Christmas Day 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 Day

 
Today’s service is led by The Revd Alex Clare-Young

 

Scripture Sentences Psalm 96 & Call To Worship
 
O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy!
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  
We come to worship!
Soon the bells will start.  
We come to let our prayers ring out!
And the thing that’ll make ’em ring is the carol that you sing.
We come to sing our praises!
Right within your heart.  
We come to ponder, deep in our hearts.
 
Hymn    O Come All Ye Faithful
Latin, 18th century, possibly by John Francis Wade (c.1711-1786) and others, the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
 
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.
 
God of God, Light of light,
Lo! he abhors not 
the Virgin’s womb;
very God, 
begotten, not created;
 
Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens 
of heaven above,
‘Glory to God
in the highest’:
 
Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given:
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing:

   

Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness

So this is Christmas, 
and what have we done?
God we thank you for the year that is ending,
and for the one just beginning.
And so this is Christmas, 
we thank you for fun – 
with near and with dear ones, 
with old and with young.
As we meet you in this space, 
we let go of fear,
we draw near to you, 
we wait for peace…
 
So this is Christmas and yet we still live in a world where the strong exploit the weak, where the rich ones snatch wealth from the poor ones,
where the words “War is over, if you want it, war is over now,” ring with challenge, rather than peace.
 
God forgive us, God forgive us.
Christ child forgive us, Christ child forgive us.
Spirit of change, transform us, Spirit of change, transform us.
 
God’s peace is not the easy peace, but Christ’s gift to us is that peace is within grasp, as we hear that good news, we yearn to be part of the change we seek.  
Amen.
 
A Prayer for Illumination
 
God, you let go of majesty,
humbled yourself to draw near,
cried with the screams of the newborn,
reached out to wrap your tiny fists around our outstretched fingers.
Help us to let go, humble us, hear our cries, stretch our minds,
as we open the gifts of your Word, 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    See In Yonder Manger Low
Edward Caswall (1814-1878) sung by the choir of Paisley Abbey
 

See! in yonder manger low,
born for us on earth below,
see! the tender Lamb appears
promised from eternal years.
 
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem,
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
 
Lo! within a manger lies
he who built the starry skies,
he who, throned in height sublime,
sits amid the cherubim.
 
Sacred Infant, all Divine,
what a tender love was thine,
thus to come from highest bliss
down to such a world as this!

 

 
Reading        St Luke 2:1-14, 15-20
 
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!” When 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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed 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.
 
Sermon
 
At Christmas I often hear folks suggesting, in churches and in the media that there is a divide, or a competition, between secular and sacred, that is witnessed in the shopping and partying, the good food and gifts. But is there really a divide? Or are we stoking a culture war that doesn’t exist? The joy of giving, spending time with chosen family, volunteering to help those who are isolated, singing carols together – to me, Christmas is the one time at which vast numbers of folks join in sharing the Good News of love and the gap between secular and sacred – if such a gap exists – is at its most narrow. This year, I’ve been reflecting on the way in which Christmas songs reflect the Gospel message, the Good News that is ushered in in a simple home.
 
As Perry Como and The Fontane Sisters know:
 
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Soon the bells will start
And the thing that’ll make ’em ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart
 
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in every store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door”
 
Our own front door can, indeed, be a place of hope for the hopeless, and rest for the weary. Throughout the worst parts of the Covid19 crisis, many stood outside our own front doors sharing hope and joy with others, despite our necessary isolation. Despite the terror of war and oppression, many have opened those same doors to individuals and families fleeing Ukraine. 
 
Jesus’s migrant parents, travelling from one region to another to fulfil the census ordered by an overly powerful ruler knocked on a door, far from home, only to be told that there was no room at the inn. This is often the message that migrants to our own shores receive, too. And yet, the innkeeper, thinking creatively, offers room at the manger. It’s not ideal, but it is honest: a real, individual human being sharing the little that he has so that new hope might be brought to birth in a troubled world.
 
As we celebrate that new hope, I wonder if we can help our leaders to think creatively, making room for hope to shine in the lives of all weary travellers, from all over the world. 
Even more optimistic yet were Yoko Ono and John Lennon, writing:
 
“So this is Christmas (War is over)
And what have we done? (If you want it)
Another year over (War is over)
And a new one just begun (Now)
And so Happy Christmas (War is over)
We hope you have fun (If you want it)
The near and the dear ones (War is over)
The old and the young (Now)
War is over, if you want it,
War is over now.”
 
Do we want it? Of course we do. Ono and Lennon cleverly mix their idealistic claim that war is over now, with the narrative of a Christmas celebrated with family and friends. The onus, they suggest, is on us. Peace is possible, but it is neither easy nor simple. It is not without sacrifice. Peace wasn’t easy on that first Christmas day, either. Imagine being told that the hope of peace for the whole world rested on the tiny shoulders of the new born son for whom you laboured long in the straw and the mess… Christmas is about labouring for peace, rather than resting in it. And so, as we celebrate that labouring towards peace, I wonder if we can be people live out that call to peace, embodied in the Christ child, as we lighten the yoke of oppression for others. 
 
Joni Mitchell does not share Lennon’s optimism about this special day, lamenting:
 
It’s coming on Christmas they’re cutting down trees,
they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on
 
In our reading from Isaiah, the prophet foretells a time at which we will have ‘joy as if at the harvest’. Christmas day is all about that joy of abundance – abundant presents, abundant food, abundant good company. But we live in a world of scarcity, where the greed of capitalism leads to immense piles of wasted food, where the idolatrous love of borders leads to a lack of folks to work together to harvest food, and where both the cost of living crisis and the fear of differences tear families apart and leave little to celebrate. It’s coming on Christmas, and it is time to stop cutting down trees. As you open your gifts today, enjoy them, savour them, and spare a thought for those who have less, or even nothing at all. Consider how you might live simply this year, skating towards a better future for all. 
 
But, for now, let’s turn towards the joy of Christmas. Perhaps one of the most well-known, and, in my opinion, joyously annoying Christmas songs is brought to us by Mariah Carey. She tells us that:
 
I don’t want a lot for Christmas there is just one thing I need.
I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree
I just want you for my own. More than you could ever know. 
Make my wish come true. All I want for Christmas is you.
 
The Gospels suggest that shepherds – ordinary, smelly night-workers with little power – were the first invited to meet Christ. And they celebrate by sharing that Good News with everyone that they know. Today is a day to meet Christ – to meet the love of God. Whether we spend today alone or with others, God is with us. Desperate to meet those shepherds, God sends a whole host of angels out to invite them to Christ’s side. God is so desperate to meet us, and to meet every person that we encounter, that they send us out to share our lives with each-other and with strangers near and far.
 
On witnessing God meeting with the shepherds, with these unlikely and yet cherished guests, Mary treasured their words, and pondered them in her heart. I wonder what would change if we treasured the words of everyone we met, if we really listened, if we really saw Christ in every stranger’s eyes. I wonder what you are pondering in your heart today.
 
The thing about that song, ‘all I want for Christmas is you’ is that, if that you is Christ, then it is all of us. We see Christ in each other. We love Christ by loving each other. This Christmas, let’s celebrate Christ, by celebrating each-other. This Christmas, and all through the coming year, I pray that we might encounter and share Christ’s love in ever new ways, with everyone we meet. May it be so. Amen.
 
Hymn    Who Would Think That What Was Needed
John L. Bell (b.1949) and Graham Maule (b.1958)  © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  Sung by Northallerton Methodist Church and used with their kind permission.
 
Who would think that 
what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army,
proud in purpose, 
proved in worth?
Who would think, 
despite derision,
that a child should lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.
 
Shepherds watch 
and wise men wonder,
monarchs scorn 
and angels sing;
such a place as none would reckon
hosts a holy helpless thing.
Stable beasts 
and by-passed strangers
watch a baby laid in hay:
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.

 

Centuries of skill
and science span
the past from which
we move,
yet experience questions whether,
with such progress,
we improve.
While the human lot we ponder,
lest our hopes and humour fray,
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.
 
Prayers of Intercessions
 
It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees.
They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on…
God, sometimes the outstretched arms of the world 
make us simply want to skate away, and yet, you are in the trees starved of oxygen and the rivers full of plastic.   Our gift to you is love, Your gift to us is grace.  Hear our prayers.  Hear our prayers.
 
God, sometimes the outstretched arms of the world make us simply want to skate away, and yet, you are in the tears of those who mourn and yearn, the hands of those with nothing to spare, the bodies of those who live and love expansively, and the scars of those we don’t yet understand.
Our gift to you is love, Your gift to us is grace. Hear our prayers. Hear our prayers.
 
God, sometimes the outstretched arms of the world make us simply want to skate away, and yet, you are in each of us, in our flesh, in our thoughts, in our fears and hopes, and in our actions… Our gift to you is love, Your gift to us is grace. Hear our prayers.
Hear our prayers.
 
This Christmas, instead of skating away, may we skate towards a new world, where we, Christ’s hands, save the earth, where we, Christ’s feet, journey with the unloved, where we, Christ’s people, join in Christ’s work.
In Jesus’s name we pray, 
Amen
 
Offertory 
 
This is a season of giving. Let’s take a moment to commit our time, our talents, and our treasure to God’s work.
 
God, giver of good gifts, thankyou for the joy of giving. We commit our gifts to you, that they might be used to do your will. Amen.
  
Hymn    Joy to the World
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) sung by Pentatonix
 
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
 
Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns!
let all their songs employ;
while fields and floods, 
rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.


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, wonders of his love.
 
Blessing
 
All I want for Christmas is you!
Go with love and laughter,
go with ponderings and words of love,
go with joy to live out peace,
and know that the blessing of God:
The blessing of the One in Three 
who yearns, who births, and who is born,
is with you this Christmas.   
Amen. 

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