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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, December 03, 2010

Christmas Eve Service

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
Christmas Eve Celebration



Introit        “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming"                   Choir

Welcome and Setting
Greetings!

Today is Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow, we, along with the rest of the Christian world,
will celebrate the commemoration
of the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is a celebration that touches every aspect
of our religious and secular lives.
It is a time traditionally when families come together,
especially for those families
whose members have scattered across the nation,
or the world.

We celebrate Christmas with lights,
because the arrival of Jesus was a light
that has dispelled the darkness of many lives.
We celebrate with presents,
because Jesus was the supreme gift to us from God.
And we celebrate with love,
because in sending his only begotten son to us,
God demonstrated his unending love for us, his children.

This evening, we’re going to do something a little different.
Rather than talk about Christmas, we’re going on a journey.
Through prayer, scripture and song,
we will travel through the events
surrounding the birth of baby Jesus.
And at the end of this service,
hopefully that journey will become a part of us;
a memory of a time and of a baby
who changed the world forever.

So please return your seat backs and tray tables
to their full, upright, and locked position.
Keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times,
and remain in your seats
until the fasten seat belt sign has been turned off.
We’re number one on the runway,
so flight attendants; please prepare the cabin for takeoff.
The weather is clear and we anticipate a smooth ride. 

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this,
our Journey of Christmas.

Hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Invocation

Lighting of the Advent Candle

Reading:  Mary’s Gift from God  (Luke 1:26-35)

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God,
unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth
to a virgin, espoused to a man whose name
was Joseph of the House of David;
and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And the Angel came in unto her and said,
“Hail, thou virgin, who art highly favored of the Lord.
The Lord is with thee,
for thou art chosen and blessed among women.”

And when she saw the angel,
she was troubled at his saying,
and pondered in her mind
what manner of salutation this should be.

And the angel said unto her,
“Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.
“And behold, thou shalt conceive, and bring forth a son,
and shall call his name Jesus.
“He shall be great, and shall be called
the Son of the Highest;
and the Lord God shall give unto him
the throne of his father David.
“And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever;
and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Then said Mary unto the angel: “How can this be?”

And the angel answered and said unto her,
“Of the Holy Ghost, and the power of the Highest.
Therefore also, that holy child that shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God.”

Hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”

Reading:  The Journey to Bethlehem and the Birth of Christ  (Luke 2: 1-7)

And it came to pass in those days,
that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus,
that all his empire should be taxed.
And all went to be taxed everyone in his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee,
out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem to be taxed,
with Mary his espoused wife, she being great with child.

And so it was that while they were there,
the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son,
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger.

Hymn “Away in a Manger”

Hymn “Silent Night”

Reading:  The Shepherd’s Story (Luke 2: 8-14)

And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flocks by night.

And lo, an Angel of the Lord appeared unto them,
and the glory of the Lord shown ‘round about them;
and they were sore afraid.

But the angel said unto them,
“Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.

“For unto you is born this day in the City of David,
a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

“And this shall be a sign unto you;
he is wrapped in swaddling clothes 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;
and on earth, peace; good will towards men.”

Hymn “While Humble Shepherds”

Hymn “Angels We Have Heard On High

Hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

Reading:  Seeking the Christ Child (Luke 2: 15-21)

And it came to pass, when the angels
were gone away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said one to another,
“Let us now go, even unto Bethlehem,
and see this thing which is come to pass,
which the Lord has made known unto us.”

And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen,
they made known abroad the saying
which was told them concerning this child.

All they who heard it wondered at those things
which were told them by the shepherds;

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all the things
which they had heard and seen,
as they were manifested unto them.

Hymn “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

Hymn “The First Noel”

Reading:  The Journey of the Wise Men and the Magi (Matthew 2: 1-11)

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of Herod the king,
behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.

Saying, “Where is the child that is born,
the Messiah of the Jews?
For we have seen his star in the east,
and have come to worship him.”

When Herod the King had heard these things,
he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests
and scribes of the people together,
he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him,
Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it is written by the prophet.

And thou Bethlehem,in the land of Judea,
art not the least among the princes of Juda;
For out of these shall come a Governor,
that shall rule my people Israel."

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men,
inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said,
“Go and search diligently for the young child;
and when ye have found the child, bring me word again,
that I may come and worship him also.”

When they had heard the king, they departed;
and lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them
until it came and stood over where the young child was.

When they saw the star,
they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary, his mother,
and fell down and worshipped him.
And when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts;
gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Hymn “What Child is This?”

Hymn “We Three Kings”

Offertory

Prayer for the Broken-Hearted

Kind and Loving Father,

It is with joy that we have gathered in this place to celebrate
the miracle of your son's birth.
In this season, we often find ourselves safe
within the loving arms of our family.
We are filled with joy;
Our hearts are lifted;
We are surrounded by love.

But even in this season of joy, we know there are many
who are alone.
There are those whose family has disintegrated
and scattered to the winds.
There are those who have lost loved ones
to accident, disease, or time.
There are those who, for whatever reason,
are completely alone in this world.
And those who must live on the cold streets
For there is no room for them anywhere.

Father, we ask you to bless them;
We ask you to heal their broken hearts
and shattered spirits.
We ask that, where possible, that those who are alone
may find their loved ones
That they would feel the loving arms of family
around them once again.

And also, Father,
Do we ask that you would send us
to cross their path;
That we may live the truth of your Son's words,
That what we do unto the least of these, our brethren,
We do also unto you.

In the name of Jesus,
Our Savior and Master,
Amen

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Santa's Prayer for the Children

Our Father in Heaven,

I kneel before you this day as your humble servant.
It has been my honor to serve you these many years,
sharing the message of unconditional love, generosity, and acceptance,
which is, after all, your blessing to us all.
I have come, not only to share my thanks for this gift,
but also to share my burden.

I have done my best to bring joy to children everywhere.
But as I look around, I see a world
where it is dangerous to be a child.
I see them dying in war.
I see them suffering from hunger and disease in a world of plenty.
I see them on the streets of our cities, lost and alone.
I see them caught between the anger and bitterness of selfish parents.
I see all this around us now
and I worry deeply about what the future will bring.

And yet, when I hold them in my lap and look into their eyes,
I remember that you continue to send them to us.
I have come to realize that this is your message to me
that despite a world overcome with dispair,
you are not discouraged.

We still need love's tender lessons
taught as only innocence can.
For this you have sent us your smallest angels.
And the little children will lead us.

You sent us your son
as a symbol of hope and love.
Every child thus becomes a symbol of hope.
For as we gaze upon these small lives,
who can say what they may become.
Perhaps that brown-haired boy over there may end a war.
Perhaps that curly-haired girl will find a way
to cure diseases and save millions.
Maybe that child in the blue jeans will end starvation.
There is an unknown potential in every child,
waiting for the right combination
of love, support and encouragement to spring forth,
like a beautiful flower.

Father, I worry because I want all these wonderful children
to have the chance to grow up without fear, hunger, or rejection.
I worry because I am only around for just a few weeks every year
and that is never long enough.

So I ask of you with all my heart and all my love
for their protection from the tragedies of an uncaring world.
I pray that their bright, loving spirits would remain untouched.
For they ARE the hope of this world.
And as long as the rest of us can feel their love
and experience their joy,
and take heart in the promise of their lives;
as long as we can remember that the child we once were
still lives deep within us, we will not lose hope.

Thank you Father for sharing these children with us.
They are the greatest of your great blessings to us all.

Your Humble Servant,

Santa Claus

Hymn “Joy to the World"

Reading:  Sending Forth (Isaiah 9: 6)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder;
and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor,
the Mighty God, The Everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.”

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become
the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ,

And He shall reign for ever and ever!

King of Kings, and Lord of Lords!

Hallelujah!



Postlude “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Oratorio “Messiah”
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