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REFLECTIONS

Why do we [sing these Christmas songs]? Come every year sure as the solstice to carol these antiquities that if you listened to the words would break your heart. Silence, darkness, Jesus, angels. Better, I suppose, to sing than to listen.

John Updike, from “The Carol Sing,” in Everyman’s Pocket Classics: Christmas Stories

Rejoice, you just;
it is the birthday of the Justifier.
Rejoice, you who are weak and sick;
it is the birthday of the Savior, the Healer.
Rejoice, captives; it is the birthday of the Redeemer...
Rejoice, free people; it is the birthday
of the One who makes you free.
Rejoice, all Christians; it is the birthday of Christ.
Born of his mother,
he commended this day to the ages,
while born of his Father he created all ages...
The One who holds the world in being
was lying in a manger;
he was simultaneously speechless infant and Word.
The heavens cannot contain him,
but a woman carried him in her bosom…

—Augustine of Hippo, from a 4th century Christmas sermon

 

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GATHERING BEFORE GOD
December 24, 2017
Christmas Eve

Main Line Campus

OPENING SENTENCES

Leader:  The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together!

—Isaiah 40:5

ANGELS FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY

Angels from the realms of glory, 
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story, 
Now proclaim Messiah's birth.

CHORUS:

Come and worship, come and worship; 

Worship Christ, the new-born King! 
Shepherds in the fields abiding, 
Watching o'er your flocks by night;
God with man is now residing, 
Yonder shines the infant Light.

CHORUS

Sages, leave your contemplation's, 
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great Desire of nations, 
Ye have seen His natal star.

CHORUS

Saints, before the altar bending, 
Watching long in hope and fear;
Suddenly the Lord, descending, 

CHORUS

All creation, join in praising, 
God, the Father, Spirit, Son;
Evermore your voices raising, 
To the eternal Three in One.

CHORUS

Words by James Montgomery, 1816. Music by Henry Smart,

 

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GREETING AND PREPARATION

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you!

CALL TO WORSHIP

Leader:  The people who walked in darkness have seen a  great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, upon them the light has dawned.

People:    To us a child is born, to us a son is given!

Leader:    For to us a child is born and to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called: Wonderful Counselor; the Mighty God; the everlasting Father; Prince of Peace.

People:    To us a child is born, to us a son is given!

Leader:    Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

People:    To us a child is born, to us a son is given!

—from Isaiah 9:2-7

PRAYER OF INVOCATION

 

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JOY TO THE WORLD

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods,
rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.


Lyrics by Isaac Watts, 1719. Music arranged by Lowell Mason, 1836.

 

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SCRIPTURE READING
Isaiah 9:2-7, NRSV

2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness —
    on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.


Leader: This is the word of the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God!

GLORIA PATRI

Glory be to the Father
Glory be to the Son
Glory be to the Spirit Three in One
As it was in the beginning
It will be forever
Amen, Amen, Amen

PASSING THE PEACE

 

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SCRIPTURE READING 

Luke 2:1-20, NRSV

    1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

    8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying. 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Leader: This is the gospel of the Lord.
People: Praise to you O Christ! 

REFLECTION
Speaker: Jared Ayers

 

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NICENE CREED

 

Minister:     Let us say what we believe.             

People:    We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the             dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic1 and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

 (1that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places)"

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THE LORD’S TABLE

 

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Lift up your hearts now!  
We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our saving God.
It is right and good, always and everywhere.
To give thanks, to the Lord.

Minister:     With joy we praise you, gracious God, for you have         created heaven  and earth, made us in your image, and kept     covenant with us  —even when we fell into sin. We give you     thanks for Jesus Christ, our Lord, who came among us as the     Word made flesh to show us your glory, full of grace and     truth. Therefore we join our voices with all the saints and     angels and the whole creation to proclaim the  glory of your     name, saying:    

Holy, holy, holy, God of power and might.
The whole earth is full of Your glory,
hosanna in the highest!
Holy, holy, holy, God of power and might.
The whole earth is full of Your glory, 
hosanna in the highest!

Minister:   You are holy, O God of majesty, and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Born in humility, he came to rule over all. Helpless as an infant, he showed the power of your love. Poor in     things of  the world, he brought the wealth of your grace.Rejected by many, he welcomed all who sought him. In his dying and rising, you gave  birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit. Remembering your gracious acts in Jesus Christ, we take from your creation this bread and wine and joyfully celebrate his dying and rising as we await the day of his coming. With thanksgiving we  offer our very selves to you to be a living and holy sacrifice, dedicated to your service. So together we proclaim the mystery of the faith:

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Your death, O Christ, we proclaim.
Your rising celebrate! 
Your coming Lord we await, to make all things new
(REPEAT)

Minister:    Lord, our God, send your Holy Spirit so that this bread and cup may be for us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  May we  and all your saints be united with Christ and remain faithful in hope  and love. Gather your whole church, O Lord, into the glory of your kingdom.         Even so, come Lord Jesus! 

Praise to the Father,
praise to the Son, 
praise to the Spirit, 
Our God the Three in One.

WORDS OF INSTITUTION

Minister:    Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.

People:    Therefore, let us keep the feast. 

HOLY COMMUNION

Minister:    The gifts of God for the people of God.     

Gluten-free communion wafers are available at the welcome table in the front lobby of the church. Please pick one up prior to coming forward to take communion. Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist, is the family meal of Christians. We invite all committed followers of Jesus Christ to partake of this sacrament: those who are baptized members of a congregation that proclaims the Gospel, who are at peace with God and their neighbor, and who seek strength to live more faithfully for Christ.

 

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PRAYERS FOR REFLECTION

If you are not a Christian, or if you are not prepared to share in this meal, we encourage you to spend this time in prayer. We hope that this time is helpful to you as you consider your relationship with Jesus Christ and with his people, the church. If you are unable to receive Communion, we invite you to meditate on one of the following prayers:

PRAYER FOR THOSE SEARCHING FOR TRUTH: Lord Jesus, you claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. Grant that I might be undaunted by the cost of following you as I consider the reasons for doing so. If what you claim is true, please guide me, teach me, and open to me the reality of who you are. Give me an understanding of you that is coherent, convincing, and that leads to the life that you promise. Amen.

PRAYER OF BELIEF: Lord Jesus, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but through you I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment on the cross, and offering forgiveness and new life. Knowing that you have been raised from the dead, I turn from my sins and receive you as Savior and Lord. Amen. 

PRAYER OF COMMITMENT: Lord Jesus, you have called us to follow you in baptism and in a life of committed discipleship in your church. Grant that I may take the necessary steps to be one with your people, and live in the fullness of your Spirit. Amen. 

 

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O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Music by Lewis Redner, 1868. Lyrics by Phillips Brooks, 1867.

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SENDING INTO GOD’S WORLD

OFFERING

ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

CHORUS
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!


Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

CHORUS

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

CHORUS

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

CHORUS

Words: Traditional French carol, trans. James Chadwick 1862.

 

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CANDLE LIGHTING

SCRIPTURE READING
John 1:1-14 NRSV

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


Leader: This is the Gospel of the Lord.

People: Praise to you, O Christ!

 

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SILENT NIGHT

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, All is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child
Holy Infant so Tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the savior is born.

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord at thy birth,
Jesus Lord at thy birth.

 

Music by Franz Gruber, 1818. Lyrics by Joseph Mohr, 1816;
trans. by John F. Young, 1856.

 

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BENEDICTION

Minister: May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ child be yours this Christmas. And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always.

People:   Amen.

DISMISSAL

Minister:  Let us go forth in the name of Christ.

People:   Thanks be to God!

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