ChristmasEveB.24.12.2020

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

A GATHERING LITURGY FOR THE
CELEBRATION 
OF CHRISTMAS EVE

“There is a need for the religious traditions… to appreciate that the primary sacred community
is the universe itself, and that every other community
becomes sacred by participation in this primary community.”


24 December 2020. (White).
Including the liturgy for Blue Christmas

A separate Blue Christmas Liturgy can be found HERE

Worth Pondering
“When a baby blushes upon the light, and opens
flickering eyes, it is a question, implicit, unasked,
'Who will I be?'”
(Kenneth Paton)

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, emerging,
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 gather regardless of
race, creed, gender, 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)
          Multi-sensory artwork
OR Floral/Symbols display (cloths, candles, stones, wood, leaves, flowers, earth, water) OR projection of Film/Video

Gathering in Silence

Entry into the Celebration
v1  On this blessed night let us gather at the altar of joy,
for to miss the joy of Christmas is to miss its holiest secret.
v2  Let us enter into the spiritual delights
which are the natural heritage of childlike hearts…
 
The gong is sounded three times followed by silence, then...

v1  Blessed are they who have vision enough
to behold a guiding star in the dark mystery which girdles the earth;
v2  Blessed are they who 
have faith enough
to contemplate a world of peace and justice
in the midst of present wrong and strife;
v3  Blessed are they who have greatness enough
to become as little children
  (Adapt/David Rhys Williams/hcl)

Opening Sentences
As surely as we belong to the universe,
we belong together.
All  We gather here to transcend the isolated self.
To reconnect,
To know ourselves to be at home,
Here on earth, under the stars,
Linked with each other.  (M A Keip)

Let us celebrate the richness and diversity of life!

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) Some specific resources on Terrorism
HERE
(iv) On Wonder, Awe, and Nature HERE

Hymn/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.

Hymn/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 are gathering 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

Wisdom from the Religious Traditions
          “Wisdom is not just special knowledge about something. Wisdom is a way of being, a way of inhabiting the world.
          The beauty of wisdom is harmony, belonging and illumination of thought, action, heart and mind.”
(John O’Donohue)

Reader:  Even as we seek understanding, our minds,
too often, shelter us from the realities we might uncover.
All  
May we have the courage to hear and hold truths
found within these words. 
(Gretta Vosper/ab)

• “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

• “Christmas Eve”
Dennis McCarty.
Thoughts from a Gentle Atheist/171

It is our task
During this season
And at every Christmas,
To make this celebration what we want it to be.
Christmas can be
Loveliness, happiness, singing, and laughter:
Giving and sharing the best we have
And the best we have in ourselves;
But we are the ones
Who must make it so.
May this be a time of rebirth and renewal,
Of happiness and deep joy.
Let there be light and warmth for all,
And let us be the bearers thereof.

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.

• 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