Readings John 1:1-14, Hebrews 1 1:14
Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98
Led by Steve Wright
GREETING AND PREPARATION
The irrepressible joy of the birthday of Christ Jesus be with you all!
The nations now see God’s saving justice.
God has given us a new name to treasure, spoken from his very mouth.
As bride and bridegroom rejoice together, so God rejoices with us this day.
PRAYER (by Martin Luther)
Little Child of God, laid in a manger, we adore your coming!
Now God is of our image, God is of our flesh and blood.
Now there is no difference at all between your body and ours.
You are our Saviour and our brother lying in a cot. You join our human frailty, share our needs, and assure us of utter glory.
God of Christmas, God of unspeakable grace, please forgive and renew us all, that our lives may declare the wonders of that Holy Love that has called us out of darkness into glorious light.
My friends in Christ, Christ did not come to rub our noses in our sins, but to liberate us from guilt and despair. Be cheerful, lift up your hearts, for you are a remarkably loved and forgiven people! You are set free to forgive one another and to be agents of peace and joy!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to all people of goodwill..
MUSIC – 1/166 O Come all ye Faithful
MUSIC – 12 days of Christmas – Australian Version
Most Holy Friend, today you have given us a Child who is like all human children, yet at the same time unlike all others.
Born of Mary, he is the hope of the earth and the joy of heaven.
As we celebrate this day with carols and prayers, gifts and feasting, may we open our hearts to receive you Christ. Come Incarnate Love, and rejuvenate us in body, mind and spirit, until Christmas optimism spills over into every thought, action and prayer. To your praise and glory! Amen!
BIBLE READING – JOHN 1:1-14
REFLECTION – NOT A SERMON
On the subject of Christmas I become almost tongue tied.
I cannot speak about it with an adequacy rate of even 1%.
In fact, framing words can seem like a contradiction.
Isn’t Christmas about God’s Word becoming flesh?
How can I then try to turn the Flesh back into words?
If God could have communicated the essence of Christmas in words, surely it would have been done long before Christ Jesus.
But what God had to say could only be said by actions.
God among us, as one of us; now that communicates!
As I see (and feel it!) this morning, if people cannot get the message from the coming of God in the beautiful life and death of Jesus, then no wordiness on my part that will achieve it.
Words may have some validity.
Words can celebrate, adorn and instruct and move us forward.
Let us then continue to celebrate. Let us feast with joy,
exchange presents with delight, let us sing our carols and lift up our prayers.
In other words celebrate Christ’s birth with action.
Let those who can dance, dance it. Let those who can paint, paint it.
Let those who are playwrights create drama around it.
Let all with love in their hearts, share that love freely in honour of the God of Christmas.
This is no time for long sermons. It is time for love, adoration and action.
LET’S PASS THE PEACE
MUSIC – 1/168 Silent Night Holy Night
We who have so much to enjoy this day, turn now to God with prayers for those who have much less. Let us pray.
For those who will spend this holy day in hospital, and especially for any who know it will be their last Christmas on this earth.
For children who will spend this day hungry or in poverty, and for parents who experience the pain of not being able to provide.
For those who must work today while we relax; police and ambulance officers, nurses and doctors, chefs and waiters, members of fire brigades, and those who maintain public transport.
For those who once believed in Christ, and who knew the meaning of Christmas joy, but who have now edged away into cynicism and darkness.
For those who have never believed, but who on this day are finding their hearts stirred by the Holy Spirit and challenged to take the leap of faith.
For any among our family or friends who are facing personal crisis, or trying to deal with a tragedy, at this Christmas season.
Lord of the universe, through your true Child, born of a young woman
you came to share our humanity.
Renew us by your holy coming and make us children of love
that we may embody your Word and be agents of mercy and peace.
MUSIC – 1/171 Hark the Herald Angel Sing
Merry Christmas, my friends!
God has spoken his most joyful word of grace, mercy and peace!
Mary gave birth to her first-born son, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.
Go out into this day delighting in your kinship with God’s Son.
Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace and goodwill. AMEN
1/166 O Come all ye Faithful
The text to the Carol O Come All Ye Faithful was originally written in Latin (Adeste Fideles) and was intended to be a hymn, it is attributed to John Wade, an Englishman. The music to O Come All Ye Faithful was composed by fellow Englishman John Reading in the early 1700s. The tune was first published in a collection known as “Cantus Diversi” in 1751.
In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley is reputed to have worked on the familiar translation of O Come All Ye Faithful which replaced the older Latin lyrics “Adeste Fideles”.
O come all ye Faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O Come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord
Sing, Choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
1/168 Silent Night Holy Night
The origin of the Christmas carol we know as Silent Night was a poem that was written in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. On Christmas Eve in 1818 in the small alpine village called Oberndorf it is reputed that the organ at St. Nicholas Church had broken. Joseph Mohr gave the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody and music for Silent Night was composed with this in mind. The Silent Night music was therefore intended for a guitar and the simple score was finished in time for Midnight Mass. Silent Night is the most famous Christmas carol of all time and its beautiful lyrics convey the essence of peace and love.
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 Saviour is born, Christ, the Saviour 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.
1/171 Hark the Herald Angel Sing
Hark the herald angels sing Christmas Carol was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley founder of the Methodist church, in 1739. A sombre man, he requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics and thus “Hark the herald angels sing” was sung to a different tune initially.
Over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata in 1840 to commemorate Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s music to fit the lyrics of “Hark the herald angels sing” already written by Wesley.
Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled
Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!
Christ by highest heav’n adored Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come Offspring of a Virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King!
There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me. What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won’t come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?
This week, I found out. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning:
the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
- The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
- Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
- Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.-
- The four calling birds were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
- The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
- The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
- Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit– Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
- The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
- Nine ladies dancing were fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, & Self Control.
- The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
- The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
- The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.
So there is some history for today
Lyrics of the song, DECK OF CARDS by Phil Harris 1948 During the North African Campaign, a bunch of soldier boys had been on a long hike. They arrived in a little town called Casino. The next morning being Sunday, several of the boys went to church. A sergeant commanded the boys in church.
After the Chaplain read the prayer, the text was taken up next.
Those of the boys that had a prayer book took them out.
One boy had only a deck of cards, and he spread them out.
The sergeant saw the cards and said, “Soldier, put away those cards.”
After the service was over, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the Provost Marshall. The Marshall said, “Sergeant, why have you brought this man here?” “For playing cards in church, Sir,” was the response.
The Marshall asked the soldier, “And what have you to say for yourself, son?”
“Much, Sir,” replied the soldier. The Marshall stated, “I hope so, for if not I will punish you more than any man was ever punished.”
The soldier said, “Sir, I have been on the march for about six months.
I have neither bible nor a prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you, sir, with the purity of my intentions.”
And with that, the boy started his story …
“You see, sir, when I look at the Ace, it reminds me that there is but one God.
And the deuce reminds me that the bible is divided into two parts: the Old and the New Testaments.
When I see the trey, I think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And when I see the four, I think of the four evangelists who preached the Gospel: there was Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And when I see the five, it reminds me of the five wise virgins who trimmed their lamps; there were ten of them: five were wise and were saved, five were foolish and were shut out.
When I see the six, it reminds me that in six days God made this heaven and earth.
And when I see the seven, it reminds me that on the seventh day, God rested from his great work.
And when I see the eight, I think of the eight righteous persons that
God saved when he destroyed the earth: there was Noah, his wife, their sons and their wives.
And when I see the nine, I think of the lepers our saviour cleansed, and that nine of the ten didn’t even thank him.
When I see the ten, I think of the ten commandments that God handed down to Moses on a tablet of stone.
When I see the King, it reminds me that there is but one King of Heaven, God Almighty.
And when I see the Queen, I think of the blessed Virgin Mary who is the Queen of Heaven. And the Jack or Knave is the Devil.
When I count the number of spots in a deck of cards, I find 365, the number of days in a year. There are 52 cards, the number of weeks in a year.
There are four suits, the number of weeks in a month.
There are twelve picture cards, the number of months in a year.
There are thirteen tricks, the number of weeks in a quarter.
So you see, Sir, my deck of cards serves me as a bible, an almanac and a prayer book.
The New Revised Standard Version
John 1:1-14 – The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being
4 in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
11 He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him.
12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 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.