First Presbyterian Church
27 N. Main Street, P.O. Box 568, Honeoye Falls, NY 14472
Order of Divine Worship
Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service
Sunday, December 24, 2017 – 9:00 p.m.
You are the light of the world. You are the body of Christ.
Greeting: Assisting Elder: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Musical Call to Worship
Introit “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Hymnal 121, Verse 1
Call to Worship from Isaiah 9:2-7
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy
For to us child is born,
For unto us a son is given!
*Hymn #133 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we gather around the Advent wreath today, we rejoice that Christmas is a time of prayer and of open hearts when we sing songs of joy. Christmas is a time of worship— the moment when the busiest of us pause in wonder. Christmas happens when God comes to us in love through Jesus Christ and fills us with love for all humankind.
Reading of Scripture Matthew 5:14-16
14“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Lighting of the Candle
We light this first candle to proclaim the coming of hope of God into the world. Because of Christ we not only have hope, but we believe that good is stronger than evil. God wants us to work for good in this world.
We light this second candle to proclaim the coming of the peace of God into the world, for Christ is called the “Prince of Peace.” The presence of Christ with us gives us peace day by day.
We light this third candle to proclaim the coming of the joy of God into the world. With the coming of this light there is joy, joy that is ours not only at Christmas but always.
We light this fourth candle to proclaim the coming of the love of God into the world. With the coming of this light there is love. Such great love helps us to love God and one another.
We light this, the center candle, for Jesus Christ is the greatest gift who makes all these other gifts possible. So, we light the Christ candle now, as we think about what Christ’s coming means to each one of us.
Great God, as you came at night when all was still, so enter our lives this night. Illumine our paths with the light of Christ’s presence, that we may clearly see the way before us, the truth to speak, and the life to live for him, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The Story of Christmas Luke 1:26-33, 38
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Prayers of Confession Rom. 5:8; Heb. 4:16
The proof of God’s amazing love is this: While we were strangers Christ died for us. Because we have faith in him, we dare to approach God with confidence. In faith and penitence, let us confess our failings before God and one another…
God of the future, you are coming in power to bring all nations under your rule. We confess that we have not expected your kingdom, for we live casual lives, ignoring your promised judgment. We accept lies as truth, exploit neighbors, abuse the earth, and refuse your justice and peace. In your mercy, forgive us. Grant us wisdom to welcome your way, and to seek things that will endure when Christ comes to judge the world. Amen.
Assurance of Grace John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
People of God, hear the good news:
In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven. Thanks be to God.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, World without end, Amen, Amen!
The Story of Christmas Isaiah 7:14, 9:1, 50-56
God is with us and, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. For there is a child born for us, a son is given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
*Hymn 113 “Angels We Have Heard on High”
The Story of Christmas Luke 2:1-8
1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph 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. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And 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.
Prayers for Others and for Ourselves
Holy, holy, holy, the night’s silence is split by the choir of heaven, celestial chorus singing “Gloria! Peace on earth!” We raise our weaker voices in praise, we bow before you in awe, we tiptoe to your cradle-side with humility, we offer our prayers drawn by the sweetness of your infant smile. Our hearts soar, our eyes look for your star, our lives are refreshed and renewed by letting you be born anew in our hearts, Joy to the world begins here with us!
For all its nostalgic idealism, Lord, we know that this Christmas season actually causes a twinge of heartache for most of us. This time of year brings to our thoughts those who have left us, who have moved, who have grown up, who have needed to relocate, who have gone to some form of institutional home, who are far off, and above all, those who have left us and passed into your eternal presence. The smell of Christmas baking may lead us to miss grandmothers, the smell of snowflakes dampening wool and pine trees reminds us of grandfathers, the scent of candle wax tonight reminds us of loved ones and neighbors who no longer share the sanctuary with us. And, as we depart from this place, may the light kindled in our hearts by the little candles in our hands spread from us to our neighbors, until the community is filled with the glow of your gospel.
We pray for those, like Mary and Joseph, are far from their homes and loved ones, those in military service or on business which keeps them away, those hindered by circumstances, those delayed in travelling, and above all, for those have left homes to escape unhealthy and unloving situations. May those who have fled families find, somewhere, this night, someone who will take them in and minister to the hurt in their hearts and make room for them in their hearts.
Fill this world, Lord with your presence, that hurting, sorrowing, hard-pressed souls the globe will be soothed by your birth. Grant, through us and other compassionate hands, that the hungry will be fed, the lonely visited, the impoverished lifted up, the victims of injustice vindicated, the imprisoned conscience released, the war-torn place made peaceful, the refugee and migrant welcomed, the children protected and taught, the unlovely and hard to love loved and that we will be busy about the work of your church. Be with every good work undertaken in your name, and fill every room where your followers celebrate your birth with your Holy Spirit, power, grace, light, and hope.
Be with us, Infant Savior, as we resolve to open our hearts, minds, and souls to your birth. Give us what we need, not just what we want, and help us to celebrate your presence in spirit and truth, in hope and joy, in thought, word, and deed. Let the Christmas light we share in this sanctuary be your light shining in the darkness all year long, as we take it out with us on this silent, holy night, praying in the name of the infant lowly, infant holy, saying together…
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen.
Anthem “One Candle” Beck
The Story of Christmas Luke 2:9-14
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!”
*Hymn 119 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Meditation Rev. David Ashby
So what makes an ancient story about a baby being born in an obscure corner of an out-of-the-way city on the far outskirts of the Roman Empire in one of the least interesting periods of civilization at all important to us, situated in Honeoye Falls NY seventeen years into the 21st century? Because the story is still being told!
Lots of stories about important people being born have cropped up throughout history, but this one about Jesus, wrapped in swaddling and laid in a manger, heralded by heaven, and adored by shepherds, is the one still widely told today. And most importantly, the story is not just told as an historical remembrance, as some ancient mythology, or even as some ancient history. The story of the birth in Bethlehem of Jesus of Nazareth refuses to stay in the past. No, the birth we celebrate tonight is not just a “once upon a time” tale but a “for all times” truth. That shining story is ongoing and is still being written, as it were, in the lives of Christians and congregations tonight, and it will keep going tomorrow morning… and every morning after that! The biggest proof for the Christmas story is not in whatever the theologians teach, the historians research, the ministers preach, the scientists theorize, or the cable channel documentaries explore. No, the proof of the Gospel of Christ’s birth is really not in anything that looks backward on the events of 3 B.C.E. or so in the back corner stable of a backwater town in the far outskirts of a small province in a long-gone empire. No, the proof of the gospel is in the lives and outlook and actions and confidence of the people who call the Christ Child their savior now. If you want “proof” of Christmas, look at Christians today. If it was just an historical event, you wouldn’t have countless generations in countless worship locations from St. Peter’s Basilica to a hidden Chinese house-church, from an inner city storefront to a white-framed New England church to a wide-spreading tree in Africa under which a congregation sings and prays. If it was just a story, you wouldn’t be sitting right now in the middle of a bunch of people from 101 down to infancy, a bunch of people who have faced all the problems of human life— from hardship and tragedy to soaring joy and hope– and have felt the presence of the living Christ in their hearts. Those little candles we love to light on Christmas Eve are beautiful, but not really very important in and of themselves. The whole point is that through two thousand plus years, Christians have endured to pass the light of Christ from one hand to another, from one candle to another, from one heart to another. That’s pretty remarkable! That unbroken chain of human compassion and community and care and confidence is the really real proof of Christmas’ power. It’s not the calendar. It’s not the pretty story. It’s not the glorious music. It’s not the church. It’s the people who cherish and live Christ that “makes” Christmas.
The light of Christ can burst into your life, too. This assurance and hope can be yours. Tonight. For real! You too can synch your life up with the cosmic love of God in Christ Jesus. You can start to have a changed relationship with others, with the world, with yourself, with God. Really. Simply have a little conversation with God while you are holding the little candle in a few minutes; tell God how you feel, that you want to feel Christ’s presence in your life, that you will try to live a life befitting a follower of Christ, and pray that, over time, you will learn and live and grow in faith. That’s all the first step is, really. You can do that tonight. (You actually can do that without anyone else really knowing!) You can do it for the first time as a new believer or the fiftieth time as a longtime disciple, letting Jesus be born anew in your soul tonight. The follow-through, of course, is the harder part: living a life of faith, living in God’s light despite the darkness of the world. But that’s the gift of becoming part of the family of faith, the family that helps you grow in spirit and service. Devote yourself to Christ tonight.
One of the interesting things about the first Christmas is how nobody is alone. Everyone belongs. Everyone belongs to a group. Nobody is out there alone. There is the group of shepherds, watching their flocks together, huddled together for warmth, huddled together for safety as they try to figure out what that whole heavenly display is about, walking together toward the stable. That heavenly chorus is a group, too. The magi come as a trio (and probably had a whole entourage). The town is filled with people. Unlike so much of life these days, no one is stuck out there by themselves. That’s one of the important pieces of the story that continues in the church, too. We find comfort, support, a group, a family even, in the church, where no one is left out in the cold alone; you are always welcome in the church. And your church family is around you now, will be here tomorrow morning, and will be there for you every day you need it.
So what makes an ancient story about a baby being born in an obscure corner of an out-of-the-way city on the far outskirts of the Roman Empire in one of the least interesting periods of civilization at all important to us, situated in Honeoye Falls NY seventeen years into the 21st century? Because the story is still being told! We’re telling it! It’s our story! We are the people in darkness who have seen a great light! We are the recipients of the world’s best gift: the love of God incarnate! We are the world Jesus came to save. May the glad tidings of Christ’s birth bless you and help you find new life, peace, and hope in Christ Jesus tonight… and for the rest of your life… and forever after! Amen!
*Hymn 134 “Joy to the World”
Presentation of Our Gifts and Offerings
Offertory “O Holy Night”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
*Prayer of Dedication
All: O God, most merciful and gracious, of whose bounty we have all received, accept, we pray, this offering of your people. Remember in your love those who have brought it and those for whom it is given; and so follow it with your blessing that it may promote peace and goodwill among all people and advance the realm of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Story of Christmas John 1:1-5, 14 Jen Bianchi
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Christ was with God in the beginning. Through the Christ all things came to be, not one thing had its beginning but through the Christ. All that came to be had life in the Christ and that life was the light of all people, a light that darkness could not overpower. The Word was made flesh, lived among us and we saw the glory of the Word, the glory that belongs to the Christ as the only Child of God, our Creator, full of grace and truth.
Invitation to the Lord’s Table
One: This is the joyful feast of the people of God. Men and women, youth and children, come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and gather about Christ’s table.
This table is for all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people.
The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, eternal God our Creator.
You formed us in your image to love and serve you, but we forgot your promises and abandoned your commandments. In your mercy, you did not reject us but still claimed us as your own. You spoke through prophets calling us to turn from our willful ways to new obedience and righteousness.
You are holy, O God of majesty, and blessed is Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. You sent him into this world to satisfy the longings of your people for a Savior, to bring freedom to the captives of sin, and to establish justice for the oppressed. He came among us as one of us, taking the lot of the poor, sharing human suffering. We rejoice that in his death and rising again, you set before us the sure promise of new life, the certain hope of a heavenly home where we will sit at table with Christ our host. Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these your gifts of bread and cup, that the bread we break and the cup we bless may be the communion of the body and blood of Christ.
By your Spirit make us one with Christ, that we may be one with all who share this feast, united in ministry in every place. As this bread is Christ’s body for us, send us out to be the body of Christ in the world. Keep us faithful in your service until Christ comes in final victory, and we shall feast with all your saints in the joy of your eternal realm. Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours, almighty God, now and forever. Amen.
Words of Institution
We remember that on the night of betrayal and desertion, and on the eve of death, Jesus gathered the disci-ples for the feast of Passover.
Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks as we have done in his name, broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying: “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Therefore we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Sharing the Bread and Cup
Jesus said: “I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
“This is my body, broken for you. Take, eat, all of you.”
Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches.
Cut off from me, you can do nothing. Abide in me and so bear fruit.”
“This is the new covenant in my blood; do this in remembrance of me.”
The gifts of God for the people of God.
Music during Communion Keena Wildman
Prayer after Communion (in unison)
Loving God, through your goodness we have this bread and cup to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. May we know your presence in the sharing of this bread, so that we may know your touch in all bread, in all matter. We celebrate the life that Jesus has shared among his people through the centuries and shares with us now. Made one in Christ and one with each other, we offer these gifts and with them ourselves, a single, holy living sacrifice. Amen.
The Christmas Story Matthew 2:1-3, 7-12
After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Herod, some magi came to Jerusalem from the East. “Where is the infant King of the Jews”” they asked. “We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.”
Herod asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. “Go and find out all about the child,” he said, “and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and pay him homage.”
Having listened to what the King had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising.; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and falling to their knees they paid homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Darkening the Sanctuary (Only the Christ candle and the candle stands will remain lit)
Passing the Light of Christ
Christ, the light of the world, gives each one of us light,
so that we too may shine with gratitude, hope, and love.
Receive the light that comes to you: It comes from the Christ candle,
but it reaches you only through your neighbors.
Receive the light from a sister or brother in Christ.
Hold the light, enjoy the light, and be thankful.
Hymn “Silent Night”
Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright,
’Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar. Heavenly hosts sing, “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.”
Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light
radiant beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord at thy birth.
Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing “Alleluiahs” to our King;
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.
*Charge and Benediction
Go out into the world in peace, live in the light of the Prince of Peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the suffering; honor everyone; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The grace of our newborn Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all this night, this week, and forevermore. Amen.