Holy God, on the Christmas Day we give praise and thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem to be the saviour of the world. As we worship you today help us to make room for Jesus in our lives and share his love in the joyful Christmas season. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
StF 212 - O come all ye faithful
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!
True God of true God, Light of Light eternal,
lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created:
See how the shepherds, summoned to his cradle, leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps:
Lo, star-led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
offer him incense, gold, and myrrh; we to the Christ-child bring our hearts’ oblations:
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
‘Glory to God in the highest:’
Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning, Jesus, to thee be glory given:
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
2 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.
8In 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.
Time to Reflect
The nativity is one of the most familiar stories that we have in the New Testament. In December, in schools and churches across the nation, children will have taken part in nativity plays which tell how the infant baby Jesus came into the world. This mass participation in a biblical narrative, which I also took part in during my childhood at various points (as a shepherd, magi, and an angel), means that few people are unaware of what the Christmas story is.
However, when you read Luke’s Gospel there might be few surprises for those who have exclusively relied on school nativity plays for their knowledge. For instance, there is no mention of a donkey carrying Mary or an inn keeper telling the couple that there is no room. There are no magi in Luke’s account, this being found in Matthew’s Gospel. The presence of animals is implied by Jesus being placed in the manger, but we are not told anything about them either. Recently I saw a number of pig and piglet figurines being sold as part of a nativity set. For obvious reasons, they would not have been present on that particular night!
Yet even those of us who are very familiar with Luke’s biblical account can be drawn in to certain romantic sentimentalism when it comes to the birth of Jesus. We need to be reminded that Jesus came into the world not at a ‘glitzy’ time but in a very difficult period for the Jewish people. With their land being occupied by a foreign power and ruled over by an oppressive tyrant, King Herod, a puppet of the Roman Empire, the people were longing for a saviour. Yet despite the gloomy context what shines through in the birth narrative is the joy and hope that Jesus’ coming brings to those who welcome him, particularly those at the very bottom of the social strata: The Shepherds. These are the first people, outside of the holy family, who learn of the birth of Jesus and they are also the first to go out and share the good news Luke’s account is a reminder that Jesus came into the world to bring good news to the poor, the downtrodden, and the outcast.
As his mother Mary declared, in her song known as the Magnificat:
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53)
Jesus comes as a King, but as very different king from the one who ruled from the palace in Jerusalem or the imperial court in Rome. Instead, Jesus came to bring hope to a broken and hurting world, turning our sorrow into joy through his self-sacrificing love. He comes as a King who is not only for the lowly but is one of them, having taken the form of a servant amongst us.
Sometimes the glitz and the glamour of the Christmas season can be off-putting, especially when it does not reflect the real world challenges that we are facing. The biblical account reminds us that Jesus came into the world at a hard time so that God in Christ might be amongst us to offer us the light of his presence. Christ came to break down the barriers we create between us and God, to offer healing, wholeness, and forgiveness to a hurting world. To bring peace and to fulfil God’s promises, opening up the Kingdom to us. Most of all to bring us joy! That is what the incarnation is all about: God with us and God for us.
When I remember the nativity plays I participated in as a child it gives me joy that I was part of the story. However, the most wonderful thing is that through the birth of Jesus, God becomes part of our story to set us free and give us the greatest gift. So may you find joy this Christmas season and be blessed by the Lord as we celebrate Christ’s birth and presence with us.
Prayer of Intercession
You are invited to pray silently for:
The needs of the world…
The Church and its calling…
Loved ones going through difficult times…
For peace, justice, and reconciliation…
In Jesus name.
The Lord's Prayer
Please use the version that you prefer
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.
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
And deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
Now and for ever.
STF 202 – Hark the herald angels sing
Hark! The herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim:‘Christ is born in Bethlehem.’
Hark! The herald-angels sing
glory to the new born King.
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail, the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in deepest night, are lit up with a brilliant sight.
Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. The spread of his influence and of his peace will never end. Therefore, go out into the world with great joy, and the grace of Bethlehem’s matchless Child, the love of the God who never ceases to amaze, and the fellowship of the Spirit who never wearies, will be with you this holy night and evermore.
Thanks be to God!
Based on Isaiah 9:2-7 and written by Bruce Prewer, the Uniting Church in Australia.