Summary: This is an entire Christmas Eve Service - complete with Christmas carols, candlelighting and communion. The message is a slight alteration of Pat Cook’s message "Christmas Bread" which is also available on SermonCentral.
CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE
Our glorious God, you sent your Son into our world to show us who you are. In Christ we find love, forgiveness, peace and hope; we are grateful for this reflection of you. May we encounter the Christ child in this time of worship, and in doing so, experience more of you, our holy Creator God. We pray in our Savior’s name. Amen.
THE CHRISTMAS STORY IN SCRIPTURE & SONG:
Luke 1:26b-35, 38
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
“Away In A Manger”
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks”
“O Come, All Ye Faithful”
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
“We Three Kings”
Luke 2:21, 39-40
“Joy To The World”
ADVENT CANDLE LIGHTING: Christ Candle
(The first four candles are lit prior to the service.)
Most Holy God, this is the night of all nights!
The great light has come! Deep darkness no longer reigns! Joy beyond measure is here to stay!
Angels illuminated the night sky and sang this glorious news to the shepherds. Then they told the shepherds what sign to look for.
Lord, we need to be told what signs to look for too!
So often our thoughts are dominated by: strained travel schedules, over-indulgent appetites, and the frenzy of decorating and baking, shopping and entertaining.
The mother of our Lord had the right idea. When she heard the report of the shepherds, she pondered what it meant in her heart.
Pray in Unison:
Lord, help us to realize that the pace we maintain in life often erodes our ability to ponder, to reflect.
Restore our ability to pause and reflect. Show us where to look for signs of your grace. Teach us to act upon the faith we have.
(Light the Christ candle.)
MESSAGE: CHRISTMAS BREAD
We know the story of Bethlehem, and what happened there. But, of all the cities, towns and villages in Palestine why did the Lord God choose such an unheard-of hamlet as Bethlehem for the birth of the greatest figure ever to enter into human history? If a site selection committee had been appointed, the name of Bethlehem probably would have never made the list. There are all kinds of important reasons to favor another location.
The city of Hebron, for example, played an important role in the beginning of Hebrew history. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and later David were associated with Hebron.
On the other hand, Jerusalem is an even more logical choice. Six hundred eleven times the city is mentioned in the Old Testament. For centuries, from the day David captured it from the Jebusites to make it his city, Jerusalem was the center of religious and civil life in Israel. The magnificent temple of Solomon was there. The royal palace too. Our site selection committee would be hard pressed to find reasons to deny Jerusalem the privilege of welcoming the new king. But Jerusalem fails to make the cut.
There was always Nazareth, too. This is a logical favorite because it was the home of Mary and Joseph. It offered the most in convenience. Life could go on as usual for Joseph, Mary and Jesus surrounded by relatives and good neighbors. No interruption in the daily flow of activity.
So why Bethlehem? By the ancient Prophet’s own words Bethlehem was “only a small village” (Micah 5:2). For whatever the reasons, Bethlehem never rose to a position of prominence in its entire history. Two events stand out in its history, though. It was here that Israel’s great and ideal king, poet, and hero, King David, was born and grew up. Before that, a most beautiful love story, the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz in the Book of Ruth, took place.
But for the most part, people came and went in Bethlehem with no sense of destiny for many years. This notion of obscurity is captured by a verse from one of the favorite songs sung during the Christmas season…
O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
Bethlehem’s beginning dates back into the dim past of history. It had lain still in a "deep and dreamless sleep" for nearly two thousand years before shepherds came to seek a babe lying in a manger or Magi from the east were led by a star and bowed to the new king. Why wake it now? Well, let’s look at the name itself. Bethlehem is a Hebrew word. The name literally means, “house of bread.” And I think this is significant in 3 ways.