Christmas Eve Worship 2021

The Angel Visits Mary: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 1:26-35

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Joseph’s Dream: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 1:18-24

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And 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.

The Gospel of our Lord.

The Angels and the Shepherds: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 2:8-14

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

The Gospel of our Lord.

The Shepherds Worship Jesus: The Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 2:15-20

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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Wow – just – wow! What a year 2021 has been! Actually – what a couple of years it has been!

We started this year with so much hope. And some of us may have even started the year with a teeny – tiny spark of optimism. We started 2021 thinking this would be the year we finally put the pandemic behind us and waved a cheery good-bye!

But then . . . Well – reality has proven itself to be so much more real! And so much more complicated – hasn’t it?

Seriously – 2021 has certainly been one wild – weird – and not so wonderful – roller coaster ride. So many ups and downs. So many highs and lows. And all of those twists and turns!

Being human in this broken – messed up world has been hard on us.

After all – this year has been filled with a lot of bad news.   News that breaks our hearts and troubles our souls. News we   don’t want to hear anymore. But it just keeps coming and coming anyway!

The pandemic and the variants (so many variants). And wildfires and droughts and floods. Building collapses and ever-increasing violence in our community. School shootings and accidents and now the one of the worst tornado disasters in our state’s history.

And then there is the absolutely bizarre economy. So many open jobs and hiring signs and stores and restaurants with weird hours. And the inflation and supply chain issues. We are all noticing the cost of everything going up and up and up!

And now there are the questions around the Omicron variant.   We may be done with Covid-19 – but it clearly isn’t done with us!

All of this bad news can be absolutely – positively exhausting.

The bad news can quickly become all we think and talk about.   Soon our focus can be on the negative and the bad and the yuck. And on the disappointments and on what is wrong in our lives.

We can get lost in the mire of the bad news. We can become overwhelmed and cynical. And maybe even angry . . .

Until we end up – sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge with his “bahh – humm – bugs” or the Grinch who was so determined to steal Christmas!   And when we do – we miss out on so much joy and beauty and so much that makes life in this world just plain FUN!

I will be honest – Jason and I have been leaning pretty heavily into Will’s Christmas joy this year. Because the littlest McFarland just turned 9 and he knows joyful Christmas expectation! Oh – does our boy know joy! And Will has been bringing the blessed – glorious excitement of the season into our lives like it is his full-time job. Will reminds us daily – hourly (minute-ly) that this season is filled with light and promise and a whole lot of AWESOMENESS!

And then this evening something even better happens than a super-duper excited 3rd grader!

Actually – something absolutely – positively – amazingly – gloriously – miraculously awesome happens this evening.

We hear the best news in the world! This evening the news we hear is awesome and glorious. This news is so extraordinary – it is almost too good to be true.

But IT IS TRUE! It is absolutely – positively – awesomely TRUE! And the news we hear tonight promises to transform our lives for all eternity!

This evening the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy breaks forth into our lives with all of its radiant – glorious promise!

Hear again the angel’s – awesome – life-transforming declaration to the shepherds and to us – “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Do not be afraid. Your Savior has been born. Do not be afraid. Your Savior has come into your world. Do not be afraid. The Messiah is here – with you. Do not be afraid. Our Lord has come to save us from our sinful selves! Do not be afraid. Our Savior has come to transform death into eternal life!

Do Not Be Afraid! This isn’t a command or an order or an obligation. This is an invitation. An invitation to know the best news we will ever hear in our entire lives!

Our Savior has been born!

This year of all years – we all need to remind ourselves – why we celebrate Christmas. We celebrate Christmas – because of one incredibly special baby boy who changed the world forever.

The stars in the sky celebrated – his birth. The angels in heaven rejoiced on his birthday. Humble shepherds shared the great and glorious news of his birth and kings journeyed from afar to meet and worship this baby boy.

His birth has changed the lives of billions of people forever.

Because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is our Lord and our Savior.

Jesus was born so that we might receive the greatest gifts of all – the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life spent with our Lord in heaven.

Jesus came to save us from our sinful – broken – all too human selves.

We celebrate Christmas because Jesus is our Savior. We celebrate because we have all received the gifts of God’s grace – love – and forgiveness.

We celebrate Christmas because Jesus opened the doors of heaven for us all.

Truly this is the Good News – AMEN.

The Coming of the Light: The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 1:1-9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

The Gospel of our Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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