GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO MEN ON WHOM HIS FAVOUR RESTS.
(Luke 2: 14)
NOLLAIG CHRIDHEIL – MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!
OPENING HYMN: – (CH-195) – AWAY IN A MANGER, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes. I love Thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky, and stay by my side until morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay close by me for ever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY GOD, like Your servant Mary, we magnify Your holy name, praising You for the gift of Christ and committing ourselves to Your service. Like the shepherds, we come to meet Him tonight, to celebrate the birth of the Saviour and respond in awe to His coming. Like the Magi, we bow in homage, seeking to offer our worship, our gifts, ourselves. Like Your people across the centuries, we give thanks for this day, rejoicing that the familiar story that we know and love so well, is still able to speak to our hearts. Help us today truly to kneel in heart and mind before the manger, and to marvel afresh at Your gift of Christ to us. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING; – ISAIAH 60: 1.
ARISE, SHINE, FOR YOUR LIGHT HAS COME, AND THE GLORY OF THE LORD RISES UPON YOU.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – TITUS 2: 11.
… THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGS SALVATION HAS APPEARED TO ALL MEN.
Late on a sleepy, starry night, angels from heaven peeled back the sky, then, they began to shout and sing the message that Baby Jesus had been born in Bethlehem: the world has a Saviour! They were reminding all people of every age of the Glorious Good News of GOD’s LOVE and GRACE, as the Bible says: – God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3: 16).
At this time, as LIGHT, GLORY and GRACE are pouring out of Heaven, God engages the whole world, over and over again, in a conspiracy: a CONSPIRACY OF LOVE, that nobody and nothing can ever stop, – not even Coronavirus Pandemic. LOVE came down at Christmas; love all lovely, LOVE DIVINE; LOVE was born at Christmas, stars and angels gave the SIGN. Christmas means a Spirit of Love, a time when the Love of God and the Love of men meet each other and become eternal. A time when our thoughts, and deeds, and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God, who, according to the Bible, He Himself is Love. You can hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, of half-forgotten faces of people we used to cherish, and loves we used to know. Christmas seems nostalgic. It may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, or both, but always is a day of Remembrance. A day in which we think of everything and everybody we have ever loved. What a godly reminder that Love never fails! (1 Corinthians 13: 8). Therefore, Christmas becomes a time of Thanksgiving as well. One of the most glorious messes in the world are created in our living rooms on Christmas Day: all the useful and useless presents we receive and open are from LOVE; so don’t clean them up too quickly!
Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, but in amazement and love. Their night-watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes only to those, who watch, and want to hear Him, – and so on that stary night He went to some simple shepherds. It is a wonderful thing that God’s first announcement went to them. It is most likely that the shepherds from the fields of Bethlehem were in charge of the flocks from which the temple-offerings were chosen. It is possible, that they who looked after the lambs for the Temple were the first to witness the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1: 29). When a boy was born in Israel it was customary to have local musicians congregate at the house to greet him, and because Jesus was born in a stable the ceremony could not be carried out, and therefore a choir of angels had to sing the greeting songs. The rough simplicity of the birth of the Son of God provokes us to think that, if Jesus had to be born into this world, why in a stable and not into a palace. There was a European monarch – King Mathias of Hungary (1458-1490) – who worried his court by often disappearing and walking incognito among his people. When he was asked not to do so, he answered, “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.” Our Christian faith is that we have a God who knows the life we live because He too lived it, and claimed no special advantage over ordinary people. I believe that today Jesus would wear a face-mask, observing social-distancing or even be in self-isolation, if needed.
Christmas is a time when our faith, our thoughts, and our deeds truly manifest the Presence of God in the world and in our lives. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
SAVIOUR LORD GOD, come and help us to keep You at the centre of our celebrations. Come to our loved ones, our families, our friends, all those we hold dear and share with, or just think of, over these coming days spoiled by pandemic-restrictions. Help us to celebrate our meeting with Christ, and through drawing closer to Him to grow closer together. Come to those in special need – the poor, the sick, the lonely and sad: all those for whom life is hard and the future seems bleak. Reach out to them in love, and give them something to celebrate. May the light of Christ break into the lives of people everywhere, bringing Your Joy, Your Peace, Your Hope, and Your Love, a song of praise on their lips and celebration into their hearts. Come to them, come to us, come to all, and be born in our lives today, to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN: – (CH-194) – LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS, Love all lovely, Love Divine; Love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love Incarnate, Love Divine; Worship we our Jesus: but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token, Love be yours and Love be mine, Love to God and all men, Love for plea and gift and sign.
MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14)