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Worship, Prayer and Bible Study Resources

Christmas Day

Year C, White


Christmas Day Advent Wreath

Click here to see a copy of our Christmas Day Service

Introduction

The Gospel writer John does not have any nativity stories of Jesus. There is no mention of a stable, or a manger, no baby visited or brought gifts. However he does tell us that Jesus was the 'Word,' made flesh, who came and dwelt among us.

In calling Jesus the 'Word' the Greek word 'logos' is used by John. Logos it a very special term which we translate as 'Word', but this doesn;'t do justice to what it fully means. Logos can be given two clear meanings.

We can understand from it that as the 'Word' Jesus was God's way of speaking to us. God chose to communicate with us in the person of Jesus. If we look at Jesus then we can know what God is saying to us.

Words are important, but this term Logos means more than just the word, it is also the thought which lies behind. When John tells us that Jesus is the Logos, he means that Jesus shows us how God is thinking, he is the visible presence of the mind of God.

This so important, when we look at Jesus we look deep into the being of God himself. We see his compassion on the poor, we see his love for all and his willingness to be born in human form and literally give his life for us.

Opening Verse of Scripture John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Collect Prayer for the Day - Before we read we pray

Collect for Christmas Day

Almighty God, you have given us your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.   Common Worship, Methodist Worship

Lord Jesus Christ, your birth at Bethlehem, draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth: accept our heartfelt praise, as we worship you, our Saviour and our eternal God.  Common Worship Shorter Collect

Ever-living God, whose glory was revealed in the Word made flesh: may we, who have seen such splendour in the coming of your Son, be true witnesses to your self-giving love in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.   Methodist Worship

For Christmas Day Night

God of light and hope, of stars and surprises: open our eyes to your glory and our hearts to your presence, that we may respond with joy to the angel song; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.  Methodist Worship

Eternal God, who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of your one true light: bring us, who have known the revelation of that light on earth, to see the radiance of your heavenly glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Methodist Worship

First Reading Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Second Reading  Hebrews 1:1-4

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

Drawing of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Gospel Reading John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


Post Communion Prayer

God our Father, whose Word has come among us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem: may the light of faith illumine our hearts and shine in our words and deeds; through him who is Christ the Lord.


Commentary

A Christmas Message

We are told that Jesus was born in the reign of Emperor Caesar Augustus. He lived 63BC to 14AD. He had some redeeming features. He had sorted out the postal system, restored peace and he fixed the roads. (I wish.) Caesar Augustus was known at the time as the Saviour of the World and he brought about an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace.

Luke was not impressed. He had other ideas about what constituted a saviour. Roads are important, but you cannot deal with the deepest needs of the human condition not even with a by pass. One of the first important things Luke comments upon is that it was because of the Emperor that the Holy Family had to make a journey. We are told that there was a census.

In those few words are expressed some of the enduring issues which characterise the problem of the human condition. Rome had issued the decree and ordinary people had to respond. The needs of individuals and families, such as those who were having babies were of no concern. There was no right of appeal, nobody who cared, you did as you were told.

Things have not become any better with time.It is a small comparison, but have you ever tried ringing and speaking to somebody in one of these big organisations. I have tried to telephone Dell the computer company recently and you listen to all of these options, press 1 for this, 2 for that, then you get another list, then another. When eventually you do speak to a human being, often in broken English, they advise that you really are speaking to the wrong person and they put you back to the switch board, where you hear another list of numbers. This is one of the bad features of working with organisations in which you are just a number, they are concerned with figures and bottom lines, they are not interested in you. I telephoned Virgin Holidays to try and rearrange a holiday because of a bereavement. Please can I try and move my holiday, I said ‘I have had a family bereavement.’ Dial again and press option 2,’ the voice said ‘have a great day.’ The person was not being deliberately cruel, just following the script, robotic, No I won’t have a nice day, I am trying to sort out a funeral’ Fortunately Corinne was around and took the phone at this point.

Expect it to get worse, we are just numbers in these faceless beaurocratic machines. So we read in the Gospel that Mary and Joseph were told to go to register by the Roman Emperor and we all know a little of what that means. The Holy Family knew what it was to be victims of the great machine, to be powerless in the face of authority. Mary and Joseph were living under occupation by Rome and people told you what to do.

And so when Luke wrote his Gospel he wanted to show that under God’s rule things would be different. People would not be treated like numbers, they would not have pre recorded messages from God, they would be spoken to directly and when they turned to God they would get straight through. They would not be told that God was receiving an exceptionally high volume of calls and your call is important to him, but the waiting time would be long and costly.

The whole of the Christmas story as told by Luke is a message that God is concerned with ordinary folks and will not treat them with careless contempt. Luke is the Gospel writer who sees poor people as having worth and shows how when Mary and Joseph offered their sacrifice in the temple it was two birds, this was the offering from families who did not have a lot of money.

There are two features which we can look at briefly tonight.

  1. The virgin birth
  2. and the message to the Shepherds.

The virgin birth is often the subject of great theological debate, could it have happened? Is this a literal virgin birth or has the text been translated badly and it doesn't really mean virgin birth at all? We should remember that at the time Virgin Birth was not unusual for leaders. The Emperor Caesar himself was said to have been the son of the God Apollo, conceived by a holy-snake to a virgin. Lots of famous people, like Plato, were believed to have been conceived by the gods.

This story of virgin birth in itself was therefore not remarkable. The point which Luke believed was remarkable and which we tend to miss, is rather that this God was born as just an ordinary poor child. Jesus was born to a family who were of no great significance and who got pushed around like the rest of us.

That is why this was ‘Gospel’ or ‘Good news.’ This Greek word which Luke uses is euangelion, we translate it as Gospel. This was not a new word. People were used to hearing ’euangelion’ it was the word used when good news arrived of Caesar being successful in battle. But Luke makes a change, it is now announcing not news of victory in battle, but rather of peace.

When the angel announces good news to the shepherds it is altogether different good news. This is not good news about what the glorious emperor and his army have achieved in war, this was about peace and not just Pax Romana, Roman peace, this was God's peace, peace on all the earth. This is good news the angel says to ‘all people,’ not the few.

Let me finish with just a few words about the shepherds

We were having a quiz at the Advent course, we asked which animals are mentioned in the nativity story, ox, ass, donkey, camel, sheep etc. the answer is none. No animals are mentioned at all in either Matthew or Luke, we tend to embellish these stories with all manner of things like snow and stables. It does however say that there were shepherds and this is important. Luke tells us that they were agrauleo ‘living in the fields.’

People who spend their lives living out doors are not valued highly in any community. Yet it was to these people, poor people on the fringes of society that the angel speaks, not to the rich and famous. In God’s new way of doing things ordinary people are not ignored, ordinary people matter, even those who live rough outdoors.

Tonight we celebrate and give thanks for a God who speaks to us that we all matter, that we will not get lost in God's system. That we are not numbers of no consequence. God cares for each of his children, the good news is for all people. The birth of God in human form at Bethlehem is living proof. Charles Royden

 

Meditation

The glow of Christmas does not fend off the misery, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the confusion of the world. Catholics have never thought it did. For the mystery of evil, Christmas offers no philosophical explanation. Rather, Christmas tells a story that points us to the conclusions that because of God’s passionate and unconditional lover for us, the ultimate ending, the final word will be joyful, not despairing; happy, not sad. Christmas validates our hope. And in the words of composer Gerry Herman, "We need a little Christmas, now." —Retired Bishop Joseph Gossman, Raleigh, N.C.

 

Hymns

  1. Good Christians all rejoice

  2. Christmas bells

  3. come and join the celebration

  4. See him lying on a bed of straw

  5. In the bleak mid winter

  6. O Come all ye faithful

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

God, in the name of the one who gave bread to the hungry, we remember all, who through our human ignorance, folly, and sin are condemned to live in want. Show us, who have so much, what we can do to help those who have so little; and bless the efforts of those who work to overcome poverty and hunger, that sufficient food may be found for all; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Church of Scotland

All-powerful God, let the splendour of your glory rise in our hearts like the dawn, that the darkness of the night may be scattered and the coming of your only Son may reveal us as children of the light. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

Drive from me, O King of Peace, all vain and idle thoughts. Let my soul dwell on your love. Grant me peace of heart and quietness of the mind. Grant me the grace of your presence. Having begun a great work in me let it continue to the end and, in the end, that I may pass at last into the glory of your kingdom; for your own name’s sake. Amen Henry Lunn, 1859-1939

Additional Resources

If I was giving advice to people reading the Bible I church, the two most important things which I would say are

  1. Speak up

  2. Slow down

Obviously it is important to be heard, but it is no use just being loud enough, you also have to be understood, and most people go too fast. In fact I am not sure how often I ever hear anybody read too slowly.

When we read a piece of text,  I was always told to pause at commas and take double pause at full stops!

If we read a piece without the commas and full stops, without the pauses, then the text just becomes a jumble of unintelligible jibberish. It is the pauses which give the text its meaning. We need to remember that it is sometimes the silences which speak louder than words.

It might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, do as I preach and not as I do. But each one of us, we all have to take time to listen to the silences in life, to have moments of quiet.

Sometimes we can live life at double speed and instead of packing double in, we go so fast that we miss the meaning. It is the pauses which give life meaning.

Of course Christmas can be like that, like the shepherds we make haste to Bethlehem, but we must also take time to stop and worship.

The preparations for all of us for Christmas have probably been hectic. Even if today is the first time to stop and pause, do so now.

No sooner have the shops been shouting at us about Christmas presents than they will be barking about the January sales.

Coming here today we have taken time to draw spiritual breath, to put some full stops and commas into our Christmas, to remember the real message of Christmas. Its not about the Christmas traditions, the television programmes, not even the lovely presents.

Its about God's present to us, the greatest present of all, a future promised to each of us and shown to us in the birth of Jesus.  Amen. 
 

Meditation

In Hebrew thought, the word, 'Word' is a way of describing the behaviour of God, of how God acts. In the creation account in the Book of Genesis, God does not physically have to do actions, he simply utters his words, and it is as God speaks that things happen. The Word of God is such that when he says 'Let there be light,' then there is light. The prophets Isaiah records that God created the universe out of the breath which he expelled when he spoke.

So how is it that God, 'the Word', the behaviour of God,  becomes flesh - with all that means.   How can the divinity of God inhabit the frailty of humanity? It is a mystery beyond human understanding. yet we believe that God chose to make himself known to us by taking this human form.