Shhh… Did you hear it? Did you hear the story? Did you really listen? It’s a great story. So if you missed it the first time, I’m going to tell you again. Shhh… Listen to what it says in Luke 2:13-14 (NIV):
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Did you hear it this time? Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests. That’s what the shepherds heard, this incredibly good news as they tended their sheep on the hillsides near Bethlehem.
They had been waiting for this news for years and years and years. And not just them but all of Israel had been waiting for the long awaited Messiah who would bring peace and joy and make all things right again. This is the one whom the angels proclaimed. This is who the angel was talking about when he said in Luke 2:11 (NIV), “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” That’s the message the angels shared. That is the message the shepherds heard.
Shhh… But what do we hear? Do we hear what they heard? Do we hear the angels voices? Do we? I know that we don’t necessarily hear their literal voices although that does still happen from time to time. While I do believe in angels and I do believe that they still speak to us on behalf of God, I also realize that not all of us hear them in the same way all of the time. So I’m not talking necessarily about their audible voices. I’m not asking if you hear the words from their mouths. What I am asking you is if you can still hear their message. Do you still hear the words, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Do you hear, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” That’s the message they came to share. That’s the message we need to hear.
And what a joyful message it is. I love being around Cottam United Church during this season. I see angels’ messages all around us in so many ways. This year’s Christmas music presentation that we shared last week was moving and inspiring – and I don’t just say that because I was in it. We had a lot of fun but we also praised God and gave him glory in our songs. But then there are the other things that people do around here. We shared the love of Jesus abroad by sending over fifty shoe boxes to Samaritan’s Purse. Each of those shoe boxes represents one poor child somewhere on this earth who will get a Christmas gift who otherwise would have nothing. And we provided over fifty Christmas dinner food hampers for underprivileged families that will be distributed through the Essex Food Bank. All of that came from this little church here in Cottam.
Do you hear that? Do you hear in those actions the message of the angels. Do you hear it in the words, “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
Shhh… Do you hear what I hear? Sometimes, during this season, it’s hard to hear the message. It’s hard to hear in the busy mall. It used to be filled with the sound of cash registers going ka-ching, ka-ching. Not so much anymore. Now it’s more a swosh or tap or swipe. But even that makes it hard to hear the angels. But if you listen very carefully you can still hear it when someone says, “Merry Christmas,” not because they think they have to but because they really want to and mean it.
It’s hard to hear the message. It’s hard to hear it when you’re driving in busy traffic and you’re trying to back out of parking spot in the parking lot and there is a long stream of cars going behind you and no one will let you in. And when there’s finally a clear spot and you start to back out, some guy speeds up and tries to pass behind you. That happened to me the other night. I confess that I kept backing up anyway and made him wait. He gave me a nasty look but I smiled back and just thought, “Merry Christmas to you too.” But then at the end of that row of cars when I tried to turn left towards the exit – and again there was a long line of cars – someone stopped and smiled and let me in. I think I heard the angels singing.
It’s hard to hear the message. I’m sure it’s hard to hear the message of Christmas in some parts of Ukraine this year as the country is still hunkered down at war in a valiant effort to throw off Russian aggression. I caught some of the address that Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave to the joint Congress in the Washington earlier this week. He said that much of his country is without electricity or heat because their power plants have been destroyed. He said that people are hungry. He said that they may not have much to give to each other. But they are resolute and he also said that they will celebrate Christmas anyway in whatever they can. And he is Jewish but he has heard the angels sing.
Shhh… Do you hear what I hear? I hope you do because the message still surrounds us in large and small ways if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. The message is here in the world. It is in our community. It is in this room. And it is in your heart. Listen for it. It’s there. “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord… Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
Do you hear what I hear?
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We come to you, O Gracious God, on this Christmas Eve to give you all of the praise, honour and glory that you deserve. You have come to us to live with us. You are Emmanuel, God-with-us, the divine incarnation. You are our highest blessing and our greatest gift.
We are thankful for what we have in this life. We are also conscious of those who have less. We remember, especially, those who are without employment and those who though employed, are not able to make a living wage. We remember those who struggle below the poverty line to make ends meet. We also give you praise for the generosity that it shown at this time of the years by those who are blessed with abundance. Remind us, once again, that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.
We pray for those who do not understand or appreciate the true significance of this day, who do not place their faith in Jesus but, rather, rely on the things of this world which will only rot and decay. What you offer to us, O God, is from everlasting to everlasting. It is your priceless gift of love and acceptance in your heavenly Kingdom.
Holy God, in every challenging situation, we need to seek your wisdom, your way of doing things, and your deliverance and salvation. You have a solution to every problem and a perfect pathway through every circumstance. Enable us to discern and perceive your direction and leadership so that our decisions will be sound and successful. We set our hearts to be fully committed to you and your way of doing things in all areas of life.
O God of Bethlehem, we give you thanks for coming here to earth and becoming one with us. You made it possible for all people to be saved and enjoy the assurance that is ours through faith. When we were without hope, you saved us. Although a lifetime of thanksgiving and praise would not be adequate for what you have done, accept our words of thanks and our offering of praise and help us to fully comprehend the abundant measure which is our blessing from you. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
December 24, 2022 / Christmas Eve
Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146: 5-10; Luke 1:47-55 (Alt. Res.); James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us praise God as long as we live.
Blessed are those whose help is in the Spirit.
Christ’s reign will last forever.
Praise God, O my soul.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Praise God, O my soul. Praise God for the redemption that is ours in Christ. Praise God that love glistened from a stable in Bethlehem. Praise God that in amongst the rude and ordinary things of Creation, a Saviour was born to shine light into the world. Shine that light upon us now, O God of Love. Fill us anew with your Spirit and with the new life that you have promised. Praise God, O my soul. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
The desserts shout for joy and the rocks sing your praises. But we have been guilty of falling away. The road that you set before us is straight and easy to follow. But there are times when we choose another path. We prepare our homes for Christmas but we forget to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. We bake and cook our feasts but we put the hungry out of our minds. We ensure that there are many gifts under our trees but we neglect the needs of the poor. Convict us, forgive us and place our feet firmly upon the way of Christ. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God’s love is shown most clearly and profoundly in Jesus who was born at Bethlehem. He gave his life as a sacrifice for us that we may receive the gift of eternal life. By his wounds we are healed.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We come to you with our offerings, O God, meagre though they may be compared to the abundance with which you have blessed us. In faith, we turn to you and ask that you would bless us and our gifts. Amen.
The love of Christ is shown in this world by the way we love one another. May God’s compassion and peace be with us as we share the Good News of salvation.