United Church of Christ

First Sunday of Christmas - December 29

Coming Home Again
Coming Home Again Order of Worship for the First Sunday of Christmas
December 29, 2019

Isaiah 63:7-9  • Psalm 148  • Hebrews 2:10-18  • Matthew 2:13-23

Hymn      Suggestions       A Star Shone Bright



Jesus, the Light of the World                           TNCH 160

Prayer for Illumination
Shine in our hearts, Lord Jesus.
Shine in our lives.
Shine in the Word now read and proclaimed,
and we, children of your light, shining for all people,
will follow. Amen.

Word      Isaiah 40:1-2, 60:1-3

Responsive Reading: Psalm 148
        Let All Above the Earth and On the Earth Praise God!

All: Praise the LORD!

Group 1: Praise the LORD!
Across the heavens,
From the heights,
All you angels, heavenly beings,
sing praise! sing praise!
Sun and moon, glittering stars,
sing praise, sing praise,
Highest heavens, rain clouds,
sing praise, sing praise.
Praise God’s name,
whose word called you forth
and fixed you in place for ever
by eternal decree

Group 2: Let there be praise:
From the depths of the earth,
From creatures of the deep.
Fire and hail, snow and mist,
Storms, winds,
mountains, hills,
fruit trees and cedars,
wild beasts and tame,
snakes and birds,
Princes, judges,
rulers, subjects,
amen, women,
old and young,
praise, praise the holy name
This name beyond all names.

All: God’s splendor above the earth,
Above the heavens,
Gives strength to the nation,
glory to the faithful,
a people close to God.
Praise the Lord!

Translation from The Psalter © 1994 International Committee on English in the Liturgy

Hymn:        Once in Royal David’s City       TNCH 145

Prayers of the People

Invitation to Confession
The Lord requires of us a pure offering,
without blemish or spot.
We must be right with God
and our neighbor
to offer ourselves and gifts to God.

Therefore, let us confess our sins against God,
and reconcile with our neighbors. Let us pray.

We have opposed your ways, O God.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have avoided the hard truths of your prophets.


Show us your mercy, O God.
And grant us your salvation.
By your light, may we see light.


Pardoning and Peace
The Light shines in the darkness
and the darkness does not overcome it.
God’s mercy is over all God’s works.
You are forgiven. Walk in the light of Christ.
All:Glory to God! Amen

At peace with God, let us now offer the peace of Christ to one another.

People exchange the peace of Christ.

Hymn Good Christian Friends Rejoice                                                      TNCH 129

Before singing Good Christians Friends, Rejoice point to the three reasons to rejoice in the last lines of the verses – 

- “Christ is born today,”  “Christ was born for this,” and - “Christ was born to save.”

Call for the Offering
The offering is collected.
Suggestion for Music at the Offering My Master, See, the Time Has Come 
(a setting of Nunc Dimittis, from Luke 2: 29-32)https://hymnary.org/text/my_master_see_the_time_has_come

Congregational Thanks at Presentation of Gifts
The Pastor’s prayer may be introduced and concluded by singing O Come, All
You Faithful (TNCH 135)

stanza 2 before the prayer, stanza 3 after it.

HymnWhat Child Is This? TNCH 148


Gospel ReadingMatthew 2:1-18


SermonGoing Home Again

In December, we Christians delight in lifting from the gospels the moments of the Christmas story: the angelic and the shepherds’ visits.By contrast, we often come to a particularly dark part of the narrative: the slaughter of innocent babies and toddlers, and the flight of Mary and Joseph to Egypt. However, loss, death and darkness are essential parts of the nativity story and serve to highlight the broader picture of Christ’s coming to save a broken world. This sad event prepares our hearts to move beyond the manger to the cross.

The Gospel of Matthew offers us only a few verses. Herod, out of his jealousy, inquiring of the wise men about “the newborn king,” hides his intent to have the Christ Child killed. After the wise men follow God’s command to go home “another way,” Herod orders the killing of all male children in Bethlehem and its districts, two years old and under to be killed (Matthew 2:16).

As Herod expresses his fury, Mary and Joseph have already fled to Egypt as immigrants and exiles – away from home – taking the Christ Child beyond Herod’s reach.

This sad story reminds us Armenians of our slaughter and massacre by the Ottoman Turks (1915-23), who drove us out of our centuries’ old homeland, Armenia, tortured and killed us with the intent to annihilate us completely

I was born in Aleppo, Syria where many Armenians settled. Uprooted and away from home, we lived as immigrants and foreigners belonging to a minority, both Armenian and Christian. Fortunately, the Syrian people were gracious and good to us: they took us in, fed and clothed us, gave us a chance to build our lives once again, believed our horrible stories and eased our suffering and plight. 

Unfortunately, Christ Child’s birth is marked with bloodshed. That’s why we, as Armenians and other ethnic groups in the Middle East, identify with these events and find the meaning of the Incarnation in a larger story of atonement and sacrifice.  This Gospel story, though grim and senseless, enables us to respond in a faith-filled way to God’s gift of life out of death.

The story of Herod’s genocide also serves to remind us of our own mortality, as sojourners in a strange land. This is a dying world we live in where the weak, the immigrant and the foreigner are taken advantage of. But, the lesson to us is this: God will carry out His redemptive purposes in His own way and that is our sure foundation and hope.

Hymn Suggestions:      My Eyes Have Seen the Glory       TNCH 610

Joy to the World       TNCH 132

Sending Forth
You have seen the Savior.
Go now in peace.
Be the light to enlighten everyone you meet,
and let your life reflect the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ. Amen

Coming Home Again: Service Prayers for the First Sunday of Christmas, Year A, were written by the Rev. Dr. Avedis Boynerian, pastor of the Armenian Memorial Church of Watertown, MA.  http://armenianmemorialchurch.org/?q=node/87

Congregations of the Armenian Evangelical Church have been part of the United Church of Christ since our founding.  Read more about their history:: https://www.ucc.org/about-us_hidden-histories_armenian-congregationalists

Information about, advocacy opportunities, and prayers for refugees and asylum seekers in today’s world may be found at https://www.ucc.org/refugees

Copyright 2019 Justice Local Church Ministries, Faith INFO 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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