CHRISTMAS EVE

Broadcast and Livestreamed Options for Worship on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
3.00 pm Radio 4 - Service of 9 Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge
8.00 pm  The first mass of Christmas from Chester Cathedral available at: The First Mass of Christmas - YouTube
23.30 pm Radio 4 - Midnight Mass live from Manchester Cathedral
23.45 pm  BBC 1 - Midnight Mass live from Clifton Cathedral
A wide variety of Book of Common Prayer Services for Christmas Eve are available at: Online streaming of BCP services - The Prayer Book Society (pbs.org.uk)


A Sermon For Christmas Night
Isaiah 9: 2 – 7; John 1: 1 – 14

 

‘Please leave the light on, I’m afraid of the dark.’  It’s a request every parent knows.  There is a primal threat in darkness.  Every sound is magnified; every noise becomes a malevolent being intent on causing us harm.

Only one thing dispels those fears: light.  It doesn’t need to be much; the flickering of a candle flame, or a torch beam can be enough to reassure us.  Often it is not just the light, but knowing someone else is there, holding the light, and we are no-longer alone.  

In the sub-zero Christmas of 2010. a homeless man sought shelter in the porch at Crewe Green church.  We offered him the shed.  One evening I went with a member of the local Red Cross to take a hot meal, survival blankets and carry out a basic medical check.  The beams of our torches and the sound of our voices as we crossed the churchyard were enough to bring reassurance. 

Tonight, we gather, literally in the darkness of a mid-winter night; the decorative lights in the churchyard have enchanted us; the light shining from the nativity scene outside the east end of the church has provided comfort; the lights shining from the church have beckoned us in, out of the darkness, promising (if not) warmth, shelter.

Perhaps more than ever this year, we need the reassurance of light shining in the darkness as we continue to live through the first pandemic for a century.

Like you, I remember all too well the cold grip of fear (we might call it darkness) in my heart as I watched the news one evening and recognised the inevitability of the virus affecting all of our lives.  I remember that same sensation as I wondered how many of the most vulnerable and elderly in our churches would still be here by the end of the year.

The early days of the first lockdown in April and May may have been filled with unending sunshine, but the darkness of fear lurked underneath.  A spark of light and hope has appeared over recent days in the form of a vaccine, but that light has been overshadowed by news of a more infectious variant of the disease.  As the longed-for Christmas family gatherings were cancelled, we wonder how much longer our lives and our relationships will be disrupted, and the darkness gathers despite the light of hope in the vaccine.

All this before we consider the darkness of isolation, deteriorating mental health, unemployment, job insecurity, debt, rising homelessness and anxiety and uncertainty over Brexit.  We have seen a small spark of hope, but the world still seems very dark to many this Christmas time.

We need to hear those familiar words from John’s Gospel as we have never heard them before.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, or as the Amplified version of the Bible has it: the darkness has never overpowered it.

This is the light which has brought us to worship tonight.  Not the enchanting, twinkling lights in the churchyard, nor the comforting light of the nativity, nor the welcoming lights of the church, but what the Message version of the Bible calls the Life-Light of Jesus Christ.

Tonight, that Life-Light is no arc light filling the skies; that day will come at the end of time; on the first Christmas night we recall tonight, arc lights were the work of the angels.  For now, the Life-Light is bright enough for us to find; gentle enough to gaze at directly, as we contemplate the new born baby, lying helpless in in the manger.  The light of God’s love, made small enough for us to understand.  

This is the reason for our celebration tonight.  No matter how dark and fearful the world around us may seem, tonight, we can gather at the manger, and gaze at the Life-Light of Emmanuel, God with us.

This is the light, the only light, which will shed the light of God’s presence into the darkest corners of our deepest fears.  This Light brings the reassuring presence of God into our hearts.  This light, shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never, ever overcome it.  

 

Thanks be to God.

S Anne Lawson
23 December 2020

 

The Greeting

 

President     The Lord be with you

All                 And also with you.

 

Hymn            

O Come, all ye faithful, 

joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;

come and behold him, 

born the king of angels:

O come, let us adore him.

O come, let us adore him,

O come, let us adore him,

Christ the Lord.

 

God of God

Light of light,

lo he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;

very God, begotten, not created:

 

See how the shepherds,

summoned to his cradle,

leaving their flocks draw nigh with lowly fear;

we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps:

 

Sing, choirs of angels,

sing in exultation,

sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above;

glory to God in the highest:

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer of Preparation

 

All          Almighty God,

              to whom all hearts are open,

              all desires known,

              and from whom no secrets are hidden:

              cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

              by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

              that we may perfectly love you,

              and worthily magnify your holy name;

              through Christ our Lord.

              Amen.

 

Prayers of Penitence

 

Leader   Our Lord Jesus Christ said:

              The first commandment is this:

‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

 

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

All          Amen.  Lord, have mercy.

 

 

 

These or other suitable words are used to introduce the confession.

 

Leader   Christ the light of the world has come

              to dispel the darkness of our hearts.

              In his light, let us examine ourselves and

              confess our sins.  

 

All          Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

              we have sinned against you

              and against our neighbour

              in thought, word and deed,

              through negligence, through weakness,

              through our own deliberate fault.

              We are truly sorry

              and repent of all our sins.

              For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,

              who died for us,

              forgive us all that is past

              and grant that we may serve you in

                             newness of life

              to the glory of your name.

              Amen.

President  May the God of all healing and forgiveness

              draw you to himself

              and cleanse you from all your sins,

              that you may behold the glory of his Son,

              the Word made flesh, 

              Jesus Christ our Lord.

All          Amen.


 

Gloria in Excelsis

All          Glory to God in the highest,

and peace to his people on earth.

 

Lord God, heavenly King,

almighty God and Father,

we worship you, we give you thanks,

we praise you for your glory.

 

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,

Lord God Lamb of God,

you take away the sin of the world:

have mercy on us;

you are seated at the right hand of the Father:

receive our prayer.

 

For you alone are the Holy One,

you alone are the Lord,

you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,

with the Holy Spirit,

in the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

 


The Collect

 

President  Eternal God

              In the stillness of this night

              you sent your almighty Word

              to pierce the world’s darkness with the light

                      of salvation:

              give to the earth the peace that we long for

              and fill our hearts with the joy of heaven

              through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

All          Amen.

 

Readings

              

              Isaiah 9: 2 – 7

 

              This is the word of the Lord

All          Thanks be to God.

 

Hymn    O little town of Bethlehem,

how still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

the silent stars go by.

Yet in the dark streets shineth

the everlasting light;

the hopes and fears of all the years

are met in thee tonight.


 

How silently, how silently,

the wondrous gift is giv’n!

So God imparts to human hearts

the blessings of his heav’n.

No ear may hear his coming;

but in this world of sin,

where meek souls will receive him still,

the dear Christ enters in.

 

O holy child of Bethlehem,

descend to us, we pray;

cast out our sin, and enter in,

be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels

the great glad tidings tell:

O come to us, abide with us,

our Lord Emmanuel.

 

Gospel Reading

 

              John 1: 1 - 14

When the Gospel is announced the reader says:

 

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St John

All          Glory to you, O Lord.

 

at the end

           This is the Gospel of the Lord.

All          Praise to you, O Christ.

 

Sermon

 

The Creed

 

All          We believe in one God,

              the Father, the Almighty,

              maker of heaven and earth,

              of all that is,

              seen and unseen.

 

              We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

              the only Son of God,

              eternally begotten of the Father,

              God from God, Light from Light,

              true God from true God,

              begotten, not made,

              of one Being with the Father;

              through him all things were made.

              For us and for our salvation he came down 

                                           from heaven,

              was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the 

                                           Virgin Mary 

              and was made man.

              

              For our sake he was crucified under 

                                           Pontius Pilate;

              he suffered death and was buried.

              On the third day he rose again

              in accordance with the Scriptures;

              he ascended into heaven

              and is seated at the right hand of 

                                           the Father.

              He will come again in glory to judge the 

                                    living and the dead,

              and his kingdom will have no end.

              We believe in the Holy Spirit,

              the Lord, the giver of Life,

              who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son is 

              worshipped and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and 

                      apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the 

              forgivenness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

 

 

Prayers of Intercession

 

Leader   Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

              Let us bring before God the needs of the world.

 

              Wonderful Counsellor,

              give your wisdom to the rulers of the nations.

              Lord, in your mercy

All          Hear our prayer.

 

Leader   Mighty God,

              make the whole world know

              that the government is on your shoulders.

              Lord, in your mercy

All          Hear our prayer.

 


 

Leader   Everlasting Father,

              establish your reign of justice and 

                      righteousness for ever.

              Lord, in your mercy

All          Hear our prayer.

 

Leader   Prince of peace,

              bring in the endless kingdom of your peace.

              Lord, in your mercy

All          Hear our prayer.

 

Leader   Almighty Lord,

All          hear our prayer

              and fulfil your purposes in us,

              as you accomplished your will

              in our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

 The Peace

 

Leader   This holy night the angels sang

              ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,

              and on earth peace to all in whom he delights.’

              The peace of the Lord be always with you

All          and also with you.

 

Hymn    In the bleak mid-winter

              frosty wind made moan,

              earth stood hard as iron,

              water like a stone;

              snow had fallen, snow on snow,

              snow on snow,

              in the bleak mid-winter, long-ago.

 

              Our God, heav’n cannot hold him

              nor earth sustain;

              heav’n and earth shall flee away

              when he comes to reign.

              In the bleak mid-winter

              a stable place sufficed

              the Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.

 

              Enough for him, whom cherubim

              worship night and day,

              a breastful of milk,

              and a manger full of hay:

enough for him, whom angels

fall down before,

              the ox, and ass and camel which adore.

 

              What can I give him,

              poor as I am?

              If I were a shepherd

              I would bring a lamb;

              If I were a wise man

              I would do my part,

              yet, what I can I give him:

              give my heart.

 

 

Preparation of the Table
Taking of the Bread and Wine

 

After the offertory has been made and the altar prepared the following prayer is be said:

 

President  Word made flesh, life of the world,

              in your incarnation you embraced our poverty:

              by your Spirit may we share in your riches.

All          Amen.

 

The Eucharistic (or Thanksgiving) Prayer

 

President     The Lord be with you

All                 and also with you.

 

President     Lift up your hearts

All                 We lift them to the Lord.

 

President     Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

All                 It is right to give thanks and praise.

 

 

President  

All glory and honour be yours always and everywhere,

Mighty creator, ever-living God.

We give you thanks and praise for your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ,

who for love of our fallen race humbled himself,

and on this night was born of the Virgin Mary

by the power of your Spirit,

and lived as one of us.

 

In this mystery of the Word made flesh

you have caused his light to shine in our hearts,

to give knowledge of your glory in the face of

       Jesus Christ.

in him we see our God made visible

and so are caught up in the love of the God we

       cannot see.

Therefore with all the angels of heaven

we lift our voices to proclaim the glory of your name

and sing our joyful hymn of praise:

 

All          Holy, holy, holy Lord,

              God of power and might,

              heaven and earth are full of your glory.

              Hosanna in the highest.

              Blessed is he who comes in the name 

                                                  of the Lord.

              Hosanna in the highest.

 

President  Accept our praises, heavenly Father,

              through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,

and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit

 these gifts of bread and wine may be to us his body and his blood;

 

who, in the same night he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks;

he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

 

In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; 

he gave it to them, saying:

Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  

Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.

 

Therefore, heavenly Father, we remember his offering of himself made once for all upon the cross; we proclaim his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; we look for the coming of your kingdom, and with this bread and this cup we make the memorial of Christ your Son our Lord.

President  Great is the mystery of faith:

All          Christ has died:

              Christ is risen:

              Christ will come again.

 

 

President   Accept through him, our great high priest, this our sacrifice of thanks and praise, and as we eat and drink these holy gifts in the presence of your divine majesty, renew us by your Spirit, inspire us with your love and unite us in the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

              Through him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with all who stand before you in earth and heaven, we worship you, Father almighty, in songs of everlasting praise.

All          Blessing, and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

We sit or kneel

President  Rejoicing in the presence of God here among 

us, let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us.

 

All          Our Father, who art in heaven,

              hallowed be thy name;

              thy kingdom come;

              thy will be done;

              on earth as it is in heaven.

              Give us this day our daily bread.

              And forgive us our trespasses,

              as we forgive those who trespass 

                                           against us.

              and lead us not into temptation,

              but deliver us from evil.

              For thine is the kingdom,

              the power and the glory,

              for ever and ever.

              Amen.


Breaking of the Bread

 

The president breaks the consecrated bread.

 

President  We break the bread of life,

              and that life is the light of the world.

All          God is here among us,

              light in the midst of us,

              bring us to light and life.

 

 

All          Jesus, Lamb of God,

              have mercy on us.

 

              Jesus, bearer of our sins,

              have mercy on us.

 

              Jesus, redeemer of the world,

              grant us peace.

 

Giving of Communion

 

We welcome all who love the Lord Jesus to receive Communion.  If you prefer to receive God’s blessing instead of the bread and wine, please still come to the front, but instead of opening your hands to receive Communion keep them by your sides to indicate your intention to those of us serving the Communion. 

 

The presidents offers the invitation to Communion:

    

President  Christ is the true bread which has come down

              from heaven.

All          Lord, give us this bread always.

 

The following prayer may be said before the distribution:

 

All   Most merciful Lord,

       your love compels us to come in.

       our hands were unclean,

       our hearts were unprepared;

       we were not fit

       even to eat the crumbs from under your table.

       But you, Lord are the God of our salvation,

       and share your bread with sinners.

       So cleanse and feed us

       with the body and blood of your Son,

       that he may live in us and we in him;

       and that we, with the whole company of Christ,

       may sit and eat in your kingdom.  Amen.

 

     

Prayer after Communion

 

President  God our Father,

              in this night you have made known to us again

              the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

              confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him

              until the day dawns

              and Christ the Morning Star rises in our hearts,

All          To him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.

        

All          Almighty God,

              we thank you for feeding us

              with the body and blood of your Son 

                             Jesus Christ.

Through him we offer you our souls 

              and bodies

              to be a living sacrifice.

              Send us out in the power of your Spirit

              to live and work to your praise and glory.

              Amen.

 

Hymn    Torches, torches, run with torches

              all the way to Bethlehem!

              Christ is born and now lies sleeping;

              come and sing your song to him!

              

              Ah, Roro, Roro, my baby, 

              Ah, Roro, Roro my love, Roro;

              Sleep you well, my heart’s own darling,

              while we sing you our Roro.

 

                      
Sing, my friends and make you merry,

              joy and mirth and joy again;

              Lo, he lives, the King of heaven,

              now and evermore, Amen.

Translated J B Trend

from the Galician

Music by John Joubert

 

President  Christ, who by his incarnation gathered 

              into one things earthly and heavenly,

              fill you with peace and goodwill

              and make you partakers of the divine nature:

              and the blessing of God almighty,

              the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

              be among you and remain with you always.

All          Amen

 

Leader   Go in peace.  Proclaim the Word made flesh.

All          Glory, thanks and praise to God.  Amen.

 

Some of the material in this service is © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 and 2006

CCL No 215281

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We wish you a very peaceful Christmas