Advent -- Come Just as You Are!

 Service Prayers for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
December 24 or 25, 2011


Isaiah 9: 2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2: 11-14; Luke 2: 1-14, (15-20)

 

Seed Thought:  Christmas Eve/Christmas Day

This is the season of the year when the C&E (Christmas and Easter) folk arrive. Some truly only visit church twice a year, others may be re-entering church after a long absence; still others might be coming for the very first time. This service gives space for the telling of the sacred story through scripture, anthems, and hymns, while introducing new or unknown traditions. An optional candle-lighting ceremony for Christmas Eve is included. As you plan for worship, imagine you are entering a church for the first time on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. What would you hope to take away from the experience?  

 

Procession (Optional): During the gathering music or a reading of Luke 2:8-20  a small band of shepherds walks from the back of the sanctuary to the front. They may come down one aisle or different aisles. They carry small bundles of straw, spun wool, sheep pelts. A few times, the shepherds pause, look heavenward, point (as if to a star) and then continue on their way. No words are spoken, but they motion to each other to come. When they reach the altar (perhaps where a crèche or manger is located) they kneel as if in homage. Then quietly they stand and leave placing their straw or wool bundle near the Advent table. (Option: consider have small bundles of straw or wool tied with purple or blue ribbon for congregants to hang on the church tree or take home with them.)

 

Hymn                       Christmas Eve: “While By My Sheep, I Watched at Night”       

                                    Christmas Day:  “Angels We Have Heard on High”         TNCH 125

 

Call to Worship: After Psalm 96 and Luke 2: 1-14

Leader:            Sing to our God a new song;

Sing to our God all the earth.

People:           Glory to God in the highest heaven,

Peace on earth to all!

Leader:            The heavens are telling the glory of God,

                        Let the earth rejoice, let trees of the forest sing for joy!

  People:         Glory to God in the highest heaven,

Peace on earth to all!

           

Hymn                       “O Come, All Ye Faithful”

 

Invocation:

O God of the Baby of Bethlehem,

We come into your presence with praise and thanksgiving.

We hear the glad tidings of the angel voices,

We come to experience this good news of great joy for all the people.

As the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem,

We have traveled here – excited, expectant, hopeful; a bit skeptical.

Let the words of sacred scripture seep into our hearts,

to be treasured and pondered anew.

We are here; we are ready, O God!

Let the light of your love break forth! Amen.

 

Lighting of the Advent Candles: (After Titus 2: 11-14)

(A family processes to the Advent Table as the congregation sings. One or more voices read the following words as all candles are lit. The white Christ candle is lit last. The family returns to their seats on the singing of the hymn.)

 

Hymn (seated)                        La Paz Sea Contigo                       Sing! Prayer and Praise  197

                                            Verses 1-4

 Verse 4: El júbilo sea contigo, el júbilo sea contigo,

May God’s joy be with you, now and forever.

El júbilo sea contigo.

 

One:                We relight four candles representing the four weeks of Advent

as we awaited the blessed hope of our  Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

Two:                 These candles symbolize gifts of Jesus Christ to us:

 paz, peace; amor, love; espiritu, spirit; júbilo, joy.

 

Three:          Today we light the Christ Candle:

the candle of Hope made real in the Son of God

come to  earth at Christmas.

In Christ, the grace of God has appeared

bringing the Good News of salvation for all.

 

Hymn (Suggestion)                  Star Child                                       Sing! Prayer and Praise 174

            (If this is a new hymn, the choir or soloists sing the verses with the congregation joining in on the chorus.)

 

Call to Confession:

Come just as you are. Come to meet Jesus.

As Mary and Joseph welcomed strangers and a host of heavenly guests to the stable,

so God welcomes us with open arms.

In these silent moments, give yourself over to the counsel of God

as you confess your failings and shortcomings.

God loves you. God is listening…

(Moments of Silent Prayer)

 

Affirmation of Forgiveness:

Leader:            God is faithful and just. God judges all people with equity.

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.

In the glow of God’s grace, you are forgiven!

Let this revelation brighten your soul!  

Forgiven and forgiving, carry the light of Christ’s love

to an aching and ailing world!   Amen.

Hymn (Optional, seated)          In the Bleak Midwinter (Verses  1-3)                               TNCH 128

 

Call to Offering:

Leader: (Can be sung or spoken from In the Bleak Midwinter verse 4, TNCH 128)

                        What can I offer, poor as I am?

                        If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.

                        If I were a wise one, I would do my part…

                        What can I offer:  all my heart.

As we open our purses and our pockets, may the gifts we bring

be in proportion to the gratitude of our hearts at Christ’s birth.

 

Prayer of Dedication:

            Christ comes! Our hearts are full, our joy is boundless.

May this offering be a living message

of peace, love, spirit, joy and hope

to this church, to this community, to this nation and world.  Amen.

 

Candle-Lighting service for Christmas Eve

(Individual candles with drip guards are passed out to worshippers as they arrive for the service.)

Leader:            We come to a special portion of tonight’s service.

As Christ comes bringing the light of God’s love,

we light our individual candles

to signify our individual and collective commitment

to live as Christ’s faithful in the world.

 

The light will be brought to the end of each row,

tip your unlit candle into the flame so that it may take hold.

Do not tip your lit candle!

Pass the light along your row until every candle is lit.

As the candles are lit we will join in singing.

 

Hymn (seated as candles are lit)    Silent Night, Holy Night                                         TNCH 134

 

Leader:             As the lights are dimmed (usher dims the lights) let us hold up our candles…

                        One candle is but a flicker, but together, we create a bright flame

of Christ’s light in the world.

Consider the beauty of our lights shining together.

Jesus is the light of the world!

Jesus is the hope of all our tomorrows!

May we be witnesses of the light Christ brings, Amen.

                        As you gently extinguish your candle, carry the light of Jesus’ love with you.

                        (Instrumental music plays softly as lights are extinguished.)

 

Benediction (After Isaiah 9:6)

Leader:            A Child is born to us! A Son is given!

                        He is named Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God, Prince of Peace!

                        Christ is born! Merry Christmas to all!

People:           Christ is born! Merry Christmas to all!

 

Hymn                                               Joy to the World                                           TNCH 132

 

 

Come Just as You Are, Service Prayers for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, was written by the Rev. Penny L. Lowes, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a free lance writer. She has served two UCC congregations, most recently for seven years as the Senior Pastor at the Congregational Church or Birmingham, UCC in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

 

Copyright 2011 Local Church Ministries, Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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CONTACT INFO

Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3869
blains@ucc.org

Rev. Scott A. Ressman
Minister for Worship, Music and Liturgical Arts
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3870
ressmans@ucc.org