Feast of the Nativity – Christmas Eve Liturgy

We have developed a liturgy for use on Christmas Eve, drawing upon the inclusive and scriptural images/metaphors of light and wisdom.

Feast of the Nativity
Christmas Eve

The people walking in darkness are seeing a brilliant light

Saint Paul’s Church
A progressive Christian community with ancient roots

Prelude: Musicians

GATHERING

We stand as able.

OPENING ACCLAMATION

Presider: Blessed is the Luminous Night.
The advent of Christ, our Light and our Life.

Assembly: Glory to God for ever and ever.

ENTRANCE

Drumming

TELLING THE STORY

COLLECT

Presider: The Light of Christ is born anew this night as your heart.
Assembly: And also yours.
Presider: In the beginning, Light shines in the darkness –
Loving, Beautiful, Good –
giving birth to all creation,
the center, the heart, of unfolding life.
The Light graces all creation as God’s presence.
Assembly: The Light is Christ.
Presider: The Light is the child of Mary and Joseph.
Assembly: The Light is Love.
Presider: The Light is a Jewish mystic, sage, and prophet.
Assembly: The Light is Beautiful.
Presider: The Light is life in the midst of death.
Assembly: The Light is Good.
Presider: May Christ, the Light, reveal to all who would see
the wisdom and wonder of God’s boundless love.
All: Amen.

We sit.

ISAIAH 9:2-7

Reader: A reading based on the prophet Isaiah.

For so long we have been stumbling about, groping blindly for something sure and firm in the dark to steady ourselves. We are good and lost. We cast our gaze up into the heavens. Nothing. We search about in the shadows of forest and hill. Nothing. Spent, we sit helplessly. And there, in the land of deep shadows of our heart, a light, at first so feint and far, is shining.

Shining. Within our very own heart, whose shoulders sag from the weight of relentless fear. Shining. Within our very own heart, shrunken small by the oppressive rod of punishment that has beaten down wondering curiosity. Shining. Here. Yes, here, there is a point of light, sure and certain within the night. And as we boldly turn the gaze of our soul within upon this fledgling flame, brighter and brighter the light burns — a warming blaze, beautifully brilliant upon the dark.

Shattered is the darkness. And a smile begins to grow upon our soul. Oh! This Light is the birth of Joy. Joy not to destroy darkness. Joy not to fight the darkness. But Joy in the midst of the darkness. Here, in this dark womb of heaven, I am being born. After so much labor, so many miles of endless wandering. I am being born. In Joy. As Joy. Here. Now.

How wonderful this Light – caressing the darkness I once feared ——– with a kiss of Joy. How luminous the dark night. Oh! I can let the heavy weight of the past slip from my shoulders and fall to the earth — Who would have ever guessed that Joy is so light! I can stop trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do tomorrow — Joy is now! Now – not yesterday, not tomorrow – Now is when the Light shines.

I look again within and the Joyous Light has become my own heart. Whether dark or day, doesn’t matter. I am the Light eternal. A child of the Light am I. Wonderfully brilliant!

Reader: Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Assembly: Thanks be to God.

We stand as able.

Hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (verses 2 and 7)
Congregation Sings Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel.

We sit.

LUKE 2:1-14

Reader: A reading based on the Gospel according to Luke.
Assembly: Glory to you, Lord Christ.

In the ancient days of our ancestors, when the world was ruled by Rome, the empire of Augustus declared that Caesar is Lord. For it was Caesar Augustus, the temple priests proclaimed, who saved the peoples through his glorious military victories, becoming Savior of the world. Through the power of his almighty arm Caesar conquered all, be it by land or by sea. From his divine nativity to his victory against Antony and Cleopatra, this Son of God, Rome taught, hewed from the slain enemy the path of peace. He was the Savior of Humanity, to whom all the world was to give glory.

In those dark and perilous days, when the sword of Caesar was the false promise of peace, Mary and Joseph were pregnant with child. They did not look to Caesar for guidance, for Mary had heard the voice of the Holy One speak to her as an angel from within her young heart. Mary and Joseph placed the trust of their hearts not in the conquering Caesar, but in the God of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar; not in the violent redeemer from Rome, but in the liberating God of Moses and Miriam.

In those dark and perilous days, where the good news was falsely heralded by the fearful sword of Caesar, a true light was born, and his name was Jesus. Caesar could not see this light, because he knew not where to look. But the shepherds knew. Those who were hungry knew. Those who had no place to sleep knew. Those who boldly sought the wisdom of the heart knew.

The Wisdom of God, who had hovered over the deep and brought all things into being; the Wisdom of God, who had given Abraham and Sarah and Hagar hope when all seemed lost in barrenness; the Wisdom of God, who had brightened the night and led the peoples out of Egypt and across the sea into freedom; the Wisdom of God, who had whispered the truth to Mary and Joseph about their courageous path; this same Wisdom of God now broke out into a chorus of angelic praise to all who had ears to hear:

“You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you –
news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people.”

Many years would pass before our ancestors would know the meaning of these words. Jesus would grow, teach, feed, be killed, and become our Savior — by revealing the futility of the sword and the healing power of forgiveness. Jesus would become our Lord, by gathering all to the table, not just the Romans and the Caesars of this world. Jesus would become our Messiah, by showing us that all are the light of God.

“Let this be a sign to you!!”

sang forth the angels. Who could have known that the path of life was to be lit by the tender eyes of an infant wrapped in a simple cloth, lying in a manger; lit by the merciful eyes of our Beloved’s body, wrapped in linen in an earthen tomb? Let this be a sign to you: loving kindness lights the path of life.

And so, we indeed remember this night. For the child of Mary and Joseph, a child like any other child – like you and like me – woven into being through the light of grace, grows to become the Light of God — touching our hearts, teaching our minds, transfiguring our lives — freeing us from the dark and perilous days of Caesar Augustus.

We do indeed remember this night and with a multitude of the heavenly host praise God and say,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven!
And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”

Reader: Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.
Assembly: Thanks be to God.

We stand as able.

Hymn Angels we have heard on high (Hymnal, 96)

Angels we have heard on high, singing sweetly through the night,
And the mountains in reply echoing their brave delight
Refrain: Gloria …in excelsis Deo.
Gloria…in excelsis Deo.

Shepherds, why this Jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer?
What great brightness did you see? What glad tidings did you hear?
Refrain

We sit.

HOMILY

We stand as able.

AN AFFIRMATION OF FAITH A NEW ZEALAND PRAYER BOOK

All: You, O God, are supreme and holy.
You create our world and give us life.
Your purpose overarches everything we do.
You have always been with us.
You are God.

You, O God, are infinitely generous,
good beyond all measure.
You came to us before we came to you.
You have revealed and proved
your love to us in Jesus Christ,
who lived and died and rose again.
You are with us now.
You are God.

You, O God, are Holy Spirit.
You empower us to be your gospel in the world.
You reconcile and heal; you overcome death.

You are our God. We worship you.

 

We stand as able.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Leader: In gratitude, in praise, may our hearts turn to receive the Light of the Luminous Night. Guide us in the ways of laying our lives gratefully before You.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: You call us each by name.
Teach us to serve all creatures of your sacred creation.
Guide us toward unity, healing our division.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: The nations are yours, part of your wondrous body.
May all leaders know they are called to care;
may they heed your peoples’ cries
for release from senseless oppression.
Guide us toward justice and peace, healing our deceit.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: We are yours.
Guide our hearts and minds and bodies in the ways of wisdom,
that we might hear and head the pleas of friends among us
who hunger, thirst, and face the cold nights.
Guide us toward mercy, healing our fear.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: Strengthen all who suffer, and those who care for them (N).
Open our hearts to see your tender Presence already within us.
Guide us toward wholeness, healing our blindness.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: You welcome all who have completed their earthly journey (N).
Your peace is now their peace.
Guide us into your Heart, healing our soul.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Leader: In gratitude and praise, we invite your peace into our lives.
We lift our voices to God:
All: May the Wisdom of Christ light our path.

Presider: God of hope and promise:
through your love
the promise of life enfolds our hearts;
in your heart
we offer our lives in hope;
and so,
as the Star of Night eternally sings your praises –
we lay in your open hands
the thankful prayers of our selves, our souls, our bodies.
All: Amen.

THE PEACE

Presider: The peace of Christ is with you now.
Assembly: And also with you.

HOSPITALITY

Welcome to all!

FED WITH THANKSGIVING

Anthem In the Bleak Midwinter

We stand as able.

PRESENTATION OF THE GIFTS

Presider: The Lord is with you
Assembly: And also with you
Presider: Lift up your hearts
Assembly: We lift them to the Lord
Presider: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
Assembly: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Presider and Assembly:
Holy God, source of life and without end,
we give thanks to you!
You continually call all life into being,
cradling your creation in compassion.
You spread out the heavens like a tent and
enclose the seas.
You fill the world with wondrous creatures and
know all things as truly good.
You send your heavenly messengers of hope day and night, and
with them we sing and give glory to you:

SANCTUS – SANTO, SANTO, SANTO

Presider: In the days of Simeon and Anna, you lean toward the earth.
Your eternal Spirit becomes known to us through your Beloved.
Born into the family of Mary and Joseph,
Jesus is cradled beside the beasts and warmed by their breath –
Here is your child, like all your children, woven into life by the Spirit and in need of compassion.
Worldly rulers are troubled by your dawning reign –
embodied in this child, in whom the fullness of your Spirit is pleased to dwell.

Assembly: Born of your Spirit.
Full of your Grace.
Radiant with your Beauty.

Presider: As your Beloved servant,
Jesus becomes empty of might upon the cross.
As the Risen Anointed One,
Jesus is forever embraced by You as Christ,
embodying your eternal mercy and
restoring justice to all the earth,
now and forever.

Assembly: And so,
together we stand,
rejoicing in all that you,
All-loving God,
have done and continue to do for us.

Holy God,
as You visit us in the birth of Jesus,
heal our blindness
so that we may see your presence now
always within and among us.
In these delightful creatures of bread and wine
– holy food and holy drink –
help us to taste the banquet of heaven here on earth.

Presider: We remember how Jesus takes bread,
blesses, breaks it and gives it to his friends saying,
take, eat, this is my body being given for you,
do this for the remembrance of me.
Likewise, the Beloved holds the cup of wine,
blesses it and gives it to them saying,
drink this, all of you.
This cup is the covenant in my blood,
Being poured out for you and for many,
that you may know God always holds you in tender forgiveness.
Do this for the remembrance of me.

Presider and Assembly:
Holy God,
You shed your grace
brighter than starlight on us,
that our hearts may radiate your good tidings to all
and renew the weary world in your name:
Emmanuel, God-With-Us.
Holy God,
to You we give honor and glory in joy,
now and forever. Amen!!

LORD’S PRAYER

Presider: As Jesus has taught us, we now sing (see the following page)

 

THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD

Presider: We break this bread
to share in the Body of Christ.
Assembly: We who are many are one body,
for we all share in the one bread.
Presider: The Gifts of God.
All are invited to God’s table.

THE COMMUNION

We receive the bread in open and outstretched hands. We take hold of the cup firmly and guide it to our lips or hold the bread and dip it into the wine. Our response to receiving of the bread and wine is “Amen”.

Carols

We Three Kings

1) We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Refrain:
O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.

2) Born a babe on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold we bring to crown him again;
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign. (refrain)

3) Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh,
Prayer and praising, gladly raising,
Worshiping God on high. (refrain)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (Hymnal 89, verses 1,2,4)

It came upon the midnight clear that glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold
“Peace on the earth, good will to all, from heaven’s all-gracious King”
The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world.
Above its sad and lowly plains they bend on hov’ring wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds, the blessed angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old
When with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling;
And all the world give back the song which now the angels sing.

Silent Night

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 Savior, is born! Christ the savior 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.

SENDING FORTH

We stand as able.
Presider: Let us pray together.
Assembly: Holy God,
God of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar,
God of Mary and Joseph,
God of Angels and Shepherds,
God of our Beloved, Jesus of Nazareth:
You are God of all the earth.
Tonight You reveal to us again
that all people are your beloved children
and that all creatures are your handiwork.
Let us never cease to tell the story
of your boundless love
in all we say and do.
Amen!

Hymn Joy to the World

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 Savior reigns;
let us our songs employ,
while fields and floods,
rocks, hills and plains,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat the sounding joy,
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Deacon: Let us forth in the name of Christ!
Assembly: Thanks be to God!

Postlude of Drums Logjam Drum Troupe

(The liturgy is written by Kevin G. Thew Forrester. The Collect and Eucharistic Prayer are revisions of those found in My Heart is a Raging Volcano of Love for You [LeaderResources, 2011]))

GOLDEN WISDOM

Buddhism
Hurt not others in ways that you
yourself would find hurtful.
Udana-Varqu 5:18
Islam
No one is a believer until you
desire for another that which you
desire for yourself.
Sunnah
Zoroastrianism

Human nature is good only when
it does not do unto another
whatever is not good
for its own self.

Dadistan-I-Dink, 94:5
Baha’i
Blessed are those who prefer others
before themselves.
–Baha’u’llah,
Tablets of Baha’u’allah 71

Judaism
Shammai drove away the enquirer with the builder’s cubit which was in his hand, and then went to Rabbi Hillel, who said: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; that is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary; go and learn it.”
Talmud. Shabbat 31A

Sikhism
Be not estranged from another for God dwells in every heart.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Christianity
Do unto others as
you would have them do unto you.
Jesus, Luke 6.31

Either we acknowledge that God is in all things
or we have lost the basis for seeing God in anything.
Richard Rohr, OFM

Saint Paul’s Church
A progressive Christian community with ancient roots

Gathered by grace ~ Sent forth to serve

201 E. Ridge Street, Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 226-2912
web: stpauls.dioup.org facebook: st-pauls-episcopal-marquette

St. Paul’s is a member of the Diocese of Northern Michigan,
committed to the Divine beauty and giftedness of each person & creation
upepiscopal.org

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