ChristmasEveA.24.12.2019

Revd Rex A E Hunt
eMail: rexae74@gmail.com  OR  rexae@optusnet.com.au
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The Other Lectionary - a suggested ‘southern hemisphere’ Lectionary (with a few Resources added) offered in parallel to,
or even replacement of, the RCL which is in standard use by many.

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


A GATHERING LITURGY FOR THE
CELEBRATION OF LIFE
24 December 2019. Christmas Eve. (White).
Celebrating Community in the Tradition of the Meal


Worth Pondering
“The God of Christmas is no ethereal form, no mere spiritual essence, 
but a very human child, feeling the cold and the roughness of the straw, 
needing to be warmed and fed and cherished”
(Clement A. Miles)

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 of the (NN) Nation, past, present, and emerging leaders,
and their stewardship of this land throughout the ages.

First Peoples Statement to the Nation 2017 called “Uluru Statement from the Heart” HERE
A Response from Common Dreams5 Conference of Religious Progressives,
Australia/South Pacific 2019 HERE

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


GATHERING

Rich and Striking Visuals
          “The function of beauty… is to make us aware of a reality which is richer and deeper
          and more marvellous than anything we can dream or conceive.” (Henry N. Wieman)
          Artwork OR Floral/Symbols display (cloths, candles, stones, wood, leaves, flowers, earth, water) OR projection of Film/Slides 

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
If in parts of Northern Hemisphere:

Out in the Night  (Tune: ‘O Holy Night’)
Out in the night, with myri’d stars above me,
I walk alone on a pathway of snow,
Trees bending low, their sparkling branches laden,
and all is bright ‘neath the moon’s tender glow.
And hidden deep the promise of the springtime
with summer’s warmth to follow in its time.
Myst’ry it is – this rolling of the seasons.
I stand here in awe – at the wonder of this world.
I stand in awe – at life, this life sublime.  (R Scott Kearns)

OR

"A Christmas Carol". (From the 15th Century).
Solo sung by (NN)

Christmas Eve…
Irish people has an age-old custom of lighting a candle in every window of the house on Christmas Eve and on Christmas night.
This gesture symbolises a welcome for the Holy Family. It also symbolises a welcome for any displaced stranger

v2  May the warmth of these candles radiate
A ray of hope
A spark of joy
A glow of love
To all Earth’s inhabitants
Who are lonely, in pain, grieving, or homeless this night…
(Silence)

v1  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

Note: (i) A suggested process for introducing new hymns, called Hymn of the Month, can be found HERE
(ii) Additional Special Purpose Hymns that cover major international events or themes can be found HERE  They include these categories: 1. Bush (Brush) Fire, 2. Tsunami, Storms/Cyclones, 3. Earthquakes, 4. War/Remembrance, 5. Caregiving, 6. God as Mother, 7. Human Trafficking, 8. Disabled, 9. Migration/Refugees, 10. Terrorist Attacks, 11. Science/Cosmology
(iii) PLUS some specific resources on Terrorism 
HERE

Hymn/Song  The people stand as they are able, to sing
"All Who Tell the Gospel Story” (Tune: “Angels From the Realms of Glory”)              26 FSSC
All who tell the gospel story,
All who join the pilgrim search,
All who sing creation’s glory,
Welcome now the Savior’s birth.
Refrain:
Come and worship, come and worship,
Let new praises fill the Earth!

Sages, leave your contemplation;
Let the still, small voice be heard,
Speaking peace among the nations;
Can you hear the wondrous word?
Refrain:

Lo, there comes a shepherd gath’ring
Least and lost unto the fold.
Can you hear the trumpet calling,
As it did in days of old?
Refrain:

To the weary comes refreshment;
To the grieving, strength and peace;
To the anxious, sweet contentment;
To the captive soul, release.   (Genia Pauli Haddon)
 Refrain:

OR

If not used during Advent
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)                                            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

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..."
Solo sung by (NN)

OR

If in Northern Hemisphere Winter:
Out in the Night  (Tune: ‘O Holy Night’)
Solo sung by (NN)

Out in the night, with myri’d stars above me,
I walk alone on a pathway of snow,
Trees bending low, their sparkling branches laden,
and all is bright ‘neath the moon’s tender glow.
And hidden deep the promise of the springtime
with summer’s warmth to follow in its time.
Myst’ry it is – this rolling of the seasons.
I stand here in awe – at the wonder of this world.
I stand in awe – at life, this life sublime.  (R Scott Kearns)

EXPLORING

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:
“At Christmas”
By Kate McKenna (This edition has been Adapted. Originally written by a Unitarian in UK)

It is said a story can carry a truth far greater than the literal truth.
Progressives know the value of stories. 
We know they carry truth. 
We know they carry more truth than just the plain truth ever can.

Maybe we can’t believe a virgin gave birth to the son of God: 
but we can believe that all births are miracles, 
worthy of celebration and wonder.

Maybe we can’t believe angels brought revelations: 
but we can believe truth can be revealed through the actions and words 
of those who dare to speak it and to act it.

Maybe we can’t believe the angels sang to shepherds: 
but we can believe that those revelations about life can come to and through 
even those we think are the most humble.

Maybe we can’t believe the wise men travelled to see the newborn baby king: 
but we can believe that we should never be too lofty 
or think ourselves too clever or too rich 
to see the wonder and majesty in tiny things.

Maybe we can’t believe that Jesus brought back the light by redeeming our sins: 
but we can believe in a leader and teacher and prophet 
who brought and brings illumination to the lives of those who wish to listen.
We can believe in the light. 
Always, we can believe in the light.

Maybe we can’t believe the literal Christmas story: 
but we can believe *in* it as a story 
which points to a truth greater than we can possibly imagine.

And so we are here. 
At Christmas. 
Celebrating.

And long may we do so.

OR

"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