ChristmasEveA.24.12.2016

Revd Rex A E Hunt

International eMail:  rexae74@gmail.com
For continuing access make sure you 'Favourite' or ‘Bookmark’ my web site:
www.rexaehuntprogressive.com


Suggestion: ’Refresh’ each page before reading to make sure to get my latest edition
Details on the availability of my books, supporting progressive religious thought, HERE

And a Liturgy for a Blue Christmas (Eve) is HERE

Worth Remembering this year:
This year the deep connections between the two festivals of Hanukkah and Christmas come together in the calendar.
"T
he first night of Hanukkah coincides with Christmas Eve. Hanukkah begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish lunar month of Kislev.
The 25th of a  lunar “moonth” is the time of any month at which the moon diminishes and then vanishes.
Christmas comes each year on the 25th day of the Western solar month of December.
Since both Kislev and December are timed for early winter, both festivals come close to the day of the winter solstice,
the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere."


LITURGY FOR THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE
24 December 2016. Christmas Eve. (White).

Celebrating Community: Sacrament of the Lord's style of Supper


Jesus.Nativity.Lotto


Acknowledgement of Country/First Peoples
(An act towards reconciliation)

For thousands of years Indigenous people have walked
in this land, on their own country.
Their relationship with the land is at the centre of their lives.

We acknowledge the (NN) People and their stewardship
of this land throughout the ages.


(NN) is a safe place for all people to worship regardless of
race, creed, age, cultural background or sexual orientation


GATHERING

Gathering Music

Silence

Entry into the Celebration
The gong is struck three times

From the east to the west,
flowing towards all people on earth,
comes the gentle light of hope
born in human form.  (Dorothy McRae-McMahon/adapted)
All  Watch and see, the wonder of the gift.

On this Christmas Eve, among friends and strangers,
may we celebrate the richness and diversity of life.

OR

If in the Northern hemisphere:
Gathering Words
In darkness seeds are drawn to germinate, 
flowers prepare to bloom and our dreams unfold.
All  
Darkness is gift.

In darkness, the edges blur.
Boundaries between reality and fantasy,
between friend and stranger become fluid, opening new possibilities.
All  Darkness is gift.

In darkness, when our eyes rest,
our ears become more attentive to the sounds of story,
of lullaby, of wind, of loved ones breathing in the night.
All  Darkness is gift.

In the darkness, we find space for reflection;
for deep, dream filled and refreshing sleep.
We are bidden to journey into the unconscious.
All  Darkness is gift.

In the darkness of the womb, we were formed in great complexity.
Under the cover of darkness, many creatures have their being.
Only in the deepest darkness, can we see the star- studded sky.
All  Darkness is a gift of grace

On this longest night, we celebrate
the many gifts of darkness. (Nancy L. Steeves)

Special Music 1
"A Christmas Carol". (From the 15th Century).
Sung by (NN)

Christmas Eve...
Christmas Eve is a time for candlelight.
It is a time when one desires little more
than family and soft music.

Who can say what passes through our hearts on Christmas Eve?
Strange thoughts.
Undefinable emotions.
Sudden tears.

Christmas Eve is a time to be quietly glad.
It is a time to wonder, to give thanks,
and of quiet awakening to beauty
that still lives on through the strife
of a war-torn world.

But Christmas Eve is also a time for memories and remembering.
For some, the memories are of loved family members
who have died, and the festive season
makes the pain of those losses ever more real.

For others, the memories are of happier times than we know now,
felt as the anguish of broken relationships,
the insecurity around employment,
the anxiety of illness or poor health,
or the emptiness of loss after flood, drought or bushfire.

All these feelings can be with us this night
as we gather in this sacred place.

Here we are safe to feel what we feel:
to acknowledge our sadness,
to share our concern,
to release our anger,
to face our emptiness,
and still to know that God by what ever name or experience,
is made present in the caring thoughts and deeds of others.

So let us  be and share and remember and receive,
assured that we are not alone in our life experiences.

Silence
A brief period of silence is kept

Bowl of Tears
As a symbol of the memories of those loved and lost
we place this bowl of tears in this special place.
A bowl of water is put in place

A Candle Liturgy of Remembering
This first candle we light
is to remember those whom we have loved and lost.
(First candle is lit)

We pause to remember
their name,
their face,
their voice,
the memory that binds them to us in this season.
All  May God's caring love surround them.

This second candle we light is to mend the pain of loss.
The loss of relationships,
the loss of jobs,
the loss of health
the loss of home.
(Second candle is lit.) 

We pause to gather up the pain of the past and offer it to God,
asking that from God's hands
we receive the gift of peace.
All  Refresh, restore, renew us Gracious God,
and lead us into the future.

This third candle we light
is to remember ourselves this Christmas time.
(Third candle is lit.)

We pause and remember the past weeks and months and years:
the disbelief,
the anger,
the down times,
the poignancy of reminiscing,
the hugs and handshakes of family and friends,
all those who stood with us.

We give thanks for all the support we have known.
All  Let us remember that dawn defeats darkness.

This fourth candle we light
is to remember the gift of hope
which the Christmas story can offer us.
(Fourth candle is lit.)

We remember that Creativity God is a companion,
sharing our life,
blessing us,
and filling us with longing and with courage.
All  Let us remember the new possibilities now in the present.

Spirit of God, calm the turmoil in our lives
so that we can hear your still small voice.
The gong is struck again

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
O Come, Light’s Dawning”  (Tune: ‘Veni Emmanuel’)
Traditional Hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, light’s dawning, burn within my soul,
The tinder of my heart you can make whole.
O come, ignite my passion to see
the truth of who I am, who I can be.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
To fear I bid farewell 
that light may come within my heart to dwell.

O come, light’s beauty, come amongst and cheer
our spirits by your radiant presence here.
O come, ignite our passion to see
that we can live in peace and harmony,
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
To anger bid farewell
that light may come within our hearts dwell.

O come, light’s wisdom, be our certain guide
as arrogance and greed we set aside,
O come, ignite our passion to see,
the beauty born in all humanity.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
To privilege bid farewell
that light may come within our hearts to dwell

O come, light’s piercing truth, come and reveal
all that our planet needs from us to heal.
O come, ignite our passion to see
the splendour in Earth’s vast diversity.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!
To darkness bid farewell
that light may come within our hearts to dwell. (© 2012 Gretta Vosper)

OR

"God Molds the Shapes of Life" (Tune:  66 66 88. 469 TiS)    38 TMT
God molds the shapes of life,
drawing the flow of tides,
firing the sunlight's blaze,
glazing the night with pride:
God gives the love which warms and moves
the patterned rhythm life provides.

Ponder the rising sap
changing to leaf's decay;
think of the winter's death
turning to spring's new day,
and in these cycles find the shapes
of all God dreams and all God makes.

Pulse of the veins and lungs,
seasons of human hearts -
patterns that intertwine,
shaping our thought and art;
all these are part of nature's flow -
the life of God we reap and sow.

Sing to the God of change,
chaos, and fine design;
hallow the ordered forms
filled with the life divine.
In God the universe is one
and sings the hymn which God first sung!
  William L Wallace
The people sit after the hymn

OR

Here Before Us” (A song for Christmas)  (Tune: ‘In Dulci Jubilo’)
Our world cries out to be reborn:
a world of pain, all tossed and torn.
Babies born to mothers
scarce old enough to yet conceive,
like Jesus born to Mary,
so young, so fearful, so naive;
he was there before us,
Jesus born that way.

Our world cries out to be reborn:
where power abused is now the norm.
Leaders lead with violence
where life and innocence are slain,
as Herod murdered children
through fear of challenge in his reign;
Christ was there before us,
Jesus lived that day.

Our world of greed must free itself
from worship of material wealth.
Kings brought gifts to Jesus
and laid their treasure at his feet;
but he grew rich in spirit,
in poverty he was complete.
He was there before us,
There to show the Way.

Our world saw light on Christmas Day
when love drew breath amid the hay.
In the Bible pages
full of long-remembered tales,
through metaphor and story
the truth of Christmas still prevails:
Jesus is before us,
here to show the Way.

Jesus is before us,
he is here to stay!   (Chris Avis, Nov 2010) 

Welcome
In your own words

A warm welcome is extended to all.
Especially those who are worshipping at (NN)
during this Christmas season, for the first time
or who have returned after an absence.

Your presence both enriches us and this time of celebration together.
Refer to printed liturgy.
Those visiting, please sign our Visitors book.

Centering Silence
In the safety of this sacred place I invite you now into
a time of gratitude, reflection, renewal and hope.
(Silence)

What an unearned blessing
to witness the unfolding of blossom,
to watch the magpie nurture her young
to feel the warmth of a new spring sunrise…

Each moment a gift that offers energy and delight.

Great possibilities do await us.
The grandeur of life, of which we are a part,
fill us with hope… if we seek to choose it.
(Silence)

Special Music 2
" The Silver Stars..."
Sung by (NN)

Readings from our Religious Tradition
Some readings from our broad religious tradition shall now be read.

Hebrew Scriptures:
Isaiah 9:2, 6  
(Inclusive Text)

The people that walked in darkness has 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.
An heir given to us upon whose shoulder government will rest.
They will name this one:
Wonder-Counselor, Mighty-God,
Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.

The World Around Us:
"Come to Bethlehem"
By Ed Beutner. Season’s Readings/27.

Come to Bethlehem and see:
There is no Baby Jesus (there only used to be.)
The Infant whom you seek
has grown and learned to speak: He is not here.

He did not cling to swaddling clothes
to Angels singing Glory
nor to those who came on camel bringing
kingly trinkets unbecoming children.
He did not cling to titles nor to trifles
- never would he cling to anything –
but rose above the infantile
to childhood entirely.

Perhaps his empty crib is prelude
to the wholeness of your childhood
and maybe crucial to your
fully empty tomb.

Hymn  People remain seated
In Northern hemisphere:
Now Light is Less(Tune: ‘Sursum Corda’, 10 10 10 10)      54 SLT
Now light is less; noon skies are wide and deep;
the ravages of wind and rain are healed
The haze of harvest drifts along the field
until clear eyes put on the look of sleep.

The garden spider weaves a silken pear
to keep inclement weather from its young
Straight from the oak, the gossamer is hung.
At dusk our slow breath thickens on the air.

Lost hues of birds the trees take as their own.
Long since, bronze wheat was gathered into sheaves
The walker trudges ankle deep in leaves;
the feather of the milk-weed fluters down.

The shoots of spring have mellowed with the year.
Buds, long unsealed obscure the narrow lane.
The blood slows trance-like in the altered vein;
our vernal wisdom moves through ripe to sere.  (Theodore Roethke)

OR

In Southern hemisphere
"
Here in the Dryness and Dust (Tune: 310(ii) TiS, ‘Spean’ 11 10 11 10)
Here in the dryness and dust of our climate,
snow is remote as the tale we repeat,
barren the ground in the heat of the outback,
barren the welcome: they wait on the street.

Mary and Joseph stand stunned and disabled,
wonder what shelter they'll find for the night,
here in the colour and warmth of the sunshine
we can imagine the fear of their plight.

Warm is the straw on the floor of the stable,
soft is the sun as it filters through trees,
now it is Christmas we welcome the Christ-child,
all of creation is brought to its knees.

Love is incarnate, the source of all being
cradled by Mary, yes, born on this earth;
looking she loves him, though strained and exhausted,
knowing her child is of infinite worth.
  © Andrew Pratt

Traditional Gospel:
Luke 2:1-14  (Inclusive Text)

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the world to be taken.
This census - the first - took place while Quirinus
was governor of Syria, and everyone
went to their own town to be registered.

So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee
and travelled up to Judea, to the town of David called Bethlehem,
since he was of David's House and line,
in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to a son, her first-born.

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger
because there was no place for them in the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds
who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch
their flocks during the night.

The angel of God appeared to them and the glory of God
shone around them.  They were terrified, but the angel said,
'Do not be afraid.  Listen, I bring you news of great joy,
a joy to be shared by the whole people.
Today in the town of David
a saviour has been born to you who is the Christ.

'And here is a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.'

And suddenly with the angel
there was a great throng of the heavenly host,
praising God and singing,
'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to all who enjoy God's favour'.

Contemporary Exploration
• A Sermon suitable for this day can be found in my book, Against the Stream. Progressive Christianity Between Pulpit and Pew.

Silence for Personal Reflection

A Christmas Litany
People stand as they are able

Blessed are they who find Christmas
in the fragrant eucalypt,
the song of the cicada,
and the soft flicker of candles...
All To them shall come memories of love and happiness.

Blessed are they who find Christmas
in the Christmas star...
All Their lives may ever reflect its light and beauty.

Blessed are they who find Christmas
in the age-old story of a child
born in a stable and laid in a manger...
All To them a little child will always mean
hope and promise in a troubled world.

Blessed are they who find Christmas
in the joy of gifts sent lovingly to others...
All They shall share the gladness and joy
of the shepherds and sages of old.

Blessed are they who find Christmas
in the message of Jesus of Nazareth...
All They shall ever strive to help bring
peace on earth, good will to all
(UUA.Burlington/cc).

Sharing 'The Peace'
God makes peace within us.  Let us claim it.
God makes peace between us.  Let us share it.

Let us greet another as a sign of God's peace.

The peace of God is here... to stay (Iona).
All Thanks be to God.
You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours.

Prayer
We pray, remembering God prays in us...
With another Christmas, we celebrate the gift of life itself
and the gift of every resource that enhances life.

Above all, we are thankful for the life and spirit of Jesus of Nazareth,
for leading us to put our hope and trust
in the spirit of life and love
moving in the depths of our being.

May we too be creators of a better world.
May we find a good purpose and satisfaction in the life that we are given.
May we leave behind us a trail of encouragement and hope.
Amen.

Let us now pray in the spirit of how we understand Jesus
and some early Jesus Movements, may have prayed
in various times, places, and phrases:
All  Father, may your name be holy.
May your rule take place.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Pardon our debts, for we ourselves pardon
everyone in debt to us.
And do not bring us to trial
into a trying situation.
  (Burton Mack/Q)
Amen.

HymnAustralian Carol”  (Tune:  ‘Nettleton’, 87 87D. 392 TiS)
Sun beats down on travelling strangers,
weary from the dusty track.
Pregnant woman, close to labour,
clings hard to a donkey's back.
Anxious husband seeks for shelter,
knowing that the birth is near.
Looks for safety before sundown;
fights to quell his rising fear.

Drained by heat, exhausted Mary
tries to hold her pain at bay.
Joseph, worried by her anguish,
cannot find a place to stay.
Then, at last, someone takes pity,
as the night is falling fast;
chill creeps through the darkened stable
where they find their rest at last.

Through the blood and toil of childbirth,
Mary gives a cry of joy;
drenched in sweat and pale with effort,
welcomes her expected boy.
As the sun, in all its glory,
blazes through the cattle stall,
Jesus cries, to greet the morning;
brings a new hope for us all
.  © Marjorie Dobson
The people sit

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY: SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S STYLE OF SUPPER
Offerings
Our offerings to the Christmas Bowl, and
our gifts of bread and wine, shall now be received.

The Presentation
We rejoice in the new world God is creating around us and with us.
May our gifts proclaim the way of Jesus
and strengthen your faithful people.

Invitation
Friends, on this special night of nights,
we are sharing in a sacred story,
and celebrating community with gifts of bread a wine.
All  
May we come glad to this celebration.

Thanksgiving
On this special night of nights
once again we celebrate a Creative Mystery we name God.
A ‘serendipitous creativity’ beyond our words
and beyond our images.

A creativity which undergirds our human existence
in all its complexity and all its diversity.
All our collected human wisdom is a
visible expression of this Creative Mystery.

On this night God's creativity and presentness was seen as one of us:
a baby needy and naked,
wrapped in a woman's blood,
born into poverty and exile,
to proclaim the good news to the poor,
and to let the broken victims go free.

Like one of us he grew in wisdom as he aged.
He questioned.
He searched for meaning.
He shaped his convictions.
He dreamed of a better humanity.
He experienced love.
He stood firmly in his own religious tradition.  (Michael Morwood/pns.adapted)

Therefore, on this night,
with the woman who gave Jesus birth,
the woman who befriended him and fed him, who argued with him
and reached out to touch him;
the woman who anointed him for death,
the woman who met him in the garden,
(Janet Morley/cw-adapted)
and with all women and men throughout the ages, we say:
All Holy, holy, holy, vulnerable God,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
All
Hosanna in the highest.

Bread and Wine
On this night, we remember what our tradition says:
at the end of a journey, among friends, gathered round a table...

Jesus took bread, said a blessing, broke it and said,
'This is the bread of life, given to sustain the people of the world'.
Bread broken

All Let us share this bread and be strengthened
to bring peace and justice to the world.

Later he poured a cup of wine, said a blessing and said,
'This is the cup of life, given
to sustain the people of the world'. 
(Peter Lawson/jc)
Wine poured out

All Let us share this cup in solidarity with all the peoples of the world,
so peace and justice may prevail everywhere.

Communion
Bread and wine served in small circles around the Table

After Communion
Let us give thanks for this sharing in community.
May it sustains us in our desire to be followers of Jesus
in our own time and place.

Let us acknowledge that partaking of the bread and wine
joins us to a great company of people throughout history
and around the present world.

And let us renew our sense of belonging to this fellowship
as we seek to bring the words and ways of Jesus
into relevant connection with life
as we live and understand it today.
All May true knowledge increase in our minds.
May compassion increase in our hearts.
May there be energy and strength for good actions
that serve a suffering world.

And may peace be our portion
and the portion of all who live on this small planet
which is our human home.
 (Robert V Jones)

Hymn The people stand as they are able, to sing
Star-Child, Earth-Child”    40(ii) (v1-3) COC
Star-Child, earth-Child
go-between of God,
love Child, Christ Child,
heaven's lightning rod,
Refrain:
This year, this year,
let the day arrive,
when Christmas comes
for everyone,
everyone alive!

Street child, beat child
no place left to go,
hurt child, used child,
no one wants to know,
Refrain:

Grown child, old child,
mem'ry full of years,
sad child, lost child, 
story told in tears,
Refrain:

Invitation to Ponder
No one is ever really ready for Christmas.
If we were really all prepared:
if every gift we had contemplated had been obtained;
if every present was beautifully beribboned;
if all the goodies our friends deserve were baked and cooled, and stored just so;
if each and every person we love was gathered for our celebration;
if we never snapped at someone we care about, nor stopped short of being all that we could be…
They truly would be ready - and truly we would not need Christmas quite so much.

So come, Christmas, most needed of seasons.
All  Come Christmas!
Come, Love,
Come, Hope.
Be born in our unready hearts on this silent and holy night.
 MMKilloran/edited

Words of Blessing
May the blessing in the strength of the Brindabellas,
the calm of Lake Burley Griffin
the freshness of gum tree and wild flower
remain with you...

And may God's strength, peace and creativity
go with you always.
All Amen. May it be so.

Hymn (Cont.)  “Star-Child, Earth-Child”   40(ii) (v4-5) COC
Spared child, spoiled child,
having, wanting more,
wise child, faith child
knowing joy in store,
Refrain:

Hope-for-peace Child,
God's stupendous sign,
down-to-earth Child,
star of stars that shine,  (Shirley Erena Murray)
Refrain: 
The people sit after the hymn

Recessional Music


You are invited to keep this copy of the liturgy and take it home with you
to share with another member of your family, or with a friend

I recommend the use of
LicenSing - Copyright cleared music for churches


Some of the Resources used in Shaping this Liturgy:
(COC) Carol our Christmas. A Book of New Zealand Carols. 1996. Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust.
Beutner, E. 2003. 
Season’s Readings. A Festival of Holiday Originals: Pageants, Poems and Parables. Bay View. Slenderbooks.
Inclusive Readings. Year C. 2006. Brisbane. Inclusive Language Project. In private circulation.
Jones, Robert V. 2005. 
Liturgy: The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In private circulation from the author.