Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas Eve

Call to Worship
Joy comes to the world this night!
In our God who sets aside glory
to become as hopeful and helpless as we are.
Hope comes to the world this night!
In Jesus who embraces the poor as family,
who brings justice for those who are oppressed.
Peace comes to the world this night!
In the Spirit who would reconcile the divided,
who build bridges and tear down walls.
Evening Prayer
Here, the faithful come
that we may adore you,
God-who-is with us.
Here, the lonely come
to find you and your family,
God-who-gathers us to your heart.
Here, little children look
with wide-eyed wonder,
God-who-comes in wonder.
Here, older folks listen
for comforting words,
Here, we join with
those who watch,
Here, we join the animals
gazing at new life,
Here, we welcome all
who have travel in this season,
Here, we sing our carols
of joy and grace,

Here, we gather on this holy night,
to adore you, God in Community, Holy in One,
even as we pray as we are taught:
(The Lord’s Prayer)  

Call to Reconciliation
Be near us this night, God of compassion and hope.  Be near us, as we bring our foolish lives, our damaging words, our poor choices to your heart.  Be near us, and touch us with that mercy which gives us new life, even as we rejoice in the life which was in the Child whose birth we celebrate in these silent moments.

Unison Prayer for Forgiveness
   We sing of the one who away in a manger, God of holy nights, but ignore the cries of little ones who are forgotten.  We imagine the holy family was well-off as we are, forgetting they are the relatives of the poor around us.  The gifts of wonder and grace are offered to us, but how silently we use them in our words and lives.
   Come to us once again, Bethlehem’s Child, to give us new life and hope.  May we join the angels in singing songs of joy, as we bring healing to the broken.  May we open the doors of our hearts to those searching for refuge from their journeys to escape fear and danger.  May we see each person as precious in your eyes, as well as ours, as the One whose lowly birth we celebrate this night, Jesus our Brother, our Lord.

Silence is kept

Assurance of Pardon
Here in the silence of these moments, in the light of candles as well as grace, in the warmth of hope as well as those around us, we are offered the good news.  This is the night God came to us, to remind us that we are never alone, we are loved and welcomed and affirmed by our God.
O come, let us adore our God whose love came down this night; whose grace and justice walked among us; who peace and hope are the gifts we can share with all around us.  Glory to God, Glory to God in the highest!  Amen.

Prayer of Dedication/Offering
God of holy nights, as we offer our gifts, gather them up to be the hope for all who struggle, food for those who hunger, shelter for those who sleep rough, life for all who yearn.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
May the God of silent nights be with you.
May the God of holy nights be with you.
Come, let us adore our God as we lift our hearts.
We pray that God will fill them with joy and wonder.
Let us echo the songs we have heard from angels on high.
We will sing glad songs of joy and compassion.

In the bleak mid-winter of chaos,
where empty winds moaned,
your heart sang new songs,
God of great joy,
and creation tumbled forth:
   birds that fly south
      and bears which hibernate in winter;
   snow that drifts in meadows,
      and waves that crash on shores; 
   stars which guided wise ones to a stable
      and point sailors safely home.
All that was good and beautiful was shaped
for those created in your image,
   but we had no room in our hearts for your grace,
   and sent your hopes away empty-handed.
Through Hannah and Zechariah,
with the songs of Isaiah and Mary,
you told of what you were going to do
to offer us life and bring us back,
   but we preferred the gifts offered by temptation,
   the old stories told by death.
So, you became on us, taking on
our birth, our life, our death
so we might know your love for us.

As we join in the joy that has come to the world,
as we look for your light in the shadows of this night,
we sing our praises to you:

We join the angelic chorus, all those around us,
and all creation in praising you, God of silent nights.
Glory in the highest!

Blessed is the One born this night.
Glory in the highest!

It was in David’s hometown
that your holiness became humility,
your power turned into weakness,
your glory transformed in humanity
as a baby too its first breath.
Placed in a feeding trough,
   Jesus came to feed us
   on life-giving bread;
with animals as his midwives,
   Jesus came to offer all creation
   new hope and wonder;
born into poverty,
   Jesus came to share with us
   the abundance of God’s love;
dying our death,
   Jesus came to set sin’s power aside,
   to break death’s cold grip
   with the warmth of the resurrection.

As we celebrate his birth on this night,
as we seek to follow him every day,
we proclaim that mystery known as faith:

Born, Jesus knew the hunger of babies;
walking, Jesus scrapped his knees
   and wandered the streets of home;
living, Jesus knew the hurt of rejection
   and the welcome he offered others;
dying, Jesus knew our deepest fear
   and the moment of separation from life;
being raised, Jesus knew God’s love
   and faithfulness being fulfilled;
returning, Jesus will be the One
   to journey with us into God’s new life.

And though the days are hastening on,
you continue to pour your Spirit
on the gifts of the holy meal of this night
and on all your children gathered in this moment.
Here, God-who-is-our-life,
the broken bread gives us the strength
   to share hope with those in despair,
   to challenge the injustice all around us,
   to rebuild neighborhoods others rush past.
Here, God-who-is-our-grace,
the cup is poured into our souls so we may
   offer a welcome to all who are forgotten,
   embrace those who grieve amidst so much joy,
   reconcile with those from whom we are estranged.

And when that birth of new life comes,
as all time and history comes to an end,
we will join our sisters and brothers
of every time, and of every place,
in praising you forever and ever,
God in Community, Holy in One.  Amen.  

Let us go to share God’s joy with all the world.
We will bring wonder and grace to those around us.
Let us go to be the hope of Jesus for others.
We will seek justice where there is none.
Let us go to offer the Spirit’s peace.
We will welcome all rejected by the world.

© 2018 Thom M. Shuman