The last Sunday of 2020. For the worship service we dove into the video archives, and came out with some joyous treasures. The bell choir from 2017, and the candle-lighting and Impromptu Nativity Play from 2018.
Below is the text for the scripture readings and prayers.
Dedication of our offerings:
We have so much for which to be grateful, even now.
Most of us are safe and warm in our homes.
We have food enough, and clean, safe water to drink.
We are blessed, and we share from our blessings to make a difference for others.
We give of our time, our money, our creativity.
We offer leadership, compassion, and sometimes, hard work.
Sometimes we give less than we could.
Sometimes we give more than we can afford.
Sometimes we doubt that what we are able to do,
could ever make a difference.
But it does. We do, with your help God.
Our giving makes us different, for the giving.
Our giving makes the world different.
We ask God to bless it all. Amen
Luke 2:1-20 (The Inclusive Bible)
In those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole Roman world. This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All the people were instructed to go back to the towns of their birth to register. And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to “the city of David”—Bethlehem, in Judea, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David; he went to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her delivery. She gave birth to her firstborn, a son; she put him in a simple cloth wrapped like a receiving blanket, and laid him in a feeding trough for cattle, because there was no room for them at the inn.
There were shepherds in the area living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. The angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them; they were very much afraid. The angel said to them, “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in David’s city, a savior—the Messiah—has been born to you. Let this be a sign to you: you’ll find an infant wrapped in a simple cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in high heaven! And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see this event that God has made known to us.”
They hurried and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; once they saw this, they reported what they had been told concerning the child. All who heard about it were astonished at the report given by the shepherds.
Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart. The shepherds went away glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.
Matthew 2:1-12 (The Inclusive Bible)
After Jesus’ birth—which happened in Bethlehem of Judea, during the reign of Herod—astrologers from the East arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the newborn ruler of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay homage.”
At this news Herod became greatly disturbed, as did all of Jerusalem. Summoning all the chief priests and religious scholars of the people, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they informed him. “Here is what the prophet has written:
‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
since from you will come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Herod called the astrologers aside and found out from them the exact time of the star’s appearance. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, after having instructed them, “Go and get detailed information about the child. When you have found him, report back to me—so that I may go and offer homage, too.”
After their audience with the ruler, they set out. The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child lay. They were overjoyed at seeing the star and, upon entering the house, found the child with Mary, his mother.
They prostrated themselves and paid homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their own country by another route.
The Christmas Play (from Dec 23, 2018)
Gracious God, we pray this day
for all who make the spiritual journey to Bethlehem- for those who are seeking
God’s presence and peace in their lives.
We pray for all who are poor and cold
and hungry like the shepherds,
that they may hear good news.
We pray for all who are wandering and searching like the magi,
that they may find the place to leave their gifts
and their burdens.
We pray for all who are busy, hurried,
preoccupied like the innkeeper,
that they may know the peace
that comes from genuine acts of hospitality.
We pray for all like Herod who have power,
that they may use it with good will.
We pray for ourselves—we who need comfort, peace and joy,
even in this starlit season,
and all the days of our lives.
We pray for those places in the world, and in the lives of people around us,
in which peace and joy are deeply needed.
We pray for those who are ill, for those who feel alone, for those who are grieving, and for those who feel lost. We pray for those who are travelling.
We offer all of our spoken prayers, and the unspoken prayers of our hearts, in Jesus’ name. Amen
The Lord’s Prayer: (together)
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory
forever and ever. Amen
Blessing and Commissioning
Hope, Peace, Joy and Love come to us as spiritual blessings,
and bring with them the capacity to endure,
even when life is disappointing, feels difficult, and is at times overwhelming.
We pray for the blessings of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, for ourselves,
for those we will encounter as we leave this time of worship, and for our world.
We pray for the blessing of God the Creator, God the Spirit, and the God we meet in Jesus. Amen