December 24, 2023 - Christmas Eve

For the week of December 24-31

If you were not able to worship in person, please fellowship with the Spirit of our Lord as you read in worshipful peace.  This service below was used at 11:00 pm Christmas Eve.

CALL TO WORSHIP: Rejoice, for God is with us — Emmanuel. In the darkness of our world shines God's holy light. Now there is reason to hope, to love, to laugh, to live. God is truly with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God!

Opening hymn #234 O Come, All Ye Faithful

  1. O come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.

Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain: O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him,

O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

  1. True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal, lo, He shuns not the Virgin's womb;

Son of the Father, begotten not created; (Refrain)

  1. Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation; O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!

Glory to God, all glory in the highest; (Refrain)

  1. See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle, leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;

we too will thither bend our joyful footsteps; (Refrain)

  1. Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger, we would embrace Thee with love and awe.

Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly? (Refrain)

  1. Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning, Jesus, to Thee be all glory given.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing: (Refrain)

OPENING PRAYER: Gracious God, With joy and thanksgiving we gather as Your people. We have come to hear again the timeless story of Christ's birth. In the excitement of this night, quiet our hearts that we may know the peace and fullness of this holy time. Shine, O Light, in the darkness of our world. Sing, O angels, in the stillness of our hearts, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those God favors." This we pray in the name of the Child of Bethlehem. Amen.

The Prophecy of the Messiah

The Lighting of the Christ Candle:  If you have an advent wreath at home, light all 5 candles. 

To a people longing for hope and yearning for deliverance, the prophet Isaiah declared,

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined…For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon His shoulders; and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2, 6)

Tonight, we come seeking hope, peace, joy, and love, and we find these things in a child. God made flesh as a baby in a manger. A baby who is both the beginning and the end of our salvation, who dwells with us even now, our Emmanuel, God with us.

We live as people in the in-between who celebrate the arrival of the Light that shines in lost and broken places as we wait for the day when we will live in the fullness of God’s kin-dom.

We light these candles as signs of our shocking hope, our just peace, our fierce joy, the love that transforms us, and Jesus Christ, our wondrous Light. May the Light burning in our hearts guide us, comfort us, protect us, and tend us in all seasons and circumstances, reminding us that day and night, in the light and in the darkness, God is with us. Our salvation has come! Amen.

The Coming of Jesus Is Announced to Mary and Joseph

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; He will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son,
and they shall name Him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife but had no marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son, and he named Him Jesus.

Hymn #221 In the Bleak Midwinter

  1. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
    snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.
  2. Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
    heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
    In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
  3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there, cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
    but His mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.
  4. What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
    if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

The Preparations for the Birth of Jesus

Luke 2:1-5

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

Hymn #230 O Little Town of Bethlehem

  1. 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.
  2. For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
    while mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
    O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
    and praises sing to God the king, and peace to all on earth!
  3. How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given;
    so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
    No ear may hear his coming but in this world of sin,
    where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.
  4. O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
    cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
    We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
    o come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Jesus is Born

Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in bands of cloth and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room.

Hymn #217 Away in a Manger

  1. Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

  1. The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

  1. Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray;

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

Jesus' Birth is Announced to the Shepherds

Luke 2:8-14

Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[c] praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom He favors!”

Hymn #218 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

  1. It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
    from angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold:
    "Peace on the earth, good will to men, from heaven's all-gracious King."
    The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.
  2. Still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled,
    and still their heavenly music floats o'er all the weary world;
    above its sad and lowly plains, they bend on hovering wing,
    and ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.
  3. And ye, beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
    who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
    look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
    O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!
  4. For lo! the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,
    when with the ever-circling years shall come the time foretold
    when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling,
    and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

The Shepherds Find the Baby Jesus

Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them, and Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.

Hymn #220 Angels from the Realms of Glory

  1. Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o'er all the earth;
    ye who sang creation's story now proclaim Messiah's birth:

Refrain: Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn king.

  1. Shepherds, in the field abiding, watching o'er your flocks by night,
    God with us is now residing; yonder shines the infant light: (Refrain)
  2. Sages, leave your contemplations, brighter visions beam afar;
    seek the great Desire of nations; ye have seen His natal star: (Refrain)
  3. Saints, before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear;
    suddenly the Lord, descending, in His temple shall appear: (Refrain)

THE LORD'S PRAYER:  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 sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  And lead us, not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

PRAISE: We are filled with joy for we have heard good news of great joy. We are filled with love for we have tasted the sign of God's great love. We are filled with hope for the angels still sing in our world and there is a Light for us to follow.

Hymn #239 Silent Night

  1. Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright round yon virgin mother and Child.
    Holy Infant, so tender and mild, sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.
  2. Silent night, holy night, shepherds quake at the sight; glories stream from heaven afar,
    heavenly hosts sing Alleluia! Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!
  3. Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light; radiant beams from Thy holy face
    with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.
  4. Silent night, holy night, wondrous star, lend thy light; with the angels let us sing,
    Alleluia to our King; Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Hymn #240 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

  1. Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King,
    peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!"
    Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies;
    with th' angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"
  2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord;
    late in time behold Him come, offspring of a virgin's womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th' incarnate Deity,
    pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"
  3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die,
    born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the new born King!"

Copyright © 2009 Kathie Wilkinson. Published with permission by Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003; Nashville TN 37203-0003. Congregations are encouraged to use and adapt this service for their settings. Please credit Rev. Kathie S Wilkinson/Mt. Sylvan UMC as the source for this service.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.