Christmas Day

8:30 am

December 25, 2020

Welcome to our virtual Christmas Day Service!

This morning’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.

Video:


Welcome

Good Morning and Welcome to Christmas Day, Jesus Is Born!

Hymn: Go Tell It on the Mountain

Call to Worship

The Nativity story is our story too.
We need a place to welcome and shelter us, as we look to find our place in the world.
We seek a star to follow; a light to guide us through the darkness.
We crave the angel’s reassurance: do not be afraid.
And on this Christmas Day, we can proclaim the good news of great joy. Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus Christ is born. Our saviour, who is the Messiah.
Hallelujah. God be with us today.

Opening Prayer

Dear God, loving Father, humble child,

One: You came to this world as a baby, born in a stable, to save and redeem us.
Two: Inspire us through the story of your birth to live in your love.

One: We remember Joseph, trusting as he travelled into the unknown.
Two: Steady us also, when life gets overwhelming, to trust in your love for us.

One: We are encouraged by Mary, perhaps tired and anxious, yet reassured by your word.
Two: Comfort us to find hope in your promise to be with us always.

One: We think of the innkeeper, too busy to stop, his life full of other priorities.
Two: Slow us down to notice your presence, in the world and in our lives.

One: We are dazzled by the angels, proclaiming the joy of your birth, singing glory and praises.
Two: Help us to praise and worship you, in song and in service.

One: We understand the shepherds, afraid and trembling, unsure of their welcome at your birth.
Two: Reassure us with your accepting love, healing the scars and stains we might try to hide.

One: We are inspired by the magi, who followed your star in search of Christ the King.
Two: Strengthen us to follow you, and guide us in our lives.

Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Youth Story – “Even Santa bows down to the King…”

Music: The First Nowell – S. Spares, Violin

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)

The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. 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. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 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
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”

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.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Morning Message: “The Doors of Christmas: The Stable Door”

The internet blew up, as people say these days, in early December this year, when a Twitter user, Kirby Jones, discovered the trend of minimalist nativity scenes and shared some of her favourites.

A minimalist nativity, as I soon learned, is one where the creator has tackled the challenge of how much detail can you take away from a nativity scene, and still have it be recognizable. The artistic creations Jones shared included scenes made only from spheres, or blocks, and a beautiful set made from stained glass.

One tweet led to another and soon there was an engrossing thread filled with examples of minimalist nativity scenes. There were the deliberate, like the set of garden posts adorned with head coverings, as well as those put together just to join in the twitter fun. A range of test tubes from a lab, an assortment of spice jars, and random fruits and vegetables, were some of the component parts used to create minimalist nativities.

My favourite was the one that claimed to be entirely accidental – the arrangement of cleaning products discovered by a British priest, laid out in nativity scene order.

And as I looked at these different layouts, I realised they all had one thing in common. Only a few sets had a stable represented in their designs, and none had a stable door.
Now for me, the lack of a stable door posed a problem. Because the theme for today’s service is the stable door.

For our Advent and Christmas sermon series, we have been putting a renewed focus on the doors we find in the Nativity accounts of Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels. And so, in recent services, we’ve looked through the temple door, the door of the inn and most recently the shepherds’ door. Today, for our Christmas Day service, the focus is on the stable door.

Therefore, these minimalist sets pose a problem for me. There’s no stable door.

But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, because doors can be controlling, even exclusive and intimidating, often without us realizing it. A door can say that some are welcome and others are not, which is the complete opposite of the Christmas message.

The Christmas message is that all are welcome and all are included in God’s incredible gift of love. And we know this when we look at the very first people to receive the Christmas message. The good news of great joy was for all the people to hear, and to prove that God really meant all the people, the angel first shares this news with shepherds.

Being a shepherd was not a desirable occupation in biblical times. Their lives were hard, living outdoors, often alone and always at the mercy of the weather. They had to contend with wild animals and thieves who might prey on their flock, and yet their work was considered unskilled, menial labour. To be a shepherd was to belong to a group stereotypically regarded as untrustworthy, and definitely a second-class citizen.

To be a shepherd was to assume that the door would be shut against you.

And yet these are the people that God wanted to be first to learn of Jesus’ birth; not just included in the story, but given pride of place, honored by the angel’s visit and first with the news. No stable door could or should keep them away from their invitation to participate in God’s inclusive love.

The angel gave the shepherds a sign – to know where to find the baby, and to know that they were included, that they wouldn’t find the door shut against them. And the shepherds then are for us a sign: an eternal sign that God’s love welcomes and includes everyone; that God’s love is perhaps especially offered to those who need it most, and we are assured that God’s love is always there for us when we need it most.

There is no stable door to keep any of us out.

The minimalist nativity scenes prompted another thought for me, because no matter how stripped back they were, the scenes were recognizably that of the Nativity. The essence of the Christmas story was still there.

What then, I wondered, is the essence of our Christmas? What’s the minimum we need to feel our Christmas spirit?

We don’t have a choice with this question in 2020. The restrictions and limitations we are dealing with because of Covid-19 are forcing us to discover what is most important in our celebrations of Christmas. What matters and needs to be included, and what can be happily overlooked?

In our house, we have discovered all sorts of Christmas gaps – the wreath we normally buy through the children’s school had to be found somewhere else; our Christmas carols have been virtual, and Christmas Eve startlingly quiet.

I know from hearing some of your experiences that many of you feel the same. Things are missing, there are gaps we need to fill, or it doesn’t feel the same.

Most of the music in today’s service has been created as a way to fill in those gaps. The hymn-sings have been a part of our virtual worship for many months now, as we rapidly discovered the vital importance of music for worship. The violin solo was recorded to fill the heartfelt gap of not being able to share the gift of music as a Christmas offering. That this particular gap could be filled in an empty church, full of memories but not people, speaks volumes about the way in which our gifts are given to us from God and offered in turn to God in devotion and praise.

What we are assured then, is that God’s love is there for us, in any and all circumstances. God’s love reaches out to us to mend the gaps in our hearts and to renew our lives with God’s strength and care. And we are promised that when we take the empty or unworthy parts of ourselves to God in prayer, God meets us there, filling us up with hope and joy.

This is the essence of Christmas. The eternal love God has for each one of us.

The humble nature of the stable is our sign that we are never so unworthy that we are not invited to receive God’s love. And the absence of the stable door proclaims that there is nothing standing in the way of that love, nothing at all that can keep God out.

Anthem – Once in Royal David’s City

Pastoral Prayer

Ever-loving Lord, God with us always,
As we celebrate the birth of your son Jesus Christ and your presence here on earth, help us not only to celebrate Christmas but also to live it.
Compassionate God, help us to feed the hungry.
Be with those who are unable this Christmas to feed their families, and support those worried for the stability or safety of their work. Sustain those who continue to work to bring food to us, from farms and factories, to grocery store workers. Keep them safe.

Merciful God, inspire us to comfort the distressed.
Console those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, or struggling with their grief in these strange times. Be with those who need healing this Christmas, those with ill-health, awaiting test results or treatment. Support our health care workers and all who work to look after the wellbeing of others. Keep them strong.

Welcoming God, encourage us to love the stranger.
Although our doors are shut at this time, keep our hearts open to support newcomers in our communities and let us strive to make people feel at home. Help us to look out for those who are lonely or isolated, those alienated or overwhelmed by these current times. Give them joy.

Generous God, remind us to forgive each other.
Nourish our souls to let go of grudges and forgive those who have hurt us. Help us to reach out and renew the relationships in our lives. Encourage us to see each other with compassion and understanding. Give us peace.

Loving God, nurture us to inspire the hopeless.
When the darkness seems like it will never end, help us to be the light for someone else. In each day, sustain us to remember the depth of your care for us and awaken us to notice your surprising presence in our world. Abide with us that we can lean on you in our times of fear and despair. Give us love.

Remind us that you hear our prayers, this day and every day.
Amen.

Hymn: While Shepherds Watched – verses 1 & 4

Offering of Ourselves, Our Gifts, Our Tithes

On this special day Lord, we give you thanks for giving us the gift of your son, Jesus. We now offer up our gifts to you, to be used to share your love and hope with our community and the world.

♥ 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

Gracious and abundant God, as we celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ, inspire us to give joyfully from our many blessings. Amidst our excitement, help us notice those for whom this season leaves them empty. In this time of over-indulgence, nourish us to feed the hungry and make room for the homeless. Unwrap our hearts, bound up in our own concerns and priorities, to share your love and hope with all your children. Amen.

Hymn: Hark the Herald Angel Sing

Benediction

Go out into this Christmas Day, comforted by the warmth of God’s welcoming love growing in your heart, and renewed by the strength of God’s healing love, filling us and making us whole. Amen.

Postlude – I Wish You Christmas


Announcements

Christmas office hours – The church office will be closed on Christmas Day, December 25, and New Years Day, January 1. There will be no set office hours from Monday, December 28 – Friday, January 8. Please email staff members directly or leave a voicemail at 905-827-1643 with any requests or to set up an appointment to meet at the church. Regular office hours resume Tuesday, January 12.

•  MIKE’S SEVILLE MARMALADE is available for curbside delivery through the church office – $5.00 per jar. Please contact the office at 905-827-1643 or email the office at office@waltonmemorial.com to make arrangements. All proceeds to Walton Treasury to fund programs and ministries.

•  Walton’s prayer chain is open. Confidential prayers requests can be sent to office@waltonmemorial.com

•  If you need Rev. Jim for a pastoral emergency, please email him directly at jamescgillwuc@gmail.com.