Christmas Eve Worship 2022

Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today’s service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 

to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.

Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Christmas Eve

 
Today’s service is led by The Revd Andy Braunston

 
Call to Worship
 

Good evening and welcome to worship on this most holiest of nights when, with Christians around the world we gather in the dark to welcome the light.  We listen again, in music and words, to the story of God becoming one with us.  My name is Andy Braunston and I’m leading worship from the Peedie Kirk United Reformed Church in Orkney – a place that experiences depths of darkness in the winter and days of near endless sunlight in the Summer.  So, I bid you welcome as, once again, we welcome the Light of the World.  
 
 
Call To Worship
One:       Come and hear the news the angels bring!
 
Many:    News of great joy and mirth!
 
One:       Come, leave your sadness and listen to the angels’ news
 
Many:    News of great joy and mirth!
 
One:       Come, out of darkness & into light & listen to the angels’ news:
 
Many:    News of great joy and mirth!
 
One:      Come and worship!
 
Hymn    On Christmas Night All Christians Sing
English traditional after Luke Wadding (d.1686)  BBC Songs of Praise
 

 

On Christmas night all Christians sing,
to hear the news the angels bring,
on Christmas night all Christians sing,
to hear the news the angels bring,
news of great joy, 
news of great mirth,
news of our merciful King’s birth.
 
Then why should we 
on earth be so sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad,
then why should we 
on earth be so sad,
since our Redeemer made us glad,
when from our sin he set us free,
all for to gain our liberty?
 
When sin departs before his grace,
then life and health come in its place;
when sin departs before his grace,
then life and health come in its place;
heaven and earth with joy may sing,
all for to see the new-born King.
 
All out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night:
all out of darkness we have light,
which made the angels sing this night;
‘Glory to God, on earth be peace,
goodwill to all shall never cease.’

 

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
In the darkness of this night, Eternal One, You bathe us in light.
In the shadows of these long days, O Most High, Your light shines on us. 
In the midst of gloom and despair, O Emmanuel, You increase our joy.
 
O God, You free us from all that oppresses and drags us down,
but we prefer the darkness of sin, to the light of love.  
You send us the Prince of Peace, but we prefer wars and rumours of war.
You send us a Wonderful Counsellor,
but we prefer listening to whispering shadows.
Forgive us, good God, and give us time to change,
time to turn towards You,  time to work for justice,  and time to heal. Amen.  
 
Hear the words of the angels:  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 Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  Accept the salvation offered to you, live in freedom and work for change.  Amen.
 
Prayer for Illumination
 
Lighten our darkness, we beseech You, O God; and by Your great mercy, break open Your word to us as it is read, proclaimed, and understood,
for the love of Your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Amen.
 
Reading       
 
Isaiah 9:2-7
 
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. 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. 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. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, 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 onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
 
Hymn    It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876) (alt.) performed by Geraldine Latty & Carey Luce Engage Worship used with their kind permission.
 
It came upon the midnight clear,
that glorious song of old,
from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
Through all the earth,
goodwill and peace
from heaven’s all-gracious King!’
The world in solemn stillness lay
to hear the angels sing.
 
With sorrow brought by sin & strife the world has suffered long;
and, since the angels sang, 
have passed two thousand 
years of wrong;
the nations, still at war, hear not
the love-song which they bring;
O, hush the noise & cease the strife
to hear the angels sing.

And those whose journey 
now is hard whose hope is burning low,
who tread the rocky path of life
with painful steps and slow,
O listen to the news of love
which makes the heavens ring!
And rest beside the weary road
and hear the angels sing!
 
And still the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old,
towards the fulness of the time,
when comes the age foretold:
then earth and heaven 
renewed shall see,
the prince of peace, their king;
and all the world repeat the song
which now the angels sing.
 

 

Reading
 
St Luke 2:1-14
 
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And 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. In that region 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 Saviour, 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 among those whom he favours!”
 
Hymn    While Shepherds Watched
Nahum Tate c1700 sung by unknown performer on the aMiscellany YouTube channel.
 
While shepherds watched 
their flocks by night,
all seated on the ground,
the angel of the Lord came down,
and glory shone around.
 
‘Fear not,’ said he 
for mighty dread
had seized their troubled mind
‘glad tidings of great joy I bring
to you and all your kind.
 
‘To you, in David’s town, this day
is born of David’s line
a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;
and this shall be the sign:
 
‘The heavenly babe 
you there shall find
to human view displayed,
all meanly wrapped 
in swaddling clothes
and in a manger laid.’

 

Thus spake the seraph, 
and forthwith
appeared a shining throng
of angels praising God, who thus
addressed their joyful song:

‘All glory be to God on high,
and to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth 
from heaven to earth, 
begin and never cease.

 

 
Sermon
 
These are difficult times really.  We live in an age of economic and political instability where wars and rumours of wars abound.  Inflation attacks our savings; wages, pensions and benefits aren’t increasing enough to keep up and, whilst the fuel crisis has been delayed, it is still a real threat.  Mr Putin has broken about every law going and Ukraine aches under the burden of invasion, war and terror.  The poor and downtrodden flee war, persecution and violence yet rich countries close their borders.  These are dark times indeed.
 
Our readings also reflect dark times – appropriate for worship in the dark closest to the longest night.  Isaiah’s prophecy comes at a time when the northern kingdom of Israel was being ground down by Assyria, where invasion, battle, and terror were every day events where, like Ukraine now, the nation was threatened with extinction. In the midst of the gloom of the age the prophet points to hope – a great light will dawn on a nation that’s lived in darkness, joy will be increased – joy great than when soldiers divide plunder.  Oppression will be lifted, uniforms will be burned and the nation was to find peace in a new born baby – a baby who would be wise, have the authority of the Most High and who would be a prince of peace.  Isaiah’s words were grounded in the political and economic realities of his time.
 
The famous passage from St Luke telling of the angels appearing to poor shepherds out on the hills is also grounded in the realities of the time.  The Roman overlords wanted everyone counted – why?  Almost certainly to know who to tax.  Not only did the Romans rule Israel but they wanted the Jews to pay for the invasion and occupation through harsh taxes.  Luke grounds his story in the reign of the Emperor Augustus and during the governorship of Quirinius.  We read this story every year and give these details little thought – but Luke makes it clear that Jesus was born in a nation under occupation and brutal military rule.  No thought given to how poor people could comply with the census; Mary struggled to find somewhere to give birth with dignity and safety.  The first people told of this great event weren’t the rich and powerful but poor, outcast shepherds.  Jesus was born in the night during the darkness of an occupied, downtrodden, poor country where world politics and imperial intrigue were played out.  
 
In the darkness of invasion, war, and a precarious national existence, Isaiah offered hope, hope in the birth of a child who would bathe the people in light, deliver them from oppression, and bring peace.
 
In the darkness of occupation, poverty, and national obliteration Luke has angels come to sing of Christ’s birth – good news to the poor and the outsiders, good news for those on the edge.  Good news for us too.
 
In our dark times God gives us hope.  
 

  • Hope that evil and warfare won’t have the last word. 
  • Hope that the prince of peace will inspire us to change our ways.
  • Hope that perpetrators of war crimes will face justice.
  • Hope that the poor won’t always be with us.
  • Hope that fairer policies and politics, economics and ethics will come.

 
The baby whose birth we mark on this most holy night both fulfilled and disappointed the dreams of his people.  In Him, God came to share our humanity, our pain, our suffering and, through his death and resurrection, transformed our lives forever.  Yet, the people longed for political liberation, for the overthrow of the Roman empire and restoration – just as God had restored Israel of old.  Jesus was, of course, a revolutionary and, in the long run, the radical love that he taught and which Christians espoused fatally undermined slavery  – the economic basis of the Empire.  He wasn’t, however, the political freedom fighter that people thought they needed.
 
We long for change now, not through revolution but through Jesus’ same radical love being used to change our world.  Jesus’ wisdom helps undermine the empires of our day: the economic Leviathans which privilege the rich and powerful; the ethical systems which say truth is relative, and the social powers which divide us in order to rule.  
 
Instead, that wonderful counsellor calls us to see the world as it really is.
 
Instead, that Prince of Peace calls us to love our enemies with a radical, truth telling, assertive love which calls out crime and oppression.
 
Instead, that child whom Isaiah named as everlasting Father, calls us to recognise our interconnectedness and mutual responsibilities as people related to each other in the human family.
 
In these dark times we are given light; light to see the way, light to challenge what goes on in the dark, and light to bring life to others.
 
Let us pray:
 
Lord Jesus, we see you laid to rest on Mary’s lap,
sleeping under the gaze of animal and angel,
of anxious parents and excited shepherds.
 
Lord Jesus, on your lap are lain all wreaths of empire,
in you the poor find their wealth, the oppressed find their freedom,
and the powerful find judgement.
 
Lord Jesus, plead for us now, 
as your light breaks into our darkness,
that we may share your love and life in the gloom of our world.  Amen.
 
Hymn   What Child is This?
W Chatterton Dix  1865 sung by the Sunday 7pm Choir of St. Francis de Sales Church in Ajax, Ontario, Canada and used with their kind permission.
 

What Child is this who laid to rest
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet 
with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch 
are keeping?
 
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard 
and angels sing.
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son, of Mary.
 
Why lies he in such mean estate
where ok and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear: 
for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
 
So bring Him incense, 
gold and myrrh,
Come Peasant, King, to own Him
The King of Kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
 
Intercessions

In the darkness of this night, O God, we come to your light, bringing the gloom of our world before you.
 
We remember before you 
those who worship in secret this night, for fear of the authorities…
those who sleep on the streets this night….
those who work this night…
those who are in pain this night…
 
that the hope you bring will permeate their lives.
We remember before you 
those who lead, or aspire to lead, our nations…
those who worry about paying their bills this winter…
those living in war torn lands…
those looking for light in the dark…
that the hope you bring will permeate their lives.
 
We remember before you, in silence, those we know in any kind of need…
that the hope you bring will permeate their lives.
 
We join our prayers together as we pray, with Jesus…  
 
Our Father…
 
Holy Communion
 
Jesus, we praise You and give You thanks,
because you emptied Yourself of power,
and became foolishness for our sake;
for we celebrate the night when
You were delivered as one of us, a baby needy and naked, 
wrapped in a woman’s blood, born into poverty and exile,
to proclaim good news to the poor, and to let the broken victims go free.
 
We remember the night when, gathered with your friends
You took bread and having blessed it, broke it and said:
 
“Take this all of you and eat it, for this is my body which will be broken for you,  do this in memory of me”
 
In the same way when the Supper was finished,
you took the cup filled with wine, blessed it and said:
 
“Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you. Do this in memory of me.”
 
Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith……
 
Christ has died!  
Christ is Risen!  
Christ will come again!
 
Come now dearest Spirit of our God,
embrace us with Your comfortable power,
brood over these bodily things and make us one body in Christ,
as we eat this bread and wine, His body and blood.
As Mary’s body was broken for him, and her blood shed,
so may we show forth His brokenness for the life of the world
and may creation be made whole through the new birth in His blood.
 
Therefore, with the woman who gave You birth,
with the women who befriended You and fed you,
the woman who anointed You for death,
the women who met You risen from the tomb,
and with all Your lovers, women and men,
throughout the ages, we praise You as we realise that:
 
Through You, with You, in You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honour is Yours, almighty Creator, for ever and ever, Amen.
 
Music During Communion
 
Hymn    Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and others BBC Songs of Praise
 

Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born 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 hosts proclaim,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’.
 
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King’.

Christ, by highest heaven 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 a man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King’.
 
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
born to raise the folk of earth, born to give us second birth:
 
Hark! the herald angels sing,
‘Glory to the new-born King’.

Blessing
 
May the joy of the angels, 
the eagerness of the shepherds, 
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary 
and the peace of the Christ-child
be yours this Christmas; 
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

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