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Christmas Eve

An Alternative Lessons and Carols

Note: The readings are gathered from a variety of sources and noted. The words of the carols have been deleted, but we use the traditional words to offer a touchstone of familiarity in the midst of the untraditional readings. We will sing just two or three verses of each hymn. Peace to you this Christmas.

Welcome and Introduction

Prelude (mysterious)

Call to Worship (darkened sanctuary)

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
you came.

You crept in beside us.

And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different.

Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?

Will you come into the darkness of tonight's world;
not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
that war will end
or that food will come
or that a government will change
or that the Church cares?

Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?

Will you come into the quietness of this town,
not the friendly quietness
as when lovers hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
the phone has not rung
the letter has not come,
the friendly voice no longer speaks,
the doctor's face says it all?

Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?

And will you come into the dark corners
and the quiet places of our lives?

We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
or want to be,
but because the fullness our lives long for
depends upon us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their maker.

Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
you came.

You crept in beside us.

Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.

Cloth for the Cradle, Iona Community

Congregational Introit 116 "O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

Invocation (People’s Response in Bold)

Light looked down
and saw darkness.

"I will go there," said Light.

Peace looked down
and saw war.

"I will go there," said Peace.

Love looked down
and saw hatred.

"I will go there," said Love.

the Lord of Light
the Prince of Peace
the King of Love
came down
and crept in
beside us.

Cloth for the Cradle, Iona Community

Processional Hymn 135 "O Come, All Ye Faithful"

First Reading - The Story

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Luke 2:1-20

Hymn 131 "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"

Second Reading - Hunger

The glowworm shines so long as the light-bringer has not arisen. But when the shining one has come up, its light is quenched, it glows no longer. Such is the shining of the sectarians. So long as the rightly awakened ones arise not in the world, the sophists get no light, nor do their followers, and those of wrong views cannot be released from Ill.

Udana 73


Third Reading - Hope

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.

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9

Hymn 128 "In the Bleak Midwinter"

Fourth Reading - Secrets

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was,
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote:
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

Denise Levertov, The Secret

For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.

Luke 8:17

Hymn 133 "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Fifth Reading - Presence

His disciples said to Him, "Show us the place where You are, since it is necessary for us to seek it." He said to them, "Whoever has ears, let him hear. There is light within a person of light, and it shines the whole world. If he does not shine, it is dark.

Thomas 24

I am the one whose praise
echoes on high.

I adorn all the earth.

I am the breeze
that nurtures all things
I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

I am led by the spirit to feed
the purest streams.

I am the rain
coming from the dew
that causes grass to laugh
with the joy of life.

I call forth tears,
the aroma of holy work.

I am the yearning for the good.

Hildegaard of Bingen, Cries of the Spirit

Anthem 118 "Of the Parent's Heart Begotten"

Sixth Reading - Shining

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.

Luke 8:16

Anthem "Light One Candle" Peter Yarrow

Folk Ensemble

Seventh Reading - Still

When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light in to dark places where the sun would never shine - in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.

I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light - truth, understanding, knowledge - is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world - into the black places in the hearts of me - and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.

Quoted by Robert Fulgham, It was on Fire when I Lay Down On It

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness.

Will the darkness understand?

John 1:5 (altered)

Anthem "Still"

Table Fellowship

Invitation and Table Prayer

Processional Carols

"What Child Is This" Greensleeves

"Angels We Have Heard on High" Gloria

"Joy to the World!" Antioch

Sharing the Light (People’s Response in Bold)

On the Eve of Christmas Hatred will vanish

On the Eve of Christmas The earth will flourish

On the Eve of Christmas War will be gone

On the Eve of Christmas Love will be born

When we offer a glass of water to a thirsty person

it is Christmas

When we clothe a naked person with a gown of love

it is Christmas

When we wipe the tears from weeping eyes

it is Christmas

When the spirit of revenge dies in me

it is Christmas

When in my heart I no longer want to stay apart

it is Christmas

When I am buried in the being of God

it is Christmas

Sabeel Liberation Theology Centre (Jerusalem), Shine On, Star of Bethlehem

Hymn "Silent Night"


"Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it,"

proclaims the ancient word;

light stands firm against the dark landscape of reality,

warmth prances in rooms too long drafty.

Each of us holding a flickering candle;

seemingly insignificant one by one, yet magnificent when held together.

Each of us making a choice to stand in the light;

proclaiming the indisputable presence of unquenchable light.

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.