Christmas Eve Service

6:00 pm

December 24, 2020

Welcome to our virtual Christmas Eve Service!

Tonight’s service will be offered in 2 formats – a video and text. If you wish, you can download and print the service from this document – link – or you can read the complete service below.

Our Storyteller’s Service for kids of all ages can be found here – https://www.waltonmemorial.com/events/christmas-eve-storyteller-service-2020/

Video:


Order of Service

Preludes: “Joy to the World” Stephanie

Welcome

Good evening and welcome to Walton United Church’s Christmas Eve virtual service, wherever you are watching this service from. It is great that you are part of this celebration this evening. We hear the word Emmanuel, it means God with Us. The birth of Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago, we are celebrating that tonight. Come let us worship.

Hymn: “O Come All Ye Faithful” vs. 1 & 3 (Voices United #60)

Call to Worship

Good evening,
May you find an opportunity during this time together to reflect and wonder about the mystery of Christmas, the mystery of God-with-us.
For now, I invite you to put aside the cares and busyness of holiday preparations and other practical matters and enter into the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a story that has inspired the spreading of peace, generosity, joy, and love every year for over 2,000 years.

Tonight we will be sharing in Christmas communion virtually. You may want to put your device on pause while you gather together the elements you would like to use this evening to share together symbolically in communion. Let us join together in worship.
(Adapted from Kim Falls, The Gathering A/C/E. 2019)

Opening Prayer

Christmas praise fills the air with joy and celebration,
With happiness and reunion, with friendship and laughter, with gifts given and received.

We joyfully welcome Jesus and the spirit of Jesus alive amongst us on this, his birth day.
We give thanks for your love, O God, shown in Jesus that endures down the years, a love that is for us and for all people.

We joyfully welcome Jesus.
We give thanks for the presence of family and friends, and we remember those who cannot be with us at this special time. (time of silent reflection)

We joyfully welcome Jesus.
We give thanks for those not known to us who keep the lights on, the planes flying, and the water running. (time of silent reflection)

We joyfully welcome Jesus,
And we give thanks for those who lead and guide our faith community and those who serve quietly and generously. (time of silent reflection)

We joyfully welcome Jesus
But we remember those in our family and friendship circles who are sick and those who have lost loved ones, those for whom the joy of the season is muted. (time of silent reflection)

We joyfully welcome Jesus.
We offer in prayer to you, Loving God, our own anxieties, our own celebrations, and our own most cherished dreams. You will go with each one of us in the year that lies ahead. (time of silent reflection)

Christmas praise fills the air but a simple couple far from home with a newborn child brings us down to earth and roots our celebration in profound thanksgiving. Amen.
(David Sparks The Gathering A/C/E/ 2020/21)

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:8-20

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 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 favour rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” vs. 1 & 4 (Voice United #64)

Youth Story

Anthem – “Christmas Dreams”

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

This is the season of gifts, and so we give thanks for all we have received. As we have been blessed, so we offer blessings here, that together we might do God’s work of justice and peace for all. Let us present the blessing of our offering.
(Sheryl Spencer, The Gathering A/C/E. 2019/20)

♥ by secure online payment from your bank or credit card – waltonmemorial.com/donate

*Important Note*Please enter the donation in one person’s name (preferably the name shown on the credit/debit card) even if you give jointly with another person. As with cheques and cash, donations made online are automatically credited to both adults in the same household regardless of which one made the donation.

♥ by cheque through the mail slot at the Church office entrance or by Canada Post.
♥ by monthly PAR payments. To sign up contact stuart@waltonmemorial.com.

Doxology: “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” (tune The First Nowell)

Offering Prayer

God, thank you for your infinite generosity and eternal compassion. We give thanks for all the way that you have blessed our lives. In gratitude, we offer these gifts today, to bring hope to any who are suffering, to spread joy for all your children, and to foster peace across all the nations. Shine your love, Triumphant God, into our hearts to brighten the world. Amen.
(Gill Le Fevre, The Gathering A/C/E 2020/21)

Message: “The Doors of Christmas #3 – The Shepherds’ Door”

Life is full of doors, some which we choose to open while others remain unopened or maybe totally closed to us. During Covid so many doors have been closed, whether for a period of time or permanently. In the Christmas story there are various doors as well. In this series of sermons let me ask you what do the Advent and Christmas doors in scripture mean when we open them this year? How do those doors speak to us in our lives during this Covid Christmas?

Tonight we are talking about the shepherds’ door. The shepherds really lived rough out in the open in the hills around Bethlehem. Their doors were sheep gates in penned-in areas for sheep, rather than doors in houses or barns. The herd would be kept behind these sheep gates at times for various reasons, including to keep them safe from danger such as wild animals.

Tonight, Walton’s historically-designated wooden doors are closed because of danger as well. The danger for us is not a thief, or a wolf, but a wild virus. It all seems very ironic now, since this Doors of Christmas sermon theme was chosen at the end of December last year. Now, a year later, we are filming behind closed doors at a time when Walton’s front main Tower entrance doors are usually opened hundreds of times on December 24th with our four Christmas Eve services.

Everything is all virtual now. Often we have nearly a thousand people through those wooden doors on Christmas Eve. With the current Covid rules even if we could seat about 40 people per service in their already established social bubbles, with social distancing, with everyone wearing masks and with no carol singing, we would need to hold maybe 20 services throughout the day on December 24th to get everyone in. Of course that’s totally unrealistic. Doing our traditional 4 services on Christmas Eve usually exhausts the staff and volunteers. Imagine the work it would take to hold 20 services in a day and deep clean the sanctuary, bathrooms, and entryways between each one!

Our scripture reading this evening tells the story of how all of a sudden the Bethlehem skies were filled with an angel and the backup heavenly host telling the Good News of Jesus’s birth. We’re told in the account that once the heavenly visitors left, the shepherds hurried off to see what the angel told them about. It leaves us this question: As the shepherds headed off into Bethlehem to see the birth of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, what happened to their flocks of 4-legged sheep? Where they all just abandoned in the fields? Did they leave a few shepherds behind to stand guard? Did they gather their flock into an open-air pen behind a sheep gate for protection?

I tend to think that the sheep were safely looked after, one way or another. Do you recall what Jesus said years later? In John 10 Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate or door but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate or door for them, and the sheep listen to their voice. The Shepherd calls their own sheep by name and leads them out.” It’s like back in Psalm 23 we are reminded first, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and secondly that, “We shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Christmas is about the birth of the Great Shepherd. The birth of Jesus was first observed not by the wealthy three Magi or kings who came from the East, but by the humble shepherds who came from the surrounding fields.

In Matthew 2 it speaks about Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Maybe that is connected back to the Hebrew meaning of the name Bethlehem. The town’s name means “House of Bread.” At 10pm each Christmas Eve we hold a Candlelight Communion service. We talk about Jesus Christ, the bread of life. The Shepherd who not only protects his flock but feeds us as well. The sheep gate or sheep door can reassure all us on this Covid Christmas. Take with you this Christmas Eve the angel’s message to the shepherds in the field: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Merry Christmas.

Sacrament of Holy Communion

Friends, tonight we remember and celebrate the birth of Christ, God who came to us in human flesh, as a helpless baby. Those first invited to witness this event were a group of poor shepherds. They were not highly educated. They had no gifts to bring. They did not have fancy clothes. But an angel proclaimed to them, “A Savior has been born to YOU.” Tonight we come, to this table, as unworthy as those shepherds, to witness and receive God’s amazing grace and love.

Who is invited to the Lord’s table?

All are invited; the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the lowest and the least; sinners and saints together in communion.
Come find your place here where there are no strangers or foreigners, only brothers and sisters in the sight of God.

Why do we give thanks at this table?

We give thanks because Jesus showed us the way, we give thanks because Jesus is the Way. Jesus was a gift from God for the world. He was called Immanuel, “God with us”. He came to save us from our sins. Jesus lived a life of thankfulness and gave his life as a sacrifice for many. We give thanks that he is our Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Why do we eat and drink at this table?

We eat because on the night before Jesus died, he ate with his friends. He gave them bread and said, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” At that same meal he took a cup of wine and said, “Drink this cup. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

What do we remember at this table?

We remember Jesus’ birth and his presence as God with us. We remember Jesus’ life and his love. We remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We remember the resurrection and the promise of life. We remember that we are waiting in hope to see Jesus again.

Let us pray:
God of grace, thank you for this bread and wine, and for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. God of hope, fill us with your Spirit today that we might have the wisdom to understand the mystery of this Table, and the depth and height and breadth and length of your love for us. Through this meal, strengthen us to be followers of Jesus, a community of peace in a broken world.

Communion shared

Closing prayer

Jesus, you truly are Immanuel “God with us.”In this season of hope, may the meal we’ve shared together nourish us to be your body in the world, your kingdom come, your will done on earth as it is in heaven. With the angels in heaven we join in singing your praises, Glory to God in the highest. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Amen.

Hymn: “Silent Night” (Voices United #67)

Benediction

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the Magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever. Merry Christmas. Amen.

Postlude: “Away In a Manager” Stephanie