The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. O come, let us worship. Alleluia
The Birth of our Lord
Readings (Click the links to see the readings)
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (d.1594), Hodie Christus natus est, The Sixteen, dir. Harry Christophers
The "good news of great joy" of which the angels sang is that God is not aloof or remote. In that single word, Immanuel, resides the essence of what Christians believe happened at the birth of Jesus. In a divine descent, God entered our world to embrace and show us pure love. Therefore, regardless of whether we feel God’s presence or not, God is near. We don't climb our way to heaven or to God, but rather God comes down to us, moving among and within us, making our ordinary lives extraordinary by his presence. My own favorite Christmas verse, filled with depth of imagery and beautiful cadence, comes from the deuterocanonical book The Wisdom of Solomon: "When all things lay in peace and silence, and night was in the midst of her swift course, God's Almighty Word leapt down from Heaven, out of His Royal Throne" (18:14–15, KJV). …
The Christmas story is about God’s commitment to us. Christmas is not our show, it is God's. Christmas is a divine initiative, when God establishes a tangible relationship of love which Jesus represents. The secret to understanding the angels' song, and therefore really the secret of Christmas, is that it isn't about giving to God, but rather it is about receiving God most fully into our lives. The only one giving in this story is God. We have only to receive this holy miracle that breaks into the night, even in the darkest nights of our lives. God is the central character of this Christmas story, and therefore in all our stories.
God of joy, we celebrate the birth of your Son! In churches throughout the world, people are gathering. We are glad that we can celebrate together. Yet when we come to pray, we soon remember that there are many who are not able to be joyful this Christmas: survivors from war and disaster, loved ones of those killed by violence and accident, refugees—herded together behind wire, and people sleeping rough, and too many others. Loving God, we ask for your compassion on those who cannot rejoice. Help us to know how to celebrate and how to show mercy.
Dear Lord, how deeply we pray that the nations of the earth would respond to the gospel of peace, the goodwill your angels announced to the shepherds at Bethlehem. We pray for the people of Bethlehem today—help them somehow to find a way to peace.
We pray for the church; may it truly represent the good news of Jesus. As the church worships the Christ-child, by the power of your Spirit give new love where there is dispute, new hope where there is struggle and setback, and new faith in your power and goodness.
Lord Jesus, you were born as a vulnerable child into an ordinary family, to experience the ups and downs of family life. Often, we feel vulnerable at Christmas time. Be with those who find loneliness hard to bear, who experience hurt or disappointment. Be close to those for whom Christmas is a reminder of tragedy or bereavement. We give thanks for the happiness of Christmas, but we ask that you help us when we feel sadness or distress.
Heal, we pray, all who need restoration in body, soul and spirit. As holidays begin, we ask for rest and safety for those who are taking a break and encouragement for those who need to work.
We thank you, Lord, for the angels' proclamation of peace and goodwill to all and for the promise of eternal life. May your kingdom come and your will be done. We thank you in the name of Jesus whose birth we celebrate.