ChristmasEveB.24.12.2017

Revd Rex A E Hunt
eMail: rexae@optusnet.com.au  OR  rexae74@gmail.com

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A GATHERING LITURGY FOR THE CELEBRATION
OF CHRISTMAS EVE

24 December 2017. (White).
Including the liturgy for Blue Christmas

A separate Blue Christmas Liturgy can be found HERE


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) and their stewardship
of this land throughout the ages.

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


GATHERING

Gathering in Silence

Entry into the Celebration
v1 Shshshsh!
v2 Shshshsh!
v3 Shshshsh!
Silence

v1 The people
v2 The people
v3 The people
Silence

v1 The people who walked
v2 The people who walked
v3 The people who walked
Silence

v1 The people who walked in darkness
v2 The people who walked in darkness
v3 The people who walked in darkness
Silence

v1 Have seen a great light! (wgwg)
The gong is sounded three times followed by silence, then...

This is not a matter of will or of moralising or of claims that some people
are more special and enlightened than others.

It is a matter of promise and hope and trust.
It is a matter of being in a position to see,
of letting our eyes adjust so that we can see enough light
to take another step… (John Shuck, 12/2011)
Silence

Opening Sentences
Take from life its coals, not its ashes.
Fan the flames of love and justice.
All Join hands and hearts in common endeavour.
And there will be no limit
All to what we can achieve together.  (Laurel S. Sheridan)  

OR

From the corners of this city,
from the confusion of life,
from the loneliness of our hearts
All We gather in the spirit of Creativity God.

To feed our minds,
to fire our imagination,
to free our hearts
All We gather empowered by Creativity God.  (Adapt.Iona Community)

Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life!

Song  People stand as they are able, to sing
"Cloth For The Cradle
(Tune: Scottish traditional)     54 HSNW
Chorus:
Cloth for the cradle, cradle for the child,
The child for our every joy and sorrow;
Find him a shawl that's woven by us all
To welcome the Lord of each tomorrow.

Darkness and light and all that's known by sight,
Silence and echo fading,
Weave into one a welcome for the Son,
Set earth its own maker serenading.

Claimant and queen, wage earners in between,
Trader and travelling preacher,
Weave into one a welcome for the Son,
Whose word brings new life to every creature.

Hungry and poor, the sick and the unsure,
Wealthy, whose needs are stranger,
Weave into one a welcome for the Son,
Leave excess and want beneath the manger.

Wrinkled or fair, carefree or full of care,
Searchers of all the ages,
Weave into one a welcome for the Son,
The Saviour of shepherds and of sages. 
(Bell& Maule)
People sit

Lighting of the Christmas Eve Candles
Christmas Eve is a time for candlelight.
It is a time when one desires nothing more
than family and soft music.

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

All this and more, unbidden, come without reason.
All And we light our candles 
for this is Christmas Eve.
Some Candles are lit

Christmas Eve is not a time to be merry, but quietly glad.
It is the proper time to wish upon a star.
It is the time to watch children
with excited, happy eyes,
troop off to bed to await the miracle of dawn.

It is a time to wonder, of thankfulness 
that life is still being created out of darkness.

It is a time of quiet awakening to beauty
that still lives on through the strife
of a war-torn world.
All And we light our candles 
for this is Christmas Eve.
Some Candles are lit

Christmas Eve is a time of heartbreak,
when those who are not at our side are most missed.

Christmas Eve is a time of blessing
when all the heartbroken world gives thanks
for the quiet beauty of rest.

When one is closest to one's companions
and is not then enemy to any person.
All And we light our candles 
for this is Christmas Eve.
Some Candles are lit

Christmas Eve is a time of memory,
when one remembers past happiness and love
and often sighs for the good that might have been.

Peace on earth.
The story of the first Christmas... so old, and yet so new.

We lose ourselves in legend, and dream of storybook people:
Tiny Tim,
The other Wise One,
Shepherds and angels,
live again in the memory of human hearts.
All And we light our candles for this is Christmas Eve. 
(Adapt.Tracy Pullman/cc)
Some Candles are lit

Act of Awareness
For all that is our life we offer thanks and praise.
For all life is a gift which we are called to use,
to shape the store of common good.

May we know once again that we are not isolated beings
but connected, in mystery and miracle,
to the universe,
to this community, and
to each other.

OR

We pray:
Spirit of truth, whom the world can never grasp,
touch our hearts with the shock of your coming.

Fill us with desire for your disturbing peace
and a longing to speak your compassionate word.
May it be so.

Song  People stand as they are able, to sing
"Carol Our Christmas"    9 AA
Carol our Christmas,
an upside down Christmas;
snow is not falling and
trees are not bare.
Carol the summer, and
welcome the Christ Child,
warm in our sunshine and
sweetness of air.

Sing of the gold and the
green and the sparkle,
water and river and lure
of the beach.
Sing in the happiness
of open spaces,
sing a nativity summer
can reach!

Shepherds and musterers
move over hillsides,
finding, not angels,
but sheep to be shorn;
wise ones make journeys
whatever the season,
searching for signs of the
truth to be born.

Right side up Christmas belongs
to the universe,
made in the moment
a woman gives birth;
hope is the Jesus gift,
love is the offering,
verywhere, anywhere,
here on the earth.  (S
hirley Erena Murray)
People sit

Welcome
May I extend a warm welcome to you all this night...

Those of you who may be here at (NN) for the first time,
and those who have returned
to celebrate this special season
with family or friends.

Your presence both enriches us
and this time of celebration together.
Refer to liturgy and invite participation.

CENTERING

Centering Silence
Let there now be a safe silence among us…
(Silence)

May our silence grow profound
as we are embraced by the spirit
of our highest hopes.
(Silence)

Special Music

EXPLORING

Reading from our broad Religious Tradition
Our Christmas Eve stories come from our broad religious tradition.

From the World Around us:
“Each Night a Child is Born”
Sophia Lyon Fahs. Celebrating Christmas/63

For so the children come
and so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they came -
Born of the seed of man and woman.

No angels herald their beginnings.
No prophets predict their future courses.
No wise men see a star to show where to find
The babe that will save humankind.
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night.

Fathers and mothers -
Sitting beside their children’s cribs -
Feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning.
They ask ‘Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?’

Each night a child is born is a holy night -
A time for singing -
A time for wondering -
A time for worshipping.

OR

"A Giving Time"
By Virginia Becher. Shine On, Star of Bethlehem/41-42.

Advent is a twinkling time
Of stars and candles
Of bright Christmas lioghts in city streets.
Advent is a time of light,
To celebrate the light
That Jesus brought.

Christmas is a giving time
Of presents and cards.
Of mince pies and shared Christmas lunch.
Christ as is a time of gifts
To celebrate the gift
Jesus brought.

This twinkling, giving time
Is full of promise, expectation, hope
As we celebrate the big surprise:
God’s greatest gift – The Christ.
But do we look for new surprises?
Do we look for God
Amonst our gifts and Christmas lights?

OR

If in parts of the Northern hemisphere:
“Winter”
Gretta Vosper.
We All Breathe

Spun into a velvet darkness,
we greet this midwinter night.
Promises of wonder, delight, and hope,
lie waiting for us to capture them
and make them real,
building a world that shimmers with beauty.

Into the moments between
receiving and giving,
may we weave a tapestry of celebration;
and as we cherish the gifts it has to offer,
might the beauty, truth, and goodness
that resides within us all
be illumined with new meaning for each of us.
May the world spin this night into wonder.

As those born into love,
yet ever seeking it,
we offer ourselves to the quest.

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

Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken.
This census - the first - took place while Quirinius 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 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 at the inn.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields,
and took it in turns to watch their flock 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 saying,
'Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to all who enjoy God's favour!'

Contemporary Word
• 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

AFFIRMING

A Christmas Litany (Optional)
In solidarity with those for whom standing is not easy or possible, we will remain seated for the litany...

v1  May this time together lead us to the heart of the season, which is peace.
May we breathe deeply of peace in this safe place,
and let our hearts be open to the evening's story.
Wm  Like the wandering couple, may we find
that our greatest trials issue forth from our greatest joys.
Mn 
Like the harried innkeeper, may we find
ways to be of help to others.
Wm
Like the lumbering beasts, may we be
silent witnesses to the unfathomable glory of life.

Mn  
Like the shepherds on the hill, may we know

that we need never be afraid.
Wm  
Like the journeying wise, may we always
have the courage to follow our stars
.
Mn 
Like the angels, may we cry peace to a troubled world.
(Silence)

v1  May this season of peace and goodwill
All  nudge our world towards its ideals,
for then will Christmas truly dawn. 
(Adapt.Christine Robinson)

Sharing 'The Peace'
Let us take a moment to celebrate each other.
May a heart of peace rest with you. (David Galston/q)
All And also with you.

You are invited to share the peace with your neighbours

Hymn People stand as they are able, to sing
Come Celebrate…(Tune: ‘Gift of Life’, Colin Gibson)    17 HoS
Come celebrate the gift of life:
creation’s journey from the star
whose first great flaring forth of light
responded to God’s word of power.
Enable us, O God, to see
your living word is in us still;
this vibrant possibility
within our human lives fulfil.

Come celebrate the gift of love,
potential in each human soul,
revealed by Jesus as he strove
to heal our world and make us whole.
Enable us, O God, to choose
beyond the inborn needs of self;
in loving, be prepared to lose
our boundaries, and find new life.

Come celebrate the gift of power:
the flow of God within each soul,
which calls us in this present hour
to see creation as a whole.
Enable us, O God, to know
your life is present in all things;
and may our lives, within that flow,
reflect the joy creation sings.  (Margaret Bond)
People sit

Prayers and Silent Reflection
Prayer:
Celebrating God, 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.
(Francis Macnab/h)
Silence

The 'Abba' Prayer:  (Optional)
You are invited to pray in the spirit of the Abba/Lord's Prayer, and in your original language, as that is appropriate

All  Gracious Spirit,
Who loves us like a mother,
Whose realm is blooming among us now.  And within.

We pray that your compassion guide us in every action.
Give us what we need for each day,
and help us to be satisfied with the miracle of that alone.

Forgiver, whose embrace brings us to wholeness without our asking,
May we reconcile ourselves to one another in humility.
And may we cancel the crushing debts that imprison our neighbours
So that communities of joy and health may flourish.

May we neither profit from nor ignore evil.
But ever work to thwart it with non-violence
As we co-create the realm of peace in this world.
Now and each day. 
Amen.  (Bret Hesla/wsj)

CELEBRATING

CELEBRATING COMMUNITY: SACRAMENT OF HOLY COMMUNION
The Offering
Let us present our offerings to the Christmas Bowl
and our gifts of bread and wine.

Presentation
In hope and in thanksgiving
we offer these gifts this night.

Thanksgiving
May it be well with you.
All  
And also with you.
Life is a gift and we its celebration.
All  
May we rejoice in the beauty that we are.  (Gretta Vosper/wwg)

We celebrate a Creative Presentness, a God-here-with-us
beyond our words,
beyond our images,
a reality that grounds and sustains everything that exists.

We sense this Creative Presentness
in the immensity of our universe,
in the incredible display of life-forms on this planet,
and in the development of consciousness in the human species.

All our collected human wisdom
is a visible expression of this Creative Presentness
active for millions of years in human development,
active in all places, at all times, in individuals and cultures,
seeking expression in the betterment of humanity.

We also rejoice in the birth of the sage called Jesus.
In him we see the fullness of human possibility:
to make God visible in our lives.

In him we have seen this Creative Presentness
come to expression in human form.

Like all of us he grew in wisdom as he aged.
He questioned.
He searched for meaning.
He shaped his convictions.
He experienced love and came to know love's connectedness with God.
He stood firmly in his own religious tradition
and preached good news to all people 
dreaming of a better humanity.

We rejoice that his teaching sets us free
from imagining a manipulative, intervening God
and from thinking we are distant from the Creative Presence
in which our very existence is grounded.  (Michael Morwood/pns. Adapt)

We rejoice that Jesus led people
to discover the sacred in the ordinary:
All   in the crowd,
in the lowly,
in everyday life,
in human yearnings to be better people,
and in being neighbour to one another.

Bread and Wine
And so we recall the ancient story...

On the night before he died, according to this tradition,
when he shared a meal with his friends,
Jesus took some bread, and set aside some wine,
honouring the God of faithful presence in the ordinary of life.

He gave thanks for all the blessings in his life.
Broke the bread.
Poured out the wine.
And shared both with his friends.

We break bread as Jesus broke bread...
Break Bread

mindful of the call to love generously and faithfully,
whatever the cost.

We pour out wine...
Pour Wine

mindful of our responsibility
to be bearers of forgiveness,
tolerance, and understanding.
All  To this commitment we give our 'Amen'
and offer it as our Christmas gift
to our family and friends and neighbours.  
(Michael Morwood/pns)

Communion
The Bread and Wine is served

SCATTERING

Hymn People stand as they are able, to sing
How Ancient and Lovely”  (Tune: ‘Away in a Manger’)
How ancient and lovely
this news of a star,
a baby, a mother,
the kings from afar.
Come close now, Lord Jesus,
we ask you to stay
and show us your face in
your people today.

What star shall we follow
but one that leads here
to a baby born homeless
and a family in fear?
What heaven shall we long for
but one that starts there
for all the world’s children
in your tender care?

OR

"As the Sun Beats Down(Tune: 10 7 10 7)     2 (v1-3) FFS
As the sun beats down and the heat invades,
and creation burns and dries;
let us sing to God of a promised hope
in the midst of anxious cries.

As the parching winds relentless blow,
and creation browns away;
let us sing to God, who restores and calms
all foreboding and dismay.

As the feed dies back and the stock decline,
and creation's bones show through;
let us sing to God of the bread of life,
to refresh, restore, renew.

Words of Blessing
And now may the blessings of life be upon us,
and upon this gathered people.

May the memories we gather here give us hope for the future.

May the love that we share
bring strength and joy to our hearts,
and the peace of this community be with us
until we meet again.
All Amen. May it be so.

OR

Birthing God, bringer of joy, hope, love and new beginnings,
keep our imaginations active and our hearts generous.
Help us to meet this Christmas
with deeper appreciation of all that Christmas means.

Keep us mindful that the work of Christmas is never done.
We offer ourselves as Christmas people.
All  Amen. May it be so with us.  (Rosalie 
Sugrue)

Hymn  (Cont) How Ancient and Lovely”  (Tune: ‘Away in a Manger’)
We thank you, Lord Jesus,
for coming to earth;
for the light in the darkness
that shone at your birth,
for life in its fullness
that you promise today,
and the hope of a baby
asleep in the hay.  
(Rebecca Dudley/ssb)

OR

"As the Sun Beats Down"  (Tune: 10 7 10 7)    2 (v4-5) FFS
As the silent birds sing a silent song
in creation's still blue sky;
let us sing to God of the songs of hope,
through a gentle rain's reply.

As the season comes and the season goes,
and we search the skies each day;
let us sing to God of a rainbow faith,
and a promised green display. 
Bill Bennett


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:
(AA) Alleluia Aotearoa. Hymns and Songs for all Churches. Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 1993.
(HSNW) Bell, J. & G. Maule.
Heaven Shall Not Wait. Wild Goose Songs Vol. 1. Revised edition. Glasgow. Wild Goose Publications, 1989.
Duncan, G. (ed). Shine On, Star of Bethlehem. A Worship Resource for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Norwich. The Canterbury Press, 2001.
(FFS) Faith Forever Singing. Songs for a New Day. Raumati. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2000.
(HoS) Hope Is Our Song. New Hymns and Songs from Aotearoa New Zealand. Palmerston North. New Zealand Hymnbook Trust, 2009t.
Inclusive Readings. Year C. Brisbane. Inclusive Language Project. In private circulation, 2003.
Morwood, M.
Praying a New Story