There are other things that might be done on Christmas Eve. I have a few options in my kitchen for your pandemic planning. This might not be that.
It could be. You know your people best and what might work to best share this good news but I imagined this service for the days after Christmas Eve when we are still trying to share this story in a way that makes it come alive. This year, after all of the presents are unwrapped and you’ve taken a nice long nap, it’s Sunday again. It will be a low attendance Sunday and you might not want to even push out into the cold to lead worship. (I know you love what you do, dear pastor. You’re allowed to have days like this too.) I imagined this service for Zoom where no one has to bother leave the house.
It is a service that turns back to the story you heard on Christmas Eve and doesn’t opt for the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary that day. It’s not something I do often but I wanted to hear the Christmas story again. Maybe because I can’t hear it enough. I’d encourage you to find spaces in this service after words are shared to listen to the crackling fire together. Allow that meditation to be what it is in the comfort and hope that we need.
Ten hours is surely way too much fireplace action but it might be fun to have this in the welcome screen for those that don’t have fireplaces at home. It might even remain in the spotlight through the Zoom worship experience so that it really feels like we are all gathered around the fire.
Invitation to Worship
Curl up by the fire and feel the warmth of the Spirit in your body and soul. Gather here with compassion and kindness after when it seems like the celebration might be over. Everything has been unwrapped but we still long to tell this story of wonder and hope. We still need hope. Stretch out and relax for God is here and invites us to worship and praise.
Imagine us all together gathered around this fire sharing stories and imagining what could be. Feel the comfort of gathering together all in one place where we can share what this good news means. Listen for the movement of the Spirit in your heart and in the faces of those warmed by the fire as you hear these words of hope and wonder from Wendell Berry in his poem Remembering That It Happened Once.
This version of O Come All Ye Faithful by Audrey Assad may or may not be covered by your licenses. Please remember to check before using any artist’s work.
O God, we come. We come adoring and uncertain for what to do with this good news. It's a story we love to hear and one we tell again and again in song and story but this year it needs to be more than a story. Come, O God, give us new understanding of this birth today. We pray in your hope. Amen.
This is the story we hear every Christmas Eve before the lights are dimmed and Silent Night is sung. It’s the same story we hear Linus share to disrupt the commercialization of the play in A Charlie Brown Christmas and the story we still long to hear told with wonder of what it could mean around this fire.
Hear again the story of Christmas as Luke tells it in Chapter 2.
It might be fun to share this story from a less familiar translation like this one by Richard Swanson.
This is one of those stories that you’ve probably heard many times before but it’s one of those stories that is meant to be shared around the fire. This is a YouTube version of the 195 recording of Paul Harvey reading it but you can easily find Man and the Birds in many places on the internet, and perhaps in your own files.
YouTube won’t let me post the video here but I really like this version of Joy to the World (You Are My Joy) by the Rend Collective. It may or may not be covered by your licenses. Please remember to check before using any artist’s work.
There is joy in these songs, poems and stories and it reminds of of other joys. It reminds of us of other Christmases and other times that we have felt like this is what it really means. This is what it’s all about. As you feel the Spirit lead, unmute yourself and share a glimpse of that time when Christmas had new meaning for you. Share your story around the fire.
If your congregation hasn’t done this kind of sharing in the passing of the peace or in the prayers, this will be clunky and awkward. It’s OK. Simply remind people to re-mute themselves after speaking and enjoy in the sharing.
Prayers for Christmas
Holy One, we are humbled by what you can do for it surprises us again and again that a child could change our whole world. It challenges our privilege and comfort to hear that it was a poor one that dismantled the powers we still assume should lead. Remind is again what love can do when it lives and breathes for we know that there is still much hurt among your people... as this pandemic still rages... as lives have been lost... and creation withers... when we resist justice... and fail to understand what it might mean for Christ to live in our flesh... You have come into this world, O Christ Child, and illuminated the way ahead with mystery and grace. Fill creation and our very lives with justice and mercy as only your love can do. Be our hope again as we imagine what this good news will do to change our hearts and mind this year. Amen.
I really don’t like writing blessings that others might say. I feel like it comes from you and your love for your people and I know you love your people, dear pastor. You have proven that again and again in this pandemic. So I end this service with this prayer knowing that you will fill in the rest with blessing in song or in words.
My newsletter went out today with all of my thoughts and wonderings for Advent and Christmas. If you missed it in your email, you can find it here. (This link sends you to the sign up page but if you click on Let Me Read First you can see if you want this in your inbox in the future.)
I shared at the very end of that email that I’m working on a new liturgy for those first weeks of January after you’re exhausted from Christmas and have no new ideas but it’s still Christmas and there is still something magical about how we tell these stories. I’m calling it New Year Epiphanies and hope to release it soon.
I’m praying for you, dear pastor, and the ministry you offer this season. I’m praying for you so much.