Peace Mennonite Church Christmas Eve Service 2012
–This is a simple service of scripture and song. The indicated scriptures are the basis for the readings given. I mostly used the NRSV, but pulled a bit from the Message and the NIV. Each reading is written for two voices–one is plain text and one is italicized. (There are a couple of places where bold italics indicate that the two readers speak together.) Hymn numbers reference our Mennonite hymnal–though I assume most hymnals have these hymns. A few hymns are songs we use under our OneLicense. Actions are in brackets.
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[Begin with lights out. Songs projected.]
Holy God of light, in whom there is no darkness at all, we come tonight to worship–to bear witness to the light of Christ in our lives and in our world. We come to hear the familiar story, to sing the beloved songs, to be with family and friends, and to remind ourselves that you are–now and always–Immanuel, God with us.
May Christ be born anew in our hearts and in our lives through our celebration of his miraculous, gracious, glorious birth. Amen.
“Better Days” by Goo Goo Dolls
Dare we hope for everyone to be loved when there is so much bitterness and hatred?
For peace when it seems that the violence cycles around endlessly?
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Dare we hope when our prayers seem to bounce off of the ceiling?
When faith and trust and peace seem too far away, too hard to hold onto?
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
Restore our hope, O God.
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.
Restore our hope for freedom.
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.
Restore our hope for peace.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
Remind us of the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
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.
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 onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
[Light hope candle]
Hymn: Come, thou long expected Jesus 178
Waiting and waiting for generations.
An angel appears to a priest named Zachariah:
“Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. . . He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
But Zachariah isn’t so sure. He and Elizabeth are childless.
They have been waiting and waiting. For so long.
“I am an old man, and my wife is . . . well, you cold say she’s getting on in years.”
Then boom, pow, Zachariah can’t talk and Elizabeth–even though she is “getting on in years”–becomes pregnant. And eight days after the birth, when it is time to name the child, Zachariah speaks:
“His name is John.”
Then he is filled with the Holy Spirit and speaks praise to God:
‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for God has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
God has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And then Zachariah, still filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks these wonderful, terrifying, prophetic words to his newborn son:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.’
[Light peace candle]
Hymn: Bless’d be the God of Israel 174
In the meantime,
Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, has also become pregnant
Even though she’s not married
Because the Holy Spirit came upon her
And the power of the Most High overshadowed her
So the child to be born will be holy
Will be called Son of God.
In the wake of this scandalous
pregnancy, it is no wonder Mary hurries off to spend time with her relative Elizabeth.
She enters the house of Zechariah, greets Elizabeth, and when Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the child leaps in her womb.
And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims
with a loud cry,
‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary says:
‘My soul magnifies
I’m bursting with God-news!
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
Wave upon wave of holy mercy.
God has shown strength with his arm;
has done mighty deeds
has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of Divine mercy,wave upon wave of holy mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Sarah’s descendants for ever.’
[Light joy candle]
Hymn: My Soul is filled with joy (Haas)
Mary knows that her child is from God,
but the man she plans to marry, Joseph, wasn’t with her when Gabriel made the big announcement.
All Joseph knows is that his fiance is pregnant
and the baby isn’t his.
We can understand why he wanted to call off the engagement.
Yet being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,
because of his love for Mary
being a righteous man
Joseph plans to dismiss Mary quietly.
But just when he has resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and says,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
Emmanuel means ‘God is with us.’
You shall call the child “Emmanuel.”
When Joseph wakes up, he does as the angel of the Lord commanded him.
[Light love candle]
Hymn: O come, O come, Immanuel 172 (verses 1, 3, 6)
In those days
After John’s birth
About nine months after Gabriel visited Mary
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.
The whole world
Registered so that Rome could collect taxes from them.
Emperor Augustus was one powerful guy.
This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
That would be some time around 0 A.D.
So everyone goes to their own towns to be registered.
Joseph also heads out 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.
[Set up “Bethlehem” background on front table]
Hymn: O little town of Bethlehem 191 (verse 1)
Joseph goes to Bethlehem to be registered with Mary,
to whom he is engaged and who is expecting a child.
While Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem, the time comes for the child to be born.
And Mary gives birth to her firstborn son
and wraps him in bands of cloth,
and lays him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.
[Light Christ candle; pass light as we sing]
Hymn: Silent night 193
Hymn: What child is this 215
Hymn: Holy Child within the manger (Haugen)
In that region
near Bethlehem, not too far from Jerusalem
there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests!’
[Turn on light over front table]
Hymn: Angels we have heard on high 197
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now
“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste
running through the fields, skipping through the streets
They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this,
the baby in the manger, the exhausted parents looking on,
they made known what had been told them about this child;
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord
and all who heard it were amazed
they wondered, they marvelled
at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
[Children set up the nativity on the front table]
Hymn: Hark! the herald angels sing 201
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
[turn on lights]
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humans, but of God.
And 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.
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
Hymn: Joy to the world 318