Call to Worship (Philip Doddridge)
Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes, / The Savior promised long;
Let every heart prepare a room, / And every voice a song.
Glory be to the Creator, and to the Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.
Opening Psalm (Psalm 146)
Praise God! Praise God, O my soul!
I will praise the Holy One as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in rulers, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in Yahweh their God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.
God sets the prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind.
God lifts up those who are bowed down and loves the righteous.
God watches over the strangers and upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked God brings to ruin.
Our God will reign forever, for all generations. Praise God!
Prayer (Charles Wesley)
Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set your people free.
Release us from our fears and our sins.
Let us find our rest in you.
You are hope of all the earth.
You are our dear desire.
You are the joy of every longing heart.
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And 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!”
15 When 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.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Silent and/or Spoken Reflections
Meditation: from Howard Thurman
The symbol of Christmas—what is it? It is the rainbow arched over the roof of the sky when the clouds are heavy with foreboding. It is the cry of life in the newborn babe when, forced from its mother’s nest, it claims its right to live. It is the brooding Presence of the Eternal Spirit making crooked paths straight, rough places smooth, tired hearts refreshed, dead hopes stir with newness of life. It is the promise of tomorrow at the close of every day, the movement of life in defiance of death, and the assurance that love is sturdier than hate, that right is more confident than wrong, that good is more permanent than evil.
Offering Our Prayers
Holy One, you are the joy of our longing hearts. We thank you for all that is good and gracious in our lives. [Offer prayers of gratitude with response: God of life, . . . we give you thanks.]
Holy One, we come to you for release, for rest, for hope. Receive our prayers . . . [Offer prayers of intercession with response: God, in your mercy . . . Hear our prayer.]
Canticle: Luke 1:46-55
My soul magnifies the Holy One,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for you have looked with favor on the lowliness of your servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for you, O Mighty One, have done great things for me,
and holy is your name.
Your mercy is for those who fear you
from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
You have brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
you have filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
You have helped your servant Israel,
in remembrance of your mercy,
according to the promise you made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and Hagar and Sarah and to their descendants forever.
Benediction (Luke 1:78-79)
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.