On the first Christmas there was no room at the inn. Tomorrow, due to restrictions, there is no room at the church for our 9.30am service - we are up to capacity of 30, Sorry. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas. Hopefully next year we can welcome you all in.
For those not able to join us here is the order of service for Christmas Day prepared by our pastor Julie. Despite restrictions on how we celebrate Christmas this year, I hope you have a lovely time.
A short poem by John Greenleaf Whittier (17.12.1807 – 7.9.1892) an American Quaker poet and a favourite poet of Val: The Joy of Giving Somehow, not only for Christmas, But all the long year through, The joy that you give to others Is the joy that comes back to you, And the more you spend in blessing The poor and lonely and sad, The more of your heart’s possessing Returns to make you glad. With all good wishes for a happy Christmas and may God bless and keep you safe.
I bring you good news of great joy:
unto us a child is born,
unto us a Son is given.
He is Christ the Lord.
We worship and adore him.
Hymn We three Kings
Jesus of Nazareth, child of Bethlehem, you were not born in a stable, but you were laid in a manger, a manger filled with warm hay, probably in the living room of Joseph’s kinsfolk in Bethlehem.
We have all woken in homes today – some busy, some quiet; some permanent, some temporary. Help us see that our homes are the places where you come to live in all your glory.
And gather us here, your people, held in the peace of your birth among us – ordinary, and extraordinary, all at once.
What’s in the suitcase ?
This will go on the screen and after 30 secs. I will shut it down and then the congregation will have to remember what was on the screen.
The words all point to the Nativity.
Video of the Nativity – Noel OR read Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-23
I begin with a poem
The First Christmas by Marian Swinger
It never snows at Christmas in that dry and dusty land.
Instead of freezing blizzards, there are palms and drifting sands,
and years ago a stable and a most unusual star
and three wise men who followed it, by camel, not by car,
while, sleepy on the quiet hills, a shepherd gave a cry.
He'd seen a crowd of angels in the silent starlit sky.
In the stable, ox and ass stood very still and calm
and gazed upon the baby, safe and snug in Mary's arms.
And Joseph, lost in shadows, face lit by an oil lamp's glow
stood wondering, that first Christmas Day, two thousand years ago
How different will our Christmas be today compared to 2000 years ago? and to one year ago?
A normal Christmas would be full of presents and noise and food, houses full of families all joyfully meeting for the festive season. It is cold outside and the snow may be falling, we may wrap up and go for a walk, or stay in and watch the Queen’s speech. The first Christmas would have been so very very different it would have been hot, it would have been uncomfortable for Mary in a stable, maybe a little bit draughty, she would have been alone with just Joseph, no family, no mother, no sisters, just her and Joseph and a manger and a stable. Then, well then, people did arrive, the shepherds, smelly big rough men arriving into the stable, filling it with their presence and sheep and dogs and then when they'd gone and maybe Jesus had just been settled down the wise men arrive. Reverently falling on their knees to worship Him. And then when they had left just Mary and Joseph and Jesus.
This Christmas for so many people will be totally different for on Christmas Day and only on Christmas Day you can meet one other family , when you have two children, three children, four children you can't see them all. But what about those who will not see any family, those whose plans have suddenly been altered and they find themselves completely alone on Christmas Day. We cannot do anything to help, we can't offer them our homes, we can't welcome them in because we're not allowed to and so this year more than any year so many people will be completely on their own on Christmas Day.
When we listen to the news it is full of doom and gloom, we may ask, ’where is God in all of this?’
God, it seems, has a habit of working in the most unlikely of places, and through the most unlikely of people. We notice the Emperor exercising his power and declaring that ‘all the world should be registered’. Yet, in the midst of this display of power, with all its accompanying noise and chaos, we are taken to a baby lying in a manger. We are reminded that amid the voices of power and the noise of life, God is quietly and gently and always present, working in the most unexpected places.
We recognise that in the ordinariness of our everyday lives, God is at work. Imagine the shepherds in the field that night, tending to their sheep as usual. Then, all of a sudden, an angel appearing and instructing them to go to Bethlehem to ‘see this thing that has taken place’. They encountered God in their place of work! Not in a synagogue or temple; not in a place when spiritual things are ‘meant’ to happen. And having got their attention, God takes them to the stable around the back of an ordinary home.
Mary and Joseph followed the rules of their time and went all the way to Bethlehem, we too follow the rules of our time and all stay at home. In a world when politicians and people with money think that they can influence others we are brought to this stable, for the focus of Christmas is not the rich and the powerful and the rules it is the stable, it is the manger, it is a helpless child, this is what Christmas is about. It is about God come down to live with us and maybe this year more than any other year when other things are stripped away from us that we can truly sit and reflect on the baby in the manger. The greatest gift we have ever been given is lying helpless in a manger, this is our hope, this is our future, this child God’s son has brought for us life eternal for all time. Jesus came that we might have life and have it in all of its fullness and so on Christmas Day let us remember that God sent His Son to bring us peace and joy and love and happiness. However we spend today whoever we spend today with let us go back to the child in the manger and focus on the real reason of Christmas.
I end my comment as I began with a poem
Sssh…stop…focus in… From the affairs of princes, presidents, prime ministers and other potentates on earth… Don’t get carried away like excitable shepherds, just stop…and ponder…the things of heaven.
Hymn Away in a manger _ Chris Tomlin
Look at presents
Today, in all the demands, we pray for those who are facing a Christmas without someone they love Today, in all the delights, we pray for those who are facing a Christmas alone Today, in all the celebration, we pray for those who are facing conflicts. Today, in all the times we eat, we pray for those who are hungry.
Hymn While Shepherds watched