,
      waiting in the silence,
   where he breathes in resurrection’s breath,
   and brings forth life for all who follow.
On this night, when we sing of the baby in the manger,
as the shadow of the cross is cast by the stars,
we proclaim that mystery called incarnation:
Christ is our light,
   and we will join the angels in singing the good news;
Christ is our life,
   and we will join the disciples in telling the Story;
Christ is our promise,
   and we wait for the joy of his return.
Here in the silence and the singing,
with children, carols, and candlelight,
we gather around the Table of joy,
as you pour out your Spirit upon
the most precious gifts of bread and cup.
As we feast upon the bread,
we remember a young pregnant girl,
   and would serve those who are expecting,
      those who cannot have a child,
      those who have lost children.
As we drink from the cup,
we think of a worried father,
   and would be with those who assemble toys this night,
       as well as those who will work this night
       to pay for food and medicine for their families.
As we are surrounded by family and friends,
we would care for
   those whose closest companion is loneliness,
   those separated from loved ones,
   those who hear no music, joy, or hope in their lives.
And when all time and history becomes silence,
we will be gathered with our sisters and brothers
from Bethlehem and Belfast, from Cairo and Chicago,
from Cape Town and Istanbul, from Sydney and Shanghai,
from every corner and moment of every universe,
to join the angel choirs in forever singing your praises
as we dance to the Table of wonder and grace,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.      
Let us go to be the gift another needs,
sharing God’s blessings of love and grace,
running to tell the Story we heard from the shepherds.
Let us go to be the comfort which can swaddle others,
sharing Jesus’ compassion with the poor and needy,
welcoming the holiness offered by the most vulnerable we meet.
Let us go to enkindle the lives around us,
sharing the Spirit’s peace with all the broken,
learning the language of hope from the children in our midst.

(c) Thom M. Shuman