Home Worship Service December 24

Union Church
Biddeford Pool
…a place of peace and Presence by the sea
Union Church Home Service, December 24, 2020

you are welcome here
December 24, 2020 — 5:00 P.M.
Christmas Eve Service

 

Focus: “Christmas is the season of the heart. In the stillness of the quiet, we can hear its whisper, offering strength, affirming hope, remembering graces, restoring the soul. The graces of life, the wisdom of hope, the birth of a child…giving light to our spirits.”  —Howard Thurman

Gathering Music: Christmas Eve Is Here (Early Traditional French Carol) -Patricia Mulholland

Welcome:      —Rev. Paula Norbert

Call To Worship:
L: Throughout this season of Advent, we have journeyed to the manger.
P: This night we hear the story of God’s wondrous love.
L: We are invited to believe in all that the Holy One can do.
P: Open our hearts, O God, that we may be ready for your love. Amen.

Lighting of the Advent Candles:
Reader 1: Rejoice, people of God! The light has come into the world.
Reader 2: O God, now we light the candle of your nativity.
Reader 1: With the company of heaven and with sounds of great joy, you come to us. This is the time of light and resplendent joy, for God has come and brought life and light to our world. God has been born among us.
Reader 2: The prophet Isaiah proclaimed a time when those who walked in the shadows would see a great light. A light would shine and a child would be born to us. The evangelist Luke painted the nativity sky and repeated the heavenly song of the angels, “Glory, peace on earth and goodwill!” This great light lives among us. By it we behold God’s grace and truth. At Christ’s birth, we now rejoice.

Opening Hymn: O Come, All Ye Faithful

Prayer of Invocation:
Holy One,
we thank you for the glimpse of heaven on earth
In the faces and the light of those around us.
Even in the midst of fear,
of challenge, of struggle–
even when our view is obscured
by clouds of doubt,
You have ignited the flame of hope, love, joy, and peace within us.
Let us glow with its brilliance
from the inside out. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: All Is Well (by Michael W. Smith/Wayne Kirkpatrick) -Michelle Currie

Scripture: Isaiah 52: 7-10, Luke 2: 1-20      —Ken Murray

Christmas Message: Love Is Shining      —Rev. Paula Norbert

Sermon Response: O Holy Night (by Adolphe Adam) -Michelle Currie

Prayer for Peace:

Music: Mary Did You Know (by Marl Lowry/Buddy Greene) -Michelle Currie

Blessing: Candle-Lighting      —Rev. Paula Norbert

Hymn: Silent Night, Holy Night

Leader:
One candle is but a flicker, but together, we create a bright flame
of Christ’s light in the world. May we be witnesses of the light
Christ brings, Amen.

As you gently extinguish your candle, may you carry the light of Jesus’ love with you.

Benediction (Isaiah 9:6)
Leader: A Child is born to us, named Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Prince of Peace! Christ is born. Merry Christmas to all
May you go forth with the blessings of Christmas in your hearts to
share with those you meet…

Recessional: Joy to the World

With Special Thanks to Michelle Currie, our amazing Music Director and to Patrick Doane (violinist) & Choir Director Patricia Mulholland.

Offertory:
The offering received each Christmas supports the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, providing emergency assistance for the local community throughout the year. We are deeply grateful for your generosity. Contributions may be made at any time.

Our Readings for Christmas Eve

Isaiah 52: 7-10
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
8 Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
9 Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.

Luke 2: 1-20 The Birth of Jesus
2 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before 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; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”[c]

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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Sermon – Christmas Eve, 2020

“Love Is Shining”

Rev. Paula Norbert

It’s a most beautiful and holy night and we are lucky to be able to gather in this time and place, to be together in prayer and to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace, Hope for the Nations, Son of God. We celebrate the gift of love which has brought us to this moment, seen us through an unimaginable year, and continues to live in and through us as beloved children of God. God is all about shining love in the least likely places and God’s love has been shining through our communities and our world over this past year, even when we didn’t always see it. It all began so many years ago with something as simple as the birth of a baby. Over this year, in times of overwhelming grief, new life and new love has been born into our world, continuing to remind us that our God is with us, Emmanuel. Hope has been on the horizon, guiding our way and reminding us of the promise of better days ahead. There is nothing like the birth of a baby to remind us that our God is indeed present in our midst…Such joy, such radiant love.

We have witnessed unspeakable pain and suffering, fear and worry during this past year in ways we could never have anticipated and yet, the love of our Creator, the love of Christ has been shining through. Shining through the heroic care of our doctor’s and nurses for those who are sick and dying, shining through in the families gathered outside of hospitals to pray for loved ones they could not sit beside, shining through in those who sat at the bedsides of dying patients so they would not be alone, shining through in the volunteers helping to get food to the hungry, in the teachers working tirelessly to provide what they could to their students, God’s love has been shining through in all of the workers who risked their lives to go out and work so their families could eat and shining through in those who continue to reach out to the lonely and depressed, to the isolated and sorrow filled. Even now, this very night, God’s love shines through in the birth of the Christ-child, reminding us that God chose to come among us to be close to us and to teach us about great love. God’s love is shining through…can you see it?

And so this cold winter’s night, we find ourselves once again at the stable, a simple and lowly place for any child to be born. And at this little manger, a new spark of love is born into the world. If you look at Luke’s account, in Jesus’ first few hours and days of his life, he was surrounded by love. From his parents who protected him to the shepherds who traveled beneath the stars to welcome this baby. After leaving the stable, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. While they were there, two old and wise people of faith, Simeon and the prophet Anna, showered Jesus with love and gave thanks to God for this moment of being with this child for whom they had long waited.

Certainly these early experiences of being loved at the start of his life helped Jesus to truly understand the loving presence of God around him and within each of us. And I believe that his experience with love in the early days of his life inspired Jesus to reach out with compassion and to teach us to love one another. Already born with the spark of the divine within him, Jesus grew in love, knowing that nothing else was greater than loving God, our neighbors and even ourselves.

In our own lives, we never know who we’re going to cross paths with on any given day; we never know who will shine God’s love to us and how this love will ripple out into the world. Jesus was welcomed with love in his earliest days, and we may imagine that helped him grow in love. There’s no way to avoid suffering in our lives, but even at times of sorrow and of pain, we can meet love through the presence of those who draw near to us and walk that hard road. Love has the potential to take a very bad situation and make it less painful and lonely. Love is contagious, and once we experience the greatness of divine love shared with us, we can’t help but pass it forward.

Two thousand years ago, in the most modest of settings, a baby was born. With that birth came hope, light and love that has rippled across the years and into our world. As we go forward, may we remember that love often happens in the least likely places and between the least likely people. On this holy night we are reminded of this once again, for in that least likely manger far away from home, surrounded by animals and strangers in a drafty stable, in the birth of this precious child, God’s love came shining through.

“We Believe, Even Now”
Welcome: Tonight we return to the story of Jesus’ birth as it is told in the Gospel of Luke. This passage is one we read again and again on this holy night, for the Gospel writer gives us the most beloved details. We yearn to see the scene play out, to hear the music of the angels, to feel the rush to the manger to see what this star that pierces the night sky has come to proclaim. We so desire to believe the Good News of the messengers that is the culmination of humanity’s pain of birth: “don’t be afraid” for unto us a sign has come that will be to all people… “on earth, peace.”

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