An Act of worship for Christmas

At WRBC this year we are only gathering for worship together on Christmas morning (10am; in-person and on Zoom), as a response to the rising cases of the omicron variant of covid-19, and a responsibility to show love and care for each other in the face of a highly transmissible virus. To be clear, there is no Christmas Eve Midnight Communion service, as we had hoped, and there is no church service on Sunday 26th (Boxing Day).


This act of worship has been put together for you to use as you wish during this weekend, perhaps in personal devotions, perhaps with members of the household, or with any visitors joining. It can be used, as suggested over the three days, or as a joined-up act of worship at a time to suit. And please feel free to share it more widely too.


It comes with our prayerful best wishes and greetings for Christmas and for the New Year ahead in 2022, but that, even as we walk in the gloomy shadows of uncertainty and anxiety, we will know again the dawning light that rises, that we will receive the comfort and joy of the boy who has been born to us (see Isaiah chapter 9, verses 2-6).


Here are the words of a carol to set the scene – Come and sing the Christmas story (BPW 161):


Come & sing the Christmas story

This holy night!

Christ is born: the hope of glory

Dawns on our sight.

Alleluia! Earth is ringing

With a thousand angels singing.

Hear the message they are

bringing, This holy night.


Jesus, Saviour, child of Mary

This holy night,

In a world confused a weary

You are our light.

God is in a manger lying,

Manhood taking, self-denying,

Life embracing, death defying,

This holy night.


Lord of all! Let us acclaim him

This holy night;

King of our salvation name him,

Throned in the height.

Son of Man – let us adore him,

All the earth is waiting for him;

Son of God – we bow before him

This holy night.


Words: Michael Perry Music: Ar hyd y nos (Welsh trad)


If you have internet access, you could listen to another carol where a new refrain has been added by Paul Baloche – It came upon a midnight clear here


1: Christmas Eve

The time for preparations is up, but the final anticipation is growing for the moment to arrive; the waiting is over; God in Christ is on his way.


The writer of the Hebrew Wisdom scriptures describes it like this (words we regularly use at the Midnight Communion service:

“When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run half of her swift course, your all-powerful word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven, from the royal throne.” Wisdom 18, 14-15


Take a moment to read: Luke chapter 2, verses 1-7.


Our carol is Silent Night (BPW 176); originally composed for Christmas Eve (and itself created in response to a crisis!).


Silent night, holy night!

Sleeps the world; hid from sight,

Mary and Joseph in stable bare

Watch o’er the Child beloved and

fair,

Sleeping in heavenly rest,

Sleeping in heavenly rest.


Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds first saw the light,

Heard resounding clear and long,

Far and near, the angel-song:

‘Christ the Redeemer is here,

Christ the Redeemer is here.’


Silent night, holy night!

Son of God, O how bright

Love is smiling from Thy face!

Strikes for us now the hour of

grace,

Saviour, since Thou art born,

Saviour, since Thou art born.


Words Joseph Mohr, tr. S. A. Brooke Music F Gruber


With internet access, you might listen to another modern Christmas song of worship, These Christmas Lights by Matt Redman here.


Pause and consider: What did it mean for Jesus to be born, for him, for Mary and Joseph, for the whole world?

What does it mean to speak of him being ‘born in us today’, and of us praying this in another carol?


Prayers: let us give thanks for all those working around the clock to keep us safe and well, those called “the frontline workers” during the pandemic, including NHS staff but also delivery drivers and shop workers and many more, and pray for any we do know - and the many we don’t know - this Christmas season.


2: Christmas Day

This is the day for celebrations, with time as family and friends together (at least that is what was planned!). We share good food, and exchange greetings and gifts and so much more to enrich our lives.


Take a moment to read: Luke chapter 2, verses 8-16 and to recall the gift at the heart of the first Christmas. As the angels put it to shepherds, this truly is good news of great joy for all the people!


Shepherds are examples of ordinary people, people just like you and me, but also of the overlooked and excluded; their part in society was marginal, and yet to them first of all comes the news of the Saviour’s birth. God’s grace is certainly amazing!


There are so many great carols to choose from (be sure to include your favourite!), but here’s Hark the herald angels sing, with great words by Charles Wesley and great music from Felix Mendelssohn too!


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 host proclaim,

‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’


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 man with man to

dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.


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 men 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 new-born King!’


With internet access, you might listen to this modern Christmas song of worship From the squalor of a borrowed stable (Immanuel) written by Stuart Townend, simply and creatively sung by David Wesley here.


Prayers: let us remember the gifts - and pray for those who have received them or who are benefitting from them - that we have shared this Christmas season, particularly thinking of:

the shoeboxes sent to Link to Hope (from Hitchin, ours went to Moldova);

the toys and other gifts for local families in temporary accommodation supported by Settle;

this year’s Christmas Tree Appeal, supporting Helping Herts Homeless working locally with the homeless, and Open Doors whose global ministry sustains brothers and sisters in the persecuted church. (And it’s not too late to donate in this year’s appeal either!)


3: Boxing Day

This is a day for reflection and thankfulness, for rest and relaxation (reflecting the origins when the household would grant the servants a day off, with gifts boxed up to take back to their own families - it’s a much more modern ‘tradition’ to go shopping in the sales!


Take a moment to read and reflect on John chapter 1, verses 1-14. This is a marvellous meditation on the coming of Jesus, the prologue to all the Gospel that follows. The words of verse 13 speak in their own terms of the Word becoming flesh, the birth of Jesus, God’s son as one “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”, but this is the promise of the Gospel too, that we also can become the children of

God; it’s us that these words are describing! It’s one of the threads of the whole Gospel that Jesus becomes like us, so that we can become like him. Something to reflect upon, something to rejoice in, and something to live up to as well!


Here’s a less well-known carol from the Iona Community (BPW 175, sung to the traditional tune Scarlet Ribbons):


Shepherds watch and wise men wonder

monarchs scorn and angels sing;

such a place as none would reckon

hosts a holy helpless thing;

stabled beasts and passing strangers

watch a baby laid in hay;

God surprises earth with heaven,

coming here on Christmas Day.


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.


A more familiar carol is Angels from the realms of glory - find a setting of it sung online here.


For prayers, please take a moment to pray firstly for those closest to you, and then for our nation in these days, and finally for the wider world (especially any we know living in other lands, including specifically Pastor Ziad and all at Tur’an Baptist, Alan and Megan in Nepal, Matt and Lydia in SE Asia, Laura Gimeno in Spain), that they may know the peace, joy and hope of the Christmas season where they are.


And finally ...

Two prayers that take us “from Bethlehem and”:


(BPW 194)

King Jesus, we bring you our

gold:

talents you give us, skills we have

acquired,

a little money, a little power, a

little success perhaps,

and plenty of ambition.

These we offer to you, so that

you may make them really worth

something in your kingdom.


Jesus, our great High Priest,

we bring you our frankincense:

deep needs and longings, which

are sometimes easier to admit in

church:

the need for forgiveness and

peace,

the need for friendship and love,

the wish to do good, and the

knowledge that we must have

help if we are to do it.

Lord, help us, pray for us.


Jesus, crucified Saviour, we

bring you our myrrh:

shadows on our path,

weakness, illness, limitations,

grief for ourselves and for others,

our knowledge of parting and

pain.

These we offer to you so that

what we bear may be touched by

the holiness of all that you bore

for us, and so that, by your grace,

we may have part in

the world’s redemption.



In a world that is lost – Show us the way.

In a world full of lies and deceit – Show us the truth.

In a world that is sick, infected and decaying – Show us life and love.

Jesus, help us to remember that you are “the way, the truth and the life” [John 14 v6]

on Christmas Day and on our every day, Amen.




Act of Worship prepared by AHP, December 2021

Words copied under licence CCL 420263


www.wrbchitchin.org.uk