Do You Hear What I Hear?

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Christmas Eve
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1: 26-35, 2: 1-20
Suddenly, a great company of heavenly hosts appeared with the angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”
Luke 2: 13-14 (NIV)

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…

Suddenly, a great company of heavenly hosts appeared with the angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:13-14 (NIV)). Did you hear it this time? Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men 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 Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ 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. 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 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 men 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. You know that I love being around Cottam United Church during this season. I see angels’ message all around us in so many ways. This year’s Sunday School Christmas presentation a couple of weeks ago was wonderful. The choir cantata last week was moving and inspiring – and I don’t just say that because I was in it. We have a lot of fun but we also praise God and give him glory in our songs. But then there are the other things that people do around here. The women’s small group, God’s Glory Gals, raised about $1,400 for missions and ministries. We shared the love of Jesus abroad by sending seventy 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 had nothing. And we provided over 100 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 here in those actions the message of the angels. Do you in those action, “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 the swosh of tap or swipe. But even that makes it hard to hear the angels. But if you listen really hard you can still hear it when someone says, “Merry Christmas,” not because they think they have to but because they really 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 us on Friday night. I confess that I kept backing up anyway and made him wait. He gave me the finger. I smiled back and just thought, “Merry Christmas to you too.” But then at the end of the aisle 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. It was hard to hear last Monday when news came of the terrorist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, Germany. Our son John had just arrived in Berlin on Sunday to spend Christmas with his partner Charity. One of the things they wanted to do was tour the Christmas markets. There is never any good news in a terrorist attack but did hear the good news later that day when we heard from John and Charity that they were okay.

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 men 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 generousity 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, 2016 / Christmas Eve

SCRIPTURE

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.

COMMISSIONING

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.

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