Community of Christ

Worship Resources - 25 December 2016

Worship Suggestions

Christmas Day

Luke 2:1–20

God’s Love Made Visible

Additional Scriptures

Isaiah 9:2–7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11–14, Alma 5:44, Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d–e


Worship Setting

This service includes the potential to create a “live” nativity scene. If this is wanted, a stable with a manger is needed at the front of the sanctuary for use during the Disciples’ Generous Response and the worship elements that follow.


Praise

Prelude of Praise

Carols of Praise (choose two)

“Holy Night, Blessed Night” CCS 410
“Silent Night! Holy Night! (Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!)” CCS 421
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” CCS 423
“Lovely Child, Holy Child” CCS 428

Welcome

Call to Worship

Isaiah 9:2, 6

Song of Joy

“Joy to the World!” CCS 408
OR “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” CCS 416

Invocation

Response

Lighting the Advent Candles

Through the season of Advent, we waited in holy expectation. We lit candles to represent the hope, joy, peace, and love for which we long. Today, we celebrate the coming of Christ among us once more, the fulfillment of our expectation, completing love, peace, joy, and hope in the world.

We light the candles of Advent as a reminder of our preparation for this day. Hope awakens us to a new possibility in the light of God’s vision. Hope carries us through the darkness and strengthens us to live daily in the promises of God. We have lit the candle of hope.

Light the candle of hope.

Joy is the sustained realization of God’s generous movement within the world. Joy refreshes, revives, awakens life. It is the affirmation that we are loved, we have a purpose, and we are not alone. Joy bursts forth into the world like a candle lit in the dark. We have lit the candle of joy.

Light the candle of joy.

Peace reflects wholeness in God’s embrace, both within our hearts and in our world. Peace is born as we seek reconciliation, justice for those who don’t have it, and to reduce the fear and violence which separates people. Peace is a light that comforts amid the darkness. We have lit the  candle of peace.

Light the candle of peace.

Love is both tender affection and resilient compassion, the concern and care extended inward and outward. Love is the heart of God, the heart of Christ’s message, the heart of the Spirit’s call to all disciples. Love is a light calling us home through the darkness.

Light the candle of love.

We come to celebrate the birth of Christ, embodying hope, joy, peace, and  love. We light the Christ candle as an outward sign of our receptivity to the birth of this child. May this candle point us to the Light, which will never be overcome by darkness, Emmanuel, God with us now and always. The light of the One we follow, born to restore us to right relationship. We light the Christ candle here, and within our hearts once more.

Light the Christ candle.

Pause for a moment of silent reflection.

Confession

Counsel to the People

Doctrine and Covenants 164:9d–e

Song of a Repentant Heart

“God Almighty, We Are Waiting” CCS 397
OR “I Wonder as I Wander” CCS 435

Prayer for Peace

Scripture

May the peace of God rest upon you, and upon your houses and lands, and upon your flocks and herds, and all that you possess, according to your faith and good works, from this time forth and forever. —Alma 5:44, adapted

Prayer

You, God, who guide the feet of pilgrims along the paths of peace, guide our steps that we may follow the One born this day, who is the way, the truth, and the life—the Prince of Peace. Amen. —Velma Ruch, Finding Home (Graceland University Press, 2006, ISBN 9780977734108), 39, adapted.

For more ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, can be found on the church’s website as Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.

Disciples’ Generous Response

Christmas Giving: 

“Jesus, Our Brother, Kind and Good,” French Carol, CCS 412

To be read by one or multiple readers while the melody is played softly in the background. As the stanzas are read, assemble the nativity scene on the rostrum, so it is complete by the end of the reading. The nativity scene can be created with live actors or with a sculpted set. Consider projecting pictures of each of the animals mentioned in the song.

Jesus, our brother, kind and good, was humbly born in a stable rude, and the friendly beasts around him stood; Jesus, our brother, kind and good.

“I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown, “I carried his mother up hill and down; I carried his mother to Bethlehem town. I,” said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

“I,” said the cow, all white and red, “I gave him my manger for his bed, I gave him my hay to pillow his head. I,” said the cow, all white and red.

“I,” said the sheep with curly horn, “I gave him my wool for his blanket warm; he wore my coat on Christmas morn. I,” said the sheep with curly horn.

“I,” said the dove from the rafters high, “I cooed him to sleep that he should not cry; we cooed him to sleep, my mate and I. I,” said the dove from the rafters high.

Thus every beast by some good spell, in the stable dark was glad to tell how they gave their gift to Emmanuel; the gift they gave Emmanuel.

All Readers: What gifts do we bring to Emmanuel?

Blessing and Receiving of Mission Tithes

For additional ideas, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.

Proclamation of the Word

Bethlehem: “Joseph, Kind Joseph”

If actors were used above, have them remain in place for this reading, following the stage directions provided. An alternative would be to project pictures of Joseph, Mary, the baby, and the star during the reading. An ensemble or the congregation sings the refrain after each reading.

Male Reader: Joseph, kind Joseph, look down in the manger;
look on this child to be known as your son. 
Care for him tenderly until his Father 
calls him to do what no other has done.

Joseph looks lovingly down into the manger at baby Jesus with a hand on Mary’s shoulder, and the other hand is tenderly patting the baby.

Sung Refrain, CCS 414:

Angels in chorus sing glad hallelujahs;
hills echo back the good news of the birth.
Bethlehem sleeps but all heaven rejoices;
God’s gift of infinite love blesses earth.

Female Reader: Mary, brave Mary, look down at your firstborn;
cradle him close to you now while you may. 
Treasure these moments so they will sustain you 
when he must go to show others the way.

Mary looks down at baby Jesus, picks him up, and cradles him in her arms.

Sung Refrain, CCS 414:

Angels in chorus sing glad hallelujahs;
hills echo back the good news of the birth.
Bethlehem sleeps but all heaven rejoices;
God’s gift of infinite love blesses earth.

Child Reader: Jesus, dear Jesus, look out at the hillside; 
see how the night is made bright by your star. 
Only the faithful will follow its guiding; 
only the wise see the Light that you are.

A child holds a star aloft.

Sung Refrain, CCS 414:

Angels in chorus sing glad hallelujahs;
hills echo back the good news of the birth.
Bethlehem sleeps but all heaven rejoices;
God’s gift of infinite love blesses earth.

—words by Naomi Russell, “Joseph, Kind Joseph” CCS 414

Scripture Reading

Luke 2:1–20

If actors were used, have them continue in position through the reading of this scripture passage, perhaps using motions to highlight the text. While singing the next song, the actors leave the manger setting.

Congregation’s Sung Proclamation

“God’s Love Made Visible!” CCS 411
OR “Angels We Have Heard on High” CCS 427

Christmas Message

Based on Luke 2:1–20

Commitment

Song of Benediction and Sending Forth

“No Obvious Angels” CCS 418
OR “Star-Child” CCS 420
OR “Good Christian Friends, Rejoice” CCS 433

Leader: Will you go to fulfill Christ’s mission, creating a new world where God’s love is visible? Let us help bring Christmas into the here and the now! You have been blessed with this good news. Go! Be a blessing! And all God’s people said:

People: Amen!

Postlude

For today’s sermon helps, see page 25 in Sermon & Class Helps.


Sermon Helps

Christmas Day

25 December

LUKE 2:1–20

Exploring the Scripture

This passage details the unremarkable birth of yet another child into poverty, in an overcrowded village. The parents-to-be are directed by Roman decree to leave their hometown of Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem, the ancestral home of the father, to be officially counted and registered. We assume it was a difficult journey for Mary and Joseph, considering Mary’s pregnancy. But as oppressed people, there was little choice; they were required to comply with the decree.

At a deeper level, one objective of this text is for the readers to make the connection between Joseph’s ancestry in the house and lineage of David (centered in Bethlehem) and the prophesied coming of a Messiah (Micah 5:2). Another objective of the beginning of the story is to help us imagine and understand the unjust political environment in which Mary and Joseph are living.

The humble setting of this story continues as shepherds in their fields are overwhelmed by the angel message. Shepherding was considered the lowliest of professions—a curious choice for those who are to witness the newborn Messiah. Besides Mary and Joseph, the circumstances and social standing of the shepherds are suggestions of God’s upside-down kingdom—“the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).

Within this account, shepherds witness the heavenly event and testify of the importance of what has happened. As witnesses go, shepherds would not have been at the top of the list of those who have credibility or importance. Though all the participants in the Luke text are considered poor and humble, this does not lessen their joy and praise for what God has done. Just like the heavenly host, the shepherds return home, “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (v. 20)—a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. God breaks in on the usual and expected with an incarnational message delivered by socially unacceptable participants.

The name Emmanuel signals “God with us.” While we know Christ came into the world as Savior for everyone, it appears that God chose to live among the humble, ostracized, and poor of that time and place. This foreshadows Jesus’ ministry, as he will also choose to walk with the poor, marginalized, and outcast. In the person of Jesus, God graces the world with a message of hope and favor not tied to birthrights, education, or worldly success. Jesus is “God’s Love Made Visible!” (Iola Brubeck, Community of Christ Sings 411) for all people.

Central Ideas

  1. Mary and Joseph were members of an oppressed people and culture. Shepherds were at the bottom of the social classes.
  2. The birth of Jesus shows God choosing to “dwell with” those who are poor, outcast, and marginalized; Emmanuel means “God with us.”
  3. Jesus came to bring hope for all people. He is God’s love made visible.

Questions to Consider

  1. Identify those who are oppressed and marginalized in today’s world. How does God in Christ speak hope to them?
  2. How is this text an example of God’s upside-down kingdom?
  3. In what ways does this story explain the hymn text: “How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given!” (Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Community of Christ Sings 434)?
  4. Why do you think Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds make powerful participants in the story?
  5. On this Christmas Day, what message can you share with those who are struggling, mourning, and despondent? What is the good news that will cause all to rejoice at the manger?