Today is the day - Christmas! The central candle is lit. The waiting is over. The child is born. As we celebrate the Feast and Holy-Day of Christmas, with the Psalmist (Ps. 98:4-6) we proclaim:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn – shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
PrayerLet us pray: Generous God, even as we praise you for the good news of today, and seek to shout for joy at the coming of the Christ-child, we acknowledge Mary’s mix of pain and joy, both today and in the days to come. As we do so, we face our own emotions on this difficult and delightful day, and ask your help to live it well. Amen.
CarolYou might like to sing, or reflect on the words of Geoffrey Ainger’s hymn at StF 193/H&P 95, Born in the night, Mary’s child, a long way from your home; coming in need, Mary’s child, born in a borrowed room (interestingly recorded, not at Christmas, but on Good Friday).
Our first reading is Isaiah 52:7-10 NIV
7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.
ReflectionAs a husband, dad and grandad, I am more than familiar with receiving slippers and/or socks on this day. You might say my stocking usually contains its kin. Which might be why I always smile at the sense of beauty the prophet attaches to the feet of the news-bringers. ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those…’ It might be the image of my feet, with or without Christmas socks, which also brings a smile in Frances Ridley Havergill’s hymn ‘Take my life’ when we sing the line, ’Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.’ I don’t know what kind of footwear such messengers would wear, or what state their feet would be in, but I guess the writer is, in speaking about beauty, reflecting how longed-for and significant is the arrival of those who bring the news – it is so good to see them, to hear them proclaim salvation.
Let’s take a moment to remember and reflect on those moments when we have received good news, whether in a spiritual or a practical way, and give thanks for the messengers, whatever the state of their feet. And let’s be open to those opportunities we have to be messengers of goodness.
Let us pray: Good-news-God, you send prophets, angels, Jesus, all to show us your love. May we welcome the messengers and their message with joy, and pass it on. Amen.
We celebrate the news with StF 196, Come and join the celebration
Today’s gospel reading is John 1:1-14. I’m assuming you will have a traditional version of the Bible to look this up in, so here is the more contemporary Message Bible version to hold alongside:
The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word.
The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.
Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.
There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.
The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light.
He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
ReflectionJohn’s gospel doesn’t give us the story of angels and shepherds like Luke, or wise men like Matthew, but rather offers us this prologue to the story which will follow. Here it is clear that Jesus, not even named in this passage but striding through the chapters that follow, is ‘the Word’, at one and the same time God’s messenger and God’s message who, as a flesh and blood human being has moved into our neighbourhood.
The prologue is the first part, but written in the knowledge of the last part. It is setting the scene, but in a way that puts all that will follow into its proper perspective. So all the stories of Jesus told by John in his gospel are intended to show how ‘the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’, and John’s final chapters will bear testimony to the truth that ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.
It’s easy in this season to be distracted. It might be busyness for some, loneliness for others. It might be people it’s hard to be with, or without. It might be the societal pressure to consume, to spend, to be happy (even if we don’t feel happy). We might say Christmas is for children, and get drawn into it all being about Santa and his helpers.
John grounds us, pulls us back to the centre of it all. God’s Word become flesh, God’s love at the heart, God’s light in our darkness. Luke’s shepherds and Matthew’s kings point to this, Mary and Joseph and their new-borne picturesquely represent this, John trumpets it!
However you are spending your Christmas, may it be in the knowledge and experience of its truth.
In this world of flesh and blood, as we meet and greet and give and receive, and as we remember friends gone from us with love and longing, may we know that Christ is with us in our joys and sorrows.
Whatever our situation may we experience God’s love holding and enfolding.
And whether we are dazzled by the Christmas lights or depressed by current darkness, may we feel deeply the truth of the promise that God’s light shines, and will not be overcome. Amen.
CarolYou might like to sing, or reflect on the words of Christina Rossetti’s carol (StF 204/ H&P 107), In the bleak midwinter
Praying for others, and ourselves.The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (John 1:14 The Message Bible)
Generous God, emptying yourself of all but love that you might move into our neighbourhood, we praise you for who you are.
God’s Word become flesh, God’s love at the heart, God’s light in our darkness. Thank you for the good news of this day.
May we be both recipients of this news, and deliverers of it. May its truth be evident in us today,
We pray particularly for:
- expectant mothers, especially those on the refugee road;
- struggling parents, especially those for whom Christmas is more challenge than celebration;
- those who are closest to us, whether we are able to be together or not this year;
- those who are suffering in these continuing covid days, directly or indirectly – through illness, separation, anxiety, bereavement, loss of livelihood and employment;
- those working hard to care, protect and provide for others, in paid and voluntary capacities, formal and informal, including NHS and Social Care staff, teachers and childcare providers, transport, distribution and retail workers, and those caring for loved ones at home;
- those with responsibility for public policy at every level;
- one another – those with whom we share fellowship in church life, including those for whom we have some pastoral responsibility, those who have some pastoral responsibility for us;
- any for whom it is particularly important to hear God’s good news in this Christmas season, whether because of their need, or the need of those around them, whether because something is being offered to them, or asked of them.
We bring our prayers together, as we pray, with all God’s people, the Lord’s Prayer.
CarolWe close with Charles Wesley’s Carol, (StF 202) Hark the herald angels sing
BlessingWe go in peace, in the power of the Spirit, to live and work to God’s praise and glory. Amen.
We bless one another, and all those we have brought to mind this day, as we share the Grace:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and always. Amen.
(CCLI 79951. Service prepared by Rev’d Nick Blundell)