Classic Worship Connection: Christmas Eve 2017 (Option 1)

November 24th, 2017

Theme: Star Light, Star Bright - The Light of Hope in the Shining Star

Lectionary: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2: 1-14 (15-20)

Advent is a season of Hope and the coming Light. Usually we think of the traditional sources of light in the form of the Advent Candles. This series of Advent resources will focus on the non-traditional sources of light. Using common light sources we will link the Light of Hope and God’s love incarnate in Jesus Christ with our everyday lives. The format for the resources will take a slightly different form, including some suggested congregational music. We seek God in the ordinary and God comes to us in the extraordinary. Praise be to God!

Premise: Christmas Eve is a time of celebration of Light and Hope. Isaiah’s scripture reminds us that the people who had walked in darkness have now seen a great light, the light of hope in their dark nights. Psalm 96 is a magnificent song of joy and hope. Titus reflects on the salvation of all humankind through the witness and person of Jesus Christ. But most especially beloved is Luke’s Gospel passage about the Nativity. There are many ways to think of the Light of God’s Incarnate Love. We have chosen some non-traditional objects to portray the Light coming into the world. It first began as a glimmer of hope; moved to a directing beam; continued as a welcoming light, and warmed our spirits as the light in God’s Presence.

Advent Object: With all the objects in the worship center that have been placed during Advent, we will be adding a large white pillar candle and votive candles to symbolize the brightness of the gift. It will be important to make the Christ candle (large white pillar candle) dominant in the worship center. [See Artistic Elements for suggestions regarding this candle and the votive candles]

CALLS TO WORSHIP

Call to Worship #1

L: The people who once lived in darkness have been given a great light!

P: Praise be to God who has heard our cries.

L: Our souls sing out God’s praise!

P: God has brought us a light of Hope and Peace.

L: Tonight, in this place, the Light of God’s Love is given to us!

P: And we shall see that light and let it shine through our lives. AMEN.

Call to Worship #2

L: Welcome tonight to a celebration like no other!

P: This is the night of the Holy Birth!

L: Let the love of Jesus be born in your hearts and spirits!

P: Open our hearts to receive this blessed gift, Loving God.

L: Rejoice, good friends, the Good News is here!

P: Christ our Savior is Born! Hallelujah! AMEN.

Call to Worship #3

[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2095, create a call to worship that invites the congregation to think about this wonderful gift of God. This writing may be used as a call to worship or a special celebration, or in place of the Litany]

Choir (singing): Star-Child, earth-Child, go between of God, love Child, Christ Child, Heaven’s lightning rod, This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

[During the singing of the verse have a standard bearer bring in the first banner or panel portraying verse 1 (see Artistic Elements)]

L: Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

P: Come into our hearts today.

Choir (singing): Street child, beat child, no place left to go, hurt child, used child, no one wants to know. This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes to everyone, everyone alive!

[During the singing of the verse have a standard bearer bring in the second banner or panel portraying verse 2 (see Artistic Elements)]

L: Open our hearts today, Lord Jesus.

P: Help us to receive you.

Choir (singing): Grown child, old child, memory full of years, sad child, lost child, story told in tears, This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas Comes for everyone, everyone alive!

[During the singing of the verse have a standard bearer bring in the third banner or panel portraying verse 3 (see Artistic Elements)]

L: Help us to reach out to each other, Lord Jesus

P: Illuminate our path this night.

Choir (singing): Spared Child, spoiled child, having, wanting more, wise child, faith child, knowing joy in store, This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

[During the singing of verse 4 have a standard bearer bring in the fourth banner or panel portraying verse 4 (see Artistic Elements)

L: Remind us of the needs of the world, Lord Jesus.

P: Help us to witness to your Light by serving others.

Congregation and Choir (singing): Hope for peace Child, God’s stupendous sign, down to earth Child, Star of stars that shine, This year, this year, let the day arrive when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive!

[During the singing of verse 5 have a standard bearer bring in the firth banner or panel portraying verse 5 (see Artistic Elements)]

All: Sing Glory to God for God’s love has been born anew!

Call to Worship #4

L: From the darkness of Creation, God brought forth Light!

P: That Light flooded over the waters of creation, sparkling, dancing!

L: From the fear and alienation, God sent forth a leading Pillar of Light!

P: That Light directed people who were on the path of freedom.

L: From the cries of the people, God offered the lights of Hope

P: Those lights beckoned people to God’s presence.

L: From the yearning of the spirit, God’s light was born again in a child

P: That Light shall never be diminished.

All: Praise God for the warm light of God’s Incarnate Love. AMEN.

Prayers, Litany, Benediction

Opening Prayer

God of Surprising Love and Hope, we come this evening to the manger, gazing lovingly on the Child born to bring hope to the world. Open our hearts tonight as we hear the story anew. Help us to be guided by the Light of Jesus Christ, that we may truly feel the power of your love and bring that love, with joy, to all we meet. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.

The Advent Light

Theme for bulletin insert: Lights from four sources grace our worship center. The first light comes from the candle, which was placed here almost a month ago, but was not lighted.. The second source, placed here three weeks ago, is a flashlight, with its small, bur directed beam of light to show us the way to Hope. The third source, a lantern, was placed in our center two weeks ago to remind us of the Light of God that beckons to us. The warmth and comfort of God’s welcome to us is represented by our fourth source of light, a table lamp, placed in our worship center last Sunday. We have also placed floor lamps around the sanctuary as a reminder of the comfort and peace of God’s eternal Presence. Tonight in the center of our worship we place a large Candle, representing the coming of Jesus Christ. It is called the Christ Candle.

L: Almost a month ago, on the first Sunday of Advent, we placed this candle on our worship center, but it remained unlit so that we would take the time to actually think about the darkness and hope for the light.

Person 1: We light this candle, remembering that in the midst of darkness, God created the world and all that is in it. In the midst of our darkness, God has again brought light

[Person 1 lights the Advent Candle].

L: Three weeks ago, we placed a flashlight in our worship center as the second light of Advent. This common object becomes uncommon as it reveals God’s love and direction for our lives.

Person 2: We turn this flashlight on, with its small beam. The darkness is great, but God’s powerful light will show us the way, our path is illuminated by God’s gracious love. This light represents direction and hope.

[Person 2 turns the flashlight on. Note: make sure that the light is either shining on the floor or down an aisle, not in the face of any persons in the sanctuary]

L: Two weeks ago, we placed a lantern in our worship center. We remembered the significance of the lantern lit on a porch to welcome the weary traveler.

Person 3: We light this lantern as a reminder of God’s continuous welcome for us, pouring God’s light of love into our darkness and drawing us home.

[Person 3 lights the lantern in the worship center]

L: Last week we placed a table lamp in our worship center, reminding us of the comfort and warmth of God’s presence with us.

Person 4: We light this lamp as a reminder that God is always with us to comfort, to heal, to strengthen and guide us. God’s love draws us home and warms our hearts and spirits.

[Person 4 lights the table lamp in the worship center]

L: Tonight we place this Christ Candle in the Middle of our worship Center to remind us of the Light of God’s Love in Jesus Christ. This light is not placed away from the others, but is in the midst of them, that Christ’s love may shine in all we do.

Person 5: We light this Christ Candle as a sign of Love, Peace, Joy and Hope in our lives. God has called us from darkness and has given us a great light, and the darkness shall never overcome it.

[Person 5 lights the Christ Candle]

L: Let us pray: Lord of Brilliant Light, shine in our hearts tonight. Bring us to the manger with such longing for your love, bathed in the light of Hope,. Remind us that you are our Hope and that through you will come Peace which will reign in our hearts forever. AMEN.

Prayer of Confession

Lord of Light and Hope, our minutes and hours have been swallowed up in preparation for this night and for the coming day. We have been so caught up in the preparations for gatherings and gifting that we have pushed aside the wonder of what you have done for all Creation. Forgive us when we so easily get entangled in our own plans and forget to pay attention to the true event. Help us to relax and listen, instead of rush and shout. May the songs of the angels, the surprise of the shepherds, and the joy of the Holy Family become part of our preparations and our lives. Open our ears, our eyes, our hearts and our spirits to again hear the old, old story, spoken by new voices in new ways. Remind us again of your never-changing love for us. Prepare us to serve you by serving others. This night we offer this prayer of our hearts to you, gracious God. AMEN.

Pastoral Prayer

God of bright and shining stars, we come this evening with the reminiscences of the old, old story in our hearts. For many here, the story has been heard numerous times, flooding their lives with warmth and love; For others the story is new, surprising, causing wonder and surprise. All around us are symbols and reminders of the miraculous Birth. We see the greens which remind us of your eternal presence and love for us. The candles shed their glowing light helping us to remember the many ways in which you have brightened our lives and offered light to our journey. The colors, the music, and aromas, the people, invite us again into your wonderful presence in the world in the birth of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

In this world in which your holy land is in such turmoil, shed your light anew, that your healing Love may bring Peace and Hope to people in conflict. We ask that you protect all those who are in harm’s way; all those who live lives of anguish, poverty, oppression. We ask your loving presence to be with those who refuse to believe in you; who see your word through the church as a tradition, but see very little impact in their daily lives. Let the Light of Jesus Christ penetrate that darkness of alienation and bring Hope and Peace to all your people.

May the light of the stars which sparkled in those dark skies, again illuminate our lives, guiding, healing, leading us to you, Blessed God.. As we gather in this time and place, hearing the story of the birth, remind us again that you are born continually in our lives. In gratitude we offer our praise and our love to you. AMEN.

Litany

L: We thought we lived in the light, but the darkness of fear, anger, and alienation had taken over.

P: We wondered where God was.

L: God banished the darkness away in the light of the Christmas Star

P: God’s light was found around a manger, a place where the Holy Child given to sleep.

L: God called to the shepherds through the voices of the angels whose first words were "Do not be afraid. There is Good News for you!"

P: And in that instance, all the people who felt that God didn’t care about them, had Hope.

L: The star shone brightly and shines brightly in our lives.

P: Now no darkness can shut it out.

L: Go, Tell the Good News. Christ is Born!

P: Praise be to God who has poured God’s Light and Love into our lives once again. Now and forever. AMEN.

The Lighting of Our Christmas Candles

[Many churches have their own traditions for the Christmas Eve Candle-lighting for the Congregational Candles. Some churches have the people form a circle around the worship area or sanctuary. The light begins at several places and is passed around the circle. Others suggest people remain in their seats/pews and the light is passed down the line of the people. Some churches offer electric or battery operated candles because of the potential hazards of fire.

Whatever your tradition is, the light is symbolically retrieved from the large white Christ Candle. The following is a suggestion of the liturgical words that may be used. While the candles are being lighted, the choir may want to sing "Arise, Shine" from THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2005]

L: Arise, shine, dear people, for our Light has come!

P: Christ is the World’s true Light, on our paths and in our lives.

L: Receive the light and let its warmth and glow be in your hearts this night.

P: The glory of the Lord shines around us on this night.

[In some traditions, when all the candles have been lighted, the whole congregation sings "Silent Night" It is good to have the words printed in the bulletin so that people do not have to juggle lighted candles and a hymnal]

Benediction, Blessing, Commission

May the light that began at creation, continued through the witness of the prophets, and has come to fullness at the Birth of Jesus Christ , be in your hearts and minds this evening. As you go from this place may your spirits be filled with joy and hope; for God’s precious Light has been given for you. Go in Peace and know that God’s peace always goes with you. AMEN.

Artistic Elements

[Note: It will be important to include in your worship bulletin a brief description of the meaning of this worship visual setting]

[Note #2: in these Advent services we will be visualizing worship by using various non-traditional sources of light. On the first Sunday in Advent we began by placing an unlighted pillar candle on the worship center. On the second Sunday in Advent we added a flashlight.

On the third Sunday in Advent we used a Lantern. Last Sunday we placed a table lamp in our worship center to celebrate the fourth Sunday in Advent. Tonight a large White Christ Candle is placed in the worship setting]

[Note #3: If you are using the Call to Worship #3, you will want to provide space for the four Star Panels/Banners near the worship center]

SURFACE: The following risers should be placed on the worship center: A riser about 12 inches high should be placed at the center back of the worship center (this will be the place for the Christ Candle). Place two risers to the left of the Christ Candle riser and to on the right. They should be placed so that each item may be seen by the congregation. Leave space for plants and votive candles on the worship center]

FABRIC: Cover the entire worship center with white cloth, making sure that it comes to the floor in front of the worship center. Beginning at the riser on the left side of the worship center drape a long strip of blue cloth across the worship center toward the right and then down in front of the center onto the floor, puddling the fabric. A piece of gold fabric may be placed on the top riser on which the Christ Candle will stand.

FLOWERS AND FOLIAGE: This is the time for those beautiful Poinsettias and other Christmas Greens. The poinsettias may be placed around the worship center, with some of them on the center itself to the right and left of the Christ Candle. You may want to use some holly and some ivy vines sound throughout the objects on the center. If you do this, you may also want to consider an explanation of the symbolic meaning of those greens. Other greens and flowers may be placed around the worship center and in the sanctuary in accordance with your tradition.

CANDLES: The very tall Christ Candle is placed on the center riser, on top of the gold cloth. The other candle, from Advent 1, is placed on a riser to the left of the Christ Candle. Votive candles may be placed in front of the Christ Candle, on the main level of the center. If you are using congregational candles or lights at the end of the service, either pass them out at the beginning or give them to people toward the end of the service. - most of the time it is easier to give these candles to people as they enter. Have a box or basket at the back of the sanctuary or worship area for the people to place their candles in at the close of the service, unless it is your tradition to have the people take their candles home with them.

ROCKS & WOOD: Rocks and Wood are replaced by greens and flowers..

OTHER: The flashlight is placed on a riser to the right of the Christ Candle. The Lantern is placed on the main table to the left of the Christ Candle and the Table Lamp is placed on the main table to the right of the Christ Candle. Easels are set beside or behind the worship center for the placement of the Star panels, if that liturgy is being used (see: Call to Worship #3).

THE STAR PANELS/BANNERS:

I love the song "Star-Child" - it has such visual appeal. You may create banners or panels using wood or foam-core display boards. These boards are generally sold in office supply or art stores and come in a package of three. You will need five panels, each representing a verse of the song "Star-Child". [Panels 1 & 2 are placed at the left of the Worship Center. Panels 3 & 4 are placed at the right of the worship center. Panel 5 is placed behind the worship center, high enough so that the Christ Candle doesn’t block the panel]

Panel #1: (verse 1) On the white panel, two-thirds of the way up, place a simple star so that it takes up about half of the space. Radiating from that star toward the bottom of the panel create streaks of light, like beams going downward.

Panel #2 (verse 2) Again with the same placement as the first panel, place a star which appears to be battered, and slightly torn, but still looks like a star. You can tear little pieces from it. But it should be recognizable to the congregation as a star and not as a piece of ruined paper.

Panel #3 (verse 3) Again with the same placement as the first two panels, place a star from which tears are flowing down. Make the tear symbols large enough to be seen at a distance. Remember the further back the congregation is, the larger the objects need to be.

Panel #4 (verse 4) Again with the same placement as the first three panels, place a star which is outlined in sparkling gold, with sparkling gold beams cascading downward from the star.

Panel #5 (verse 5) The Star in this panel should be placed higher up on the board. The lower third of the board should contain a manger with child, there should be a halo or nimbus around the head of the Christ Child. {refer to books on symbols or children’s art for this manger symbol). The Star should be radiant all in sparkling gold and the beams should be sparkling gold as they cascade downward.

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