Christmas Eve Service – 12/24/21

Christmas Eve Service – 12/24/21

Welcome to Christmas Eve Worship at the McPherson Church of the Brethren

Friday, December 24, 2021
Gathering Music @ 6:15 p.m. | Worship @ 6:30 p.m.

PLEASE NOTE: Leadership Team requires masks during all worship services.

Gathering Music

Welcome & Instructions
Our theme this Advent has been the word, CHANGE
This Eve, the community of God welcomes the change that is brought by this Holy Night.
This Eve, the community of God speaks & sings in praise for the changes wrought, on this Holy Night.
This Eve, the community of God retells the story of the birth of Jesus –
the event God brought upon us – that CHANGED the World – forever!

Opening Music | “He Is Born” | Patricia Cota
Handbell Ensemble: Kendra Flory, Janelle Flory Schrock, Lindy Reynolds, Deb van Asselt, Grace van Asselt & Kaitlyn van Asselt

Opening Prayer | written by Michael Leunig (adapted)
God, this Christmas Eve, we honor and praise – You – born in human form.
We remember and stand in awe of this radical act of birthing – that changed the world forever.
Help us also to change. To change ourselves and to change our world.
To know the need for it. To deal with the birthing pains of it. To feel the joy of it.
God help us to change.
To begin this journey anew – without being able to yet see the final destination and outcome.
Give us the courage to live into this gentle act of revelation and revolution.
God help us to change – as you changed our world – with the birth of your son Jesus. AMEN

Gathering Song | “O Come all ye Faithful” | #212
Verses 1 & 4, congregation & organ

Mary Scripture | Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a
virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was
Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel
said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will
give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a
child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary Narration | Faith Hill song “A Baby Changes Everything” | Suzee Nash cover
Teenage girl, much too young – Unprepared for what’s to come – A baby changes everything
Not a ring on her hand – All her dreams and all her plans – A baby changes everything

The man she loves she’s never touched – How will she keep his trust? – A baby changes everything
She has to leave, go far away – Heaven knows she cannot stay – A baby changes everything
She can feel it’s coming soon – There’s no place, there’s no room – A baby changes everything
Shepherds all gather ’round – Up above the star shines down – A baby changes everything
Choir of angels sing – Glory to the newborn King – A baby changes everything
My whole life has turned around – I was lost, but now I’m found – A baby changes everything, Hallelujah.

Mary Song | “Be Born in Me (Mary)” | Francesca Battistelli
Carol Ward, vocal; Ellen Gilbert, piano

Everything inside me cries for order. Everything inside me wants to hide.
Is this shadow, an angel or a warrior? If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?

Someone tell me I am only dreaming. Somehow help me see with Heaven’s eyes.
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees. Holy is He, blessed am I.

Be born in me, be born in me.
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me.
I’ll hold you in the beginning. You will hold me in the end.
Every moment in the middle. Make my heart your Bethlehem.
Be born in me.

All this time we’ve waited for the promise. All this time You’ve waited for my arms.
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected so we might know that love would go that far?

I am not brave. I’ll never be. The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.
I’m just a girl, nothing more. I am willing, I am Yours.

Joseph Scripture | Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to
Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because
Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in
mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is
conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name
Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said
through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which
means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and
took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he
gave him the name Jesus.

Joseph Narration | “Jesus Savior” | Chris August and Ian Eskelin (adapted)
Once upon a time
In a town called Nazareth – Lived an ordinary girl –
Mary was her name – And she was engaged – To Joseph the carpenter
Suddenly an angel came and said, “You will have a baby boy – But don’t be afraid God is with you
Just call him Jesus, Savior – Son of God, the King of Kings.”
Jesus, Savior – Precious Lord of everything
Our whole world’s about to change.

Mary was confused – And Joseph was too
He thought, “How could this be? – Cause we’re not married yet
And even if this is some miracle – Why would [God] choose you and me?”

Then in a dream an angel came – Said, “Joseph you should marry Mary
Don’t be afraid, this child’s the very Son of God
He is Jesus, Savior – Son of God, the King of Kings.”
Jesus, Savior – Precious Lord of everything
Our whole world’s about to change.

And it will never be the same – Glory to God, peace on Earth
Jesus, Savior – Son of God, the King of Kings
Our whole world’s about to change – It will never be the same – Our whole world’s about to change.

Joseph Song | “Joseph’s Song | Michael Card
Dan Lichty, vocal; Jean Hendricks, piano

How could it be – this baby in my arms – sleeping now, so peacefully?
The Son of God, the angel said. How could it be?

Lord, I know He’s not my own – not of my flesh, not of my bone.
Still Father, let this baby be – the son of my love

Father show me where I fit – into this plan of yours.
How can a man be father – to the Son of God

Lord, for all my life – I’ve been a simple carpenter.
How can I raise a king? How can I raise a king?

He looks so small – his face and hands so fair – and when He cries
The sun just seems to disappear – and when He laughs it shines again.
How could it be?

Jesus’ Birth Scripture | Luke 2:1-7
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 
(This was the first census that took place while Qui-rin-ius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged
to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Jesus’ Birth Narration | written by Roddy Hamilton (adapted)
gather close –
there is a story to tell – of a child who took love – like a pile of stardust – and offered it saying:
this is for you – it is all you need – it is all you will ever need –
there is enough here – to change the whole world –
take it

many laughed – many mocked – many ignored the invitation –
but some dared to take it –
and those who did – noticed something about this love

as the child grew – loved – healed – taught –
they found – as they grew –
they could also do – what the gift-giver could do

they could stand with the lost – welcome the traveler – eat with the hungry
they found themselves doing what Jesus – did to them – giving something of themselves to others –

they became like Jesus – offering themselves –  as Jesus did

and as they offered themselves – others took the invitation – and many still do –
and many still trust that this gift of stardust love –
is enough to change the whole world

Jesus’ Birth Song | “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly | Elizabeth Alexander
Acappella: Kendra Flory, Janelle Flory Schrock, Becky Snell

Shepherd’s Scripture | Luke 2:8-12 & 15b-18
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An
angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 
10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 15b the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to
Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found
Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning
what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Shepherd’s Narration
How the story of the shepherds changes our view of suffering.
JEFF PEABODY | NOVEMBER 27, 2020 (adapted)

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night – at night.
They were in the dark, both before and after their trip to the manger – there trip – at night
Shepherding is often done at night, in the dark – with eyes never able to focus very far ahead – at night

Darkness isn’t always bad. When we can’t see very well we’re left with sitting and waiting. And listening.
And if we’re still – for any length of time, we are more likely to notice what we would have missed otherwise.
“The shepherds returned,”  “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were
just as they had been told”
After everything they saw, they returned to the place they had started.
In other words, they went back to that dark night.

And yet – Everything had Changed 
All the brilliant, phosphorescent glory that lit up the entire sky did not end their experience of darkness.
It was still there, waiting for them on the far side of the manger.
And that was to be expected.
The angels hadn’t visited the shepherds to bring a miraculous halt to the rotation of the earth. 
They weren’t there to banish the night.
Glory had been displayed for one purpose only: to provide the irresistible prompt to seek out Jesus.
A flash of light showed the way to a greater light. The Greater Light – that changed everything.
The experience of the shepherds can change us. Rather than pray “Lord, when will this darkness be over?”
Our prayers can now be “Lord, show me how the light in the darkness – can change everything.

Shepherds Song | “Angels we have heard on High” | #197
Verses 2 & 4, congregation & organ

Angel’s Scripture | Luke 2:13-14
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host (army of angels) appeared with the angel (archangel), praising
God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Angel’s Narration
How the story of the shepherds changes our view of suffering.
JEFF PEABODY | NOVEMBER 27, 2020 (adapted)

The birth of Jesus happened during the unlit hours of the night. The angelic announcement may have
shattered the gloom with its brightness, but the miraculous arrival of Jesus occurred “while it was still dark”.
Our inability to see in the dark – is not God’s inability.
God is not intimidated by all the unknowns of the dark – that stop us in our tracks.
For us – there is pre-manger darkness and post-manger darkness.

As the prophet Isaiah predicted, a light dawned on the people sitting in that pre-manger darkness.
The birth of Jesus changed everything.
It was the reality of Jesus – not the light of the angels – that stuck with the shepherds.
As glorious as the heavenly choir had looked and sounded out in the field, it paled in comparison to the
staggering truth the Jesus embodied.

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.”

Even as they were filled with wonder, the shepherds were given only the smallest glimpse of what was coming.
Their understanding was limited to whatever promise they could imagine from a newborn baby.
They did not know he would literally calm storms.
They did not see him heal the sick or raise the dead or feed the crowds.
They knew nothing of the Cross, let alone the Resurrection.
God did not show them the Holy Spirit’s work at Pentecost, the inclusion of the nations, or how the gospel
would advance around the globe for the next 2,000 years.
Yet the shepherds had enough light from that encounter – to march back into their dark night –
rejoicing and praising God.
They marched back into their dark night – and they were changed – forever!

Angels Song | “When the Song of Angels is Stilled” | Elizabeth Alexander
Vocals: Eric Johnson, Michele Johnson, Dan Lichty, Allan van Asselt, Deb van Asselt, Grace van Asselt, Kaitlyn van Asselt; Piano: Ellen Gilbert

Magi’s Scripture | Matthew 2:1-10
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to
Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose
and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all
the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem 
in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent
them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me,
so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of
them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Magi’s Narration | Based on poetry by Dr. Susan M. (Elli) Elliott | January 9, 2005/revised 2008

God of Radical, Revelatory, Change –
Like the magi in the caravan from the past – we also travel;
sometimes through grinding wind and glaring sun –
at other times – through chill clear nights – resting at life-giving oases.

We travel – knowing not – what might be revealed when we arrive.

Each of us is on this life journey – traveling – seeking;
through times of loneliness and fear, heartbreak and anger, grief and loss, economic uncertainty,
through our own private crises – we travel.

We seek – knowing not – what we might learn when we arrive.

We travel;
our fear for the earth; caught up in war and warming,
the shock of natural disasters and human inflicted genocide, separation and starvation
struggles with the mental illness of a child,
the dis-integration of a parent,
the simple letting go of a child more ready to be an adult than we are ready to allow their growth,
the changes in a new marriage, the welcoming of a new child,
the completion of a degree, the vision emerging in a new work of art

We journey – knowing not – what might be required when we arrive.

And now – here we are.
May we – like the Sages of Time – kneel in awe before the infant – at ease and at peace.
May we – like the Magi of Old – rest in the stillness – sitting quietly at the manger.
May we – like the Ancient Ones – discover the journey is at a beginning – not an end.

May we – as Sojourners and Seekers – Go forth from God Incarnate – forever changed.
May we travel – sharing the Love of This Child of Change – with a world – that anxiously awaits.

Magi’s Scripture | Matthew 2:11&12
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 
Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having
been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Magi’s Song | “What Child is This” | #215
Verses 1 & 3; congregation with organ


Closing Music | “Silent Night” | #193
Verses 1 & 2; congregation & organ

Sending Blessing
Go Forth – Changed by the love you witnessed tonight – as God chose to be born again – in the infant Jesus.
Go Forth – Sharing this Love.
Go in Safety – Go in Peace – Go with God’s Blessings.