Light of the World:
For many of our churches Christmas Eve is a time of great celebration. The choir pulls out all the stops, the bells ring out the joy of the season and people gather with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The great intake of breath that is the days filled with shopping and frequent holiday parties lead up to the great exhale of Christmas Eve. For pastors and staff it may also be the culmination of a whole season of Adult Education classes and Hanging of the Greens pageants with the children, a final and welcome coda to a hectic Advent season.
In contrast to all that, this service is a simple Sabbath. A chance to gather in the quiet of the morning, to remember, to rejoice and to respond to grace flowing freely in the humble birth of the God-made-flesh. It is also a chance for the church family to gather: those who are alone, those who want to start this day with a pause, those who seek a moment of simple wonder, are gathered as the family of God.
For congregations with a significant number of older members the service can be a wonderful way to share Christmas morning with others and can be followed by a time of fellowship.
The service revolves around carols that are familiar and easy to sing and the scriptures assigned for Christmas Day in the Revised Common Lectionary. They both tell the story of love and justice that shapes the meaning of the day. Added to that a time to share prayers and wishes, from personal comfort to world peace, bind us to the Indwelling God and to each other.
For the Christ Candles a votive or tealight, easily available at any number of craft or discount stores, provides a way to remember the light of Jesus throughout the day. These can be grouped on the Communion table or another table in the chancel. At the end of the service people are encouraged to take a candle with them to family dinners, to set them on a mantle or table where they can serve as a reminder of God’s presence and of the meaning of the day.
Light of the World: Service for Christmas Day
(*All who are able may stand. In keeping with the simple informality of this service, we are invited to remain seated for most of the Carols)
Call to Worship Isaiah 52:7-10
* Carol O Come, All Ye Faithful TNCH 135
* Gathering Prayer
God of light, we thank you for giving us the gift of Jesus Christ. We come before you with wonder and delight that you come to us in the child born in a manger. Be with us on this day of birth and rebirth. Come, honor us with the presence of your gracious, joyful Spirit. Fill our weary hearts with renewed hope and joy. Rekindle in our souls the light of Christ. Glory to you in the highest, O God, glory in the highest! Amen.
Scripture Reading Hebrews 1:1-4
Carol Joy to the World TNCH 132
Gospel and Meditation John 1:1-4, 14, 16-17
(During the gospel reading the Christ candles are lighted)
Blessing of the Christ Candles
Source of all Light, we celebrate today the coming of your Word made flesh, your Light of Life to dwell among us. Bless these holy flames that in their glow we may be blessed by your grace and abiding love. As these candles grace our tables and our homes today, let them remind us of your constant presence and your unwavering care. Bless us, that we might reflect the Light of Christ in our daily lives and in our world so desperate for the love, peace, hope and joy this day brings. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the light of the world!
Response Go, Tell it On the Mountain TNCH 154
Prayers of the People
(During this time you are invited to share a prayer, wish, joy or concern)
Pastor: God be with you.
People: And also with you.
Pastor: Let us pray. (Pastoral Prayer)
Prayer of Our Savior
Carol Angels We Have Heard on High TNCH 125
Proclaim the good news. The Word of God dwells among us. The Light of God shines in the world. Sing praises. Shout for joy. Celebrate the hope and promise of this day. Go with the peace of God in your hearts.
And now may the glory and love of God surround you. May the peace and grace of Christ dwell deep within you. May the power and presence of the Holy Spirit uphold you. Amen.
*Carol Hark, the Herald Angels Sing TNCH 144
Light of the World: Service for Christmas Day was written by the Rev. Mark Suriano, Pastor of Old South Church, Kirtland, Ohio
©2007 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.