Christmas Eve all age, 24 December 2021

24 December 2021 Christmas Eve all-age

Welcome

Tonight

this is the meeting place

of earth and heaven

this is the stable

in which God keeps his pledge

to meet his people

God has sent his Son among us

Hymn 321 Come and join the celebration

Prayer

God with us

God amongst us

God one of us

For some people, Christmas is only a story

 a tale told to children

 a nice tale, an old tale

 but not a true story, rooted in time and place

For some, Christmas is awkward

 because it is about faith

 and that isn’t something they feel comfortable with

For some, Christmas is irrelevant

 they don’t know the story

 it doesn’t mean anything to them

 they don’t understand the difference between

 God and Santa, angels and fairies

But we are here because we believe it is a true story

 you came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem

 you found for yourself what it is like to be a person like us

You share in our fun and our laughter at Christmas

  but you also want us to respond to you

  open our hearts and lives to you

  follow the teaching and example of Jesus

As we gather this evening

 come close to us

 open our ears to hear the Good News of Jesus

 open our eyes to see the wonder of his birth

 open our hearts to receive him into our lives

          crucified, risen and glorified

Amen

Hymn 300 The Virgin Mary had a baby boy

Reading       Luke 2: 1-14

Hymn 310 See him lying in a bed of straw

The journey of Mary, Joseph and the Donkey

Hymn 312 Away in a manger

The Littlest Camel

When I was young I used to go to the equivalent of this Christmas Eve service at our church. And every year we got the same story, about the Littlest Camel. It came with what was then considered the latest (or next-to-latest) technology – a filmstrip. For those who have never heard of a filmstrip, it was a roll of film with pictures on it which was put onto a projector, and you manually turned a knob to move it on to the next picture, while someone narrated the story. We were impressed with the technology – though as the years went by I think we wanted to get a different story. We are not using a filmstrip today. This is the only camel picture I have * – taken from a bus in Turkey that was overtaking a lorry with a camel on board. Where it was going, and why, I don’t know.

The story of the Littlest Camel apparently comes from Syria – a country where there have been followers of Jesus from the earliest days of the church, but many have now left because of the terrible war that has been going on there for a long time.

The story starts with a line of camels – what we call a ‘caravan of camels’ – trudging slowly over the sand and stones of the desert. Through daytime heat and night-time cold they had plodded slowly and steadily over mountains, through rivers, past towns and villages, lush fields and barren desert – always heading West. The camel-drivers would sometimes look up into the night sky and say ‘There it is’ or ‘No! You’re going the wrong way. Left a bit, left a bit.’ And they trudged on and on.

Some of the bigger, older camels were a bit bossy, ordering the younger ones about, and telling everyone what they should do. There was one little camel that kept being picked on by a particularly grumpy, bossy older one. He was the Littlest Camel, a very little camel, with little legs and little feet. It took him three or four steps to walk one step for the big camels. He got tired, he wanted a little nap. He needed a snack. He kept falling behind. Then the Big Grumpy Camel would shout at him, and be quite rude. The Littlest Camel’s mum would get cross with the Big Grumpy Camel, and say things like, ‘well the men said that I had to come with them on their long journey to carry stuff, and if I had to come, so did my wee one.’ But the Big Grumpy Camel simply snorted and shouted ‘Hurry up. Hurry up’.

One night the men with the camels started shouting excitedly, ’Look! The star is almost overhead!’ It’s shining over that town there.’ Sure enough, ahead of them, down in the valley between the hills, they could see a small town bathed in the light of that special star. As they got closer they could see a few lights flickering in the dark. They could smell wood smoke and food cooking. They could hear voices. The men speeded up. The big camels speeded up. They were going along far too fast for the Littlest Camel to keep up. He fell further and further behind. He called to his mum, he called to the others, to slow down, to wait for him. But they kept going. He was tired. He wanted to stop. But he was also curious to know what the shouting, the excitement in their voices, meant.

So he began running. As fast as his little legs could. He saw them all stop outside a stable in the backyard of an inn, and kneel down. He was going at (Littlest Camel) full speed. He couldn’t stop. He tripped over the camels, he tripped over the camel drivers, he tripped over the important people who had brought special gifts with them, he went head over heels – and landed head-first in a manger full of hay. The others just looked in shock and horror. The Littlest Camel had his eyes tight shut. First he opened one, then he opened the other. Surprise. Shock. He was face-to-face with a baby that gurgled and patted his nose.

Then someone said, ‘Well done. You have made a long, hard journey to come and see my son. From today it will be a camel, the Littlest Camel, who will bring gifts to the children of this land.’ It’s a hot country, so maybe better to have a camel do the work rather than a reindeer. Since we’ll all be asleep (won’t we?) when the presents come, does it really matter who brings them?

Thinking about the presents we hope to get tomorrow, maybe we can take some time to think about people who won’t be getting any presents this Christmas, people who needed help from others to have presents and special Christmas meals because they don’t have a lot of money, people like those in Syria for whom the best Christmas present would be having peace and safety in their country.

Jesus didn’t just come to pat a camel’s nose, or get fancy gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but to show us what a different world it could be, and to help us to make it that kind of world – not just on Christmas Day, but every day.

Hymn 320 Joy to the world

Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer

Loving God

You share in our fun and laughter at Christmas

 but you also share in the other feelings that people have

   tonight

 you care about them, and you want to bring your healing and

   wholeness to them:

those who are lonely

those who are missing friends or loved ones

those who are ill, in hospital or at home

those who are worried about friends or family, work or money

those who don’t have somewhere to call home

those who don’t have enough to eat

those who long to live in peace and safety

we ask that they may know you close to them

 that they may knowing your hand of comfort and healing is

  with them

We ask for your blessing on us, and on all your people

 that we may always be ready to share with others the story of Jesus

Lighting the Christmas candle

Hymn 301 Hark the herald angels sing

Blessing

May the joy of the angels

the humility of the shepherds

and the peace of the Christ-child

be God’s gift to you and all people

and the blessing of God Almighty

 Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

 rest and remain with you,

 today, and every day, and for ever. Amen

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