Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve in Five Acts - 2012

Act 1 - Words of Welcome
La gracia y paz de nuestro Dios esten con todos nosotros ahora y siempre.
Warm and bright greetings to each of you on this cold dark night.
Tonight is the night before the church around the world celebrates the birth of Jesus.
Just as room was made for Jesus in the stable, let us make room for one another...if you need to shift around a bit in order to make space I’m sure that would be greatly appreciated.

Tonight’s Christmas eve service will consist of songs both new and familiar.
We will begin by lighting candles of the advent wreath and end sing silent night and lighting our individual candle, both times defying the darkness with light of hope.
Scripture will be read...messages will be proclaimed...prayers will be prayed
We will receive Holy communion
We will take delight in the children and youth as they enact the scene from years ago.
It is a night for celebration
It is a night when we long for peace...
and so let us leave behind all the worries that may have accompanied us here...
we are in sacred space.
We are before God.

Let us pause for moment...take in a few deep breathes. 

Allow a smile to come over your face...we are loved more than we can even imagine..
In that love, let us worship God.
The choir will sing: Still, Still, Still.

Act 2 - advent candles lit 

Blogger Rachel Held Evans reflected:

These little Advent candles sure have a lot of darkness to overcome this year.

The world did not end in 2012..and yet, there certainly were so many tragic events and endings.
From Superstorm Sandy to Sandy Hook elementary school,
continuing wars... warring politicians
environmental disasters...instabilities in our homes
So many images.. blurred... of all that has not gone the way we might have hoped this past year. 

And yet we gather in church, in the darkness of night, and light little Advent candles.

These candles glow, almost defiantly - in churches, in homes,  at midnight vigils,
they glow all across the world.

They burn persistently penetrating the darkness, pervasively reminding us of  God’s promises foretold millennia ago.

Look, “even the smallest light can chase away the shadows lurking in this world; that even in the darkest places, Darkness cannot overcome the light.“

We have grieved much this year; we all grieve in different ways;
and we must be patient with one another as we do...

It is during some of the darkest times, some of the darkest moments, that we wonder:

Is God absent?
Does God care?
Has God left us alone to sort it out ourselves?  

Grief can do that.

Seemingly escalating trouble has led some to suggest that God is disappearing or being excluded.

Some point to the “War on Christmas.’
When a check-out clerk says happy holidays, they emphatically respond:  “Merry Christmas”. 
[The irony - the word holiday is derived from Holy Day - thus it is still declared a holy time of year. ]

“Every gift purchased, every mall opened late, and every credit card maxed out must be done so in Jesus’ name…or else Christ will be taken out of Christmas.”

Some insist if we can’t keep God’s name in our pledge, on our money, and on our courthouse walls,
 then we can’t keep God in our country.

Put the name of God on our idols...
does that somehow make the worship of money or power right?

If the incarnation tells us anything, it’s that God does not need a nod from the Empire to show up.

Incarnation tells the story of God who showed up
In a barn, because there was no room...
In darkness...in the middle of the night

Christmas is hours away.... 
“If Jesus’ birth teaches us anything, it’s that God can be found everywhere:
in a cattle trough, on a throne, among the poor, with the sick, on a donkey, in a fishing boat, with the junkie, with the prostitute, with the hypocrite, with the forgotten, in places of power, in places of oppression, in poverty, in wealth, where God’s name is known, where it is unknown, with our friends, with our enemies, in our convictions, in our doubts, in life, in death, at the table, on the cross, and in every kindergarten classroom from Sandy Hook to Shanghai. 

Darkness cannot overcome the light

There are days when our doubt and anger make it hard for us to believe - Immanuel-
which is why we keep lighting these little Advent candles like religious fools...may they help us in our unbelief. 
May they shine shine shine.
May their flames be a reminder to all of us that in the midst of terrible happenings, God was there….
and here,
and in those swaddling clothes,
and on that cross,
and in that grave,
and on the throne.
For no amount of darkness can overcome the light.

Act 3 - Meditation and segue to Pageant

I was so pleased when I heard the pageant was going to be told from the shepherd’s perspective. 
Because I grew up going the church, the shepherd’s role was always my role!
Many a Christmas eve drive to church found me rehearsing: Let us go now, even unto bethlehem to see this thing which has come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us...
Of course, I was never able to finish my line completely before a jab from one of my older sister’s elbows landed in my rib cage.

Ah the shepherds. 

What a life...just chilling out with the sheep.  Perhaps literally chilling on those dark cold nights.

But, free. Free from so many worries of the world...they only had to worry about any number of lurking sheep invaders who come at night - wolves, bobcats,
and rattle snakes they might step on,
 and people who may try to rob them,
and perhaps the price of wool, maybe the price of meat....

I bet they were poor for the most part...

gee, and to think all these years I thought they had it made.

Still, how fitting that the angels appeared to them...only scared them half to death...
they’re kind of edgy out there in the middle of the night in the middle of no where, remember.

Angels appeared to the shepherds...the one’s who cared for the sheep, to tell them some great news...
The Shepherd Jesus had come into the world. 

I love the way the angel tells them they will know it is him:
The sign: wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger...

Was this an  inside joke...

I don’t know how that indicates the Great Shepherd has been born...seems like the angels appearing in the middle of the darkness with loud singing Gloria To Go Glory to God Glory to God in the highest!
would have been enough

Well, enough of my take..

We’re all in for a treat as we witness the scene of what it may have been like for those shepherds 2000 years ago...who night after night faithfully watched after their flock, until this night changed their lives...and changed our lives forever

Hermanos y hermanas: Who Got the Good News First, written and directed by Cindy Piatt and performed by gifted children and youth. 

Let us give glory to God as we celebrate the birth of Jesus by celebrating these children and youth:
Narrators: Lauren Moran and Dira Brugger
Shepherds: Grace Lee, Maya Chavez, Ruby Gene Topple, Micah Frisch,
Sophia Lee, Guinnevere Phelps, Oscar Walker, Christopher Moran
Angels: Megan Naranjo, Isabel Jurado, Lauren Moran, Emma Russell
Joseph: Forrest Taylor Mack
Mary: Isabel Chavez

And now turn to hymn 30 in the blue hymnal as we search for the meaning of that evening singing “It came upon a midnight clear” #30.

Act 4 - Communion


Chester (offering)

For tonight’s offering, we have an opportunity to give to the ministries of this church or to an offering called the Christmas Joy Offering,
which supports retired pastors and their families, and mission schools.
By giving may light shine in dark places.

Come, come, O Christ,
Come among us
as you did come, as a baby boy, in the midst of sheep, shepherds, your mother Mary and your father Joseph,
Speak peace...peace like that experienced moments after your birth....

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

Great Creator Spirit from whom all life comes forth
We gather this evening with bread and with fruit of the vine
on an evening dark
seeking the light of your presence
in a hungry world
we long to be nourished
we hunger for wholeness in our lives
for unity on earth and for peace among nations.
Here we gather with bread and fruit of the vine, but with more than that...
We gather with creation’s elements all around us
with earth, air, fire and water still expanding through the universe
with the glory of the sun by day
the whiteness of the moon and the glittering of heaven’s lights by night
Here we gather with bread and fruit of the vine, but with more than that...
We gather in the company of friends and loved ones
and in so doing
may heavy hearts be made light
may lonely places be filled with joy
may our longings be your longings
as we become one with you and one another...
Here we gather with bread and fruit of the vine, but with more than that...
On this night, on this Christmas eve, we sing...
When the hustle and bustle of the season is over...we sing
When the impulses and pressures of commercialism and greed have subsided...we sing
For this child, your child, our savior, we sing the angels’ song,
joining all those who sing on earth and in heaven.
Santo, Santo…

We Praise you for this child, your son,
Bread of Heaven, born in Bethlehem - house of Bread.
swaddled in clothes in a manger, wrapped in a shroud in a tomb. 
Son of womanhood, born in humility,
raised to glory, companion of our soul
may we be sanctified, and all the world healed.
Great is the mystery of faith…or este es el misterio de la fe
Cristo ha muerto…

At night, with his disciples at the table, before his arrest Jesus blessed the bread y dijo:
“este es mi cuerpo, entregado por ustedes.

Break bread

At night, with his disciples at the table, before his arrest
Jesus blessed the cup y dijo:
Esta copa es la nueva alianza confirmada con mi sangre, la cual es derramada en favor de ustedes.

Pour cup

Have servers come forward..give those serving the cup the cups and they take their places...

Come upon us with your Spirit, O God
and upon this cup of unity.
May it set us free to love.

Give those serving the bread the bread and they take their places
Come upon us with your Spirit, O God
and upon this bread of the earth
May it feed our longing for peace.

Come upon us with your Spirit, O God
for we who walked in darkness have seen a great light! 
All is ready, all are invited, Come.

Near the tree and near the wreath will be standing two people who will have the candles for us to light during silent night.

In anticipation of the miracle of this night..let us sing together silent night

Close by singing Silent night…
After each verse, a light will be turned off…
After the first verse, begin to spread the light throughout the sanctuary.

May we go from this place in peace to love as we have been loved.
May we go into the darkness outside shining light, as Christ’s light shines in this world.
As with the shepherds,
 may angels appear before you to remind you of the birth of the savior.
As with the Christ, remember on Christmas the most significant gift of all, comes in humility, innocence, and with love for all the world.

Que la gracia….

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