Watchnight Service, 24 December 2021

Christmas Eve, Watchnight

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

Watch the service on YouTube: https://youtu.be/maPVaM2MSSI

Hymn           294 On Christmas Night all Christians sing  

Prayer

Gracious God

On any other night most of us would be asleep at this hour

 or if we were out, we wouldn’t be in church

But this night is different

 we have come out in the cold, damp and darkness

 we have come to your house

  to take time to pause and reflect

  on the wonder, the mystery, the amazing Good News

behind our Christmas celebrations

There is so much about that day that we do not know

 because the Gospels only give us the basic details

But we do know that when Jesus was born

 our God, the maker of all that is, or was, or will yet be

 experienced what it is like to be a human being

 experienced our feelings, our fears, our challenges

Maybe as we come here tonight 

 we share many of those feelings, fears and challenges

 but we also carry in our hearts the hope and joy

 that comes from knowing that you came to us in Jesus

 and that he meets us here tonight

  Risen and Glorified

 bringing hope, peace and joy

 to us, and to the whole world

 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 Amen

Reading        John 1: 1-18

Hymn 304 O little town of Bethlehem

Reflection     God’s Christmas Letter

Composing my ‘periodic letters’ to my friends is always a good way of winding up poor old Gabriel. It’s a shame really, he means well, but he is so worried about being neat, tidy and orderly, that he doesn’t let his imagination fly, or indulge his sense of humour (do I hear you ask, ‘Does Gabriel have a sense of humour?) He hates it when I start to drag him into philosophical discussions.

Take my address for the top of this letter: where do I live? Heaven? But I am everywhere present on earth, and in every corner of every universe, and I am outside the boundaries of space too. So we pass on the address. Should I call this my ‘Annual letter’ and refer to ‘over the past year’? Gabriel doesn’t mind, so long as the copies are filed in correct date order, and the file is returned to the filing cabinet. But as I like to remind him, before time was, I am, and after time has ceased, I am. A thousand ages in my sight are like the twinkling of an eye – so I am simultaneously composing millions of ‘periodic letters’. However, I have decided that I am going to call this one my ‘Christmas’ letter. I tried the title on Gabriel, but he wasn’t impressed. ‘It’ll never catch on’ he said.

However we define the period since my last letter, it has been a busy one for me. New stars and galaxies being formed, old ones collapsing into black holes, a million million cosmic bodies and a million million life forms to watch over, talk to and listen to. There’s no rest for the righteous! (Now there’s a subject I could take up with some of the life forms).

I must admit, dear creation, that there are times when your quantum behaviour is particularly erratic, when your life forms are being particularly obtuse and awkward, That I could quite cheerfully be rid of you. A holiday would be nice. Silence from your incessant clamour would be wonderful. Not having to put up with and sort out your petty squabbles would be like seeing Eden reborn. But when I watch the sun rise over the sea, or set behind the mountains, it gives me a lump in the throat, just as it did when light burst forth in the Big Bang. When I watch puppies laughing and tumbling at play, when I hear the chuckle of a baby, I feel a tear come to my eye. When I hear the cry of the poor, the hungry, the sick, the grieving, my heart aches. I cannot turn my back on you, I cannot let you go. You and I are bound up together for all eternity.

And so I am sending you my ‘Christmas letter’. I am not writing it on paper, flashing it up in the sky with the aid of computer generated graphics, or relaying it through the wonders of technology still inconceivable to many of you. I am sending you a three-dimensional, animate letter – small, warm, noisy. I am sending you my Son, coming out of eternity into time, coming out of infinity into space, coming out of glory into humiliation, the creator being part of the creation. In him is written my guidance on how you should live. In him is written my warnings of what you should not do. In him is written my encouragement, my comfort, my challenge. In him is written my Christmas message for you and for the millions of millions yet to come – you are mine, and I will never leave you nor let you go.

My blessing be with you, on this and every Christmas, and every moment of every day in between.

With all my love

Hymn           305 In the bleak midwinter

Prayers for others and Lord’s Prayer

Generous, caring Father

Among all the presents given and received this Christmas

 one surpasses all others –

 your gift to us of your Son Jesus

He came because you care about your world

 and two thousand years later you still care

You want all people to share peace and justice

 through your Spirit you always work for change

 you want us to be active in bringing about change too

As we celebrate tonight

 we think of those who are not celebrating:

 those who are ill or in pain, at home or in hospital

 those separated from family and friends

 those who don’t have family or friends

 those grieving a friend or loved one

 those who don’t have somewhere to call home

 those who don’t have enough to eat, access to healthcare,

  access to clean water

 those who long to live in peace and safety

On the night we celebrate Jesus’ birth

 we pray for all children and their parents

 and especially those like Mary and Jesus,

 where circumstances are stacked against them

As we celebrate again this night your great love for us

 make us and all your church

 ready to share the Good News about Jesus

We sum up our prayers in the words Jesus taught us

Hymn 309 Still the night

Lighting the Christmas candle

282     Christmas is coming Chorus – v5 – Chorus

Hymn O come all ye faithful

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…

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