Lessons and Carols with Reflections
Tony E Dillon Hansen
O Holy Creator of Day and Night, We meet you here today on Christmas eve; we come anticipating of time ahead; and we reflect upon the difficult year of trials and tribulations. We lift up those who have died and those who are suffering (mind or body). We rejoice in knowing Your promise and inspiration of Your Spirit is with us. In this season, we know we can be better stewards of your creation and your justice. We confess that we give into expectation and distractions. Forgive us, help us to renew and to prepare our hearts in the words you gave us …
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 debts
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory
Forever and ever. Amen.
We come to you confessing what is on our hearts and minds.
We do so trusting that you want to hear our petitions
and that you have already forgiven what needs to be forgiven.
We believe that our prayers will be answered in your time
and in your almighty wisdom. Amen.
Lighting the Christ candle.
In times of injustice and pandemic
Let us hear the good news from the prophet
That people walked in darkness Have seen a great light…
For a child has been born to us
Wide will be the dominion
And boundless the peace with justice and righteousness from now and evermore.
We light the Christ candle,
Thankful that God has come to us, not as a conquering hero
But as a child full of God’s love.
Living God, come to our world,
May the love of the One shine brightly,
At the center of our lives, spreading warmth and light,
in us, in this congregation and everywhere.
Hymn: Angels We Have Heard on High (verse 1).
First Lesson: Creation - Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
Reflection for Genesis 1:1-5 Creation.
Creation, change, a new beginning. Where do we start and what do we do? These stories from Genesis remind us that all were created by our Creator and that we have bountiful gifts with this life and this Earth. Thus, we are stewards of that creation as charged by God. So what do you do with your gifts? Jesus challenges us with the parable of talents to do something with your gifts. (Matthew 25: 14-29) Thus, show your gifts - your heart - because your heart is where your treasure is (Luke 12:34). Our creation lesson reminds us that you are a child of our Creator and been given so much. Perhaps you could find your true gifts closer to your heart.
Hymn 114: O Come O Come Emmanuel (verse 1).
Second Lesson: Covenant - Genesis 22:15-18
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, says the Lord: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Reflection for Genesis 22:15-18 Covenant
As one of our gifts, we have a covenant with the one who brought us. Covenants are relationships. Covenants, especially with our Creator, help us to understand our purpose, that we are meant to be here in this place and in this time. What is your purpose as a child of God and what blessings has God bestowed upon you? We can serve God so that we honor those gifts and that covenant through sharing. How do we share our gifts and covenant?
Hymn: O Come O Come Emmanuel (refrain).
Third Lesson: Compassionate and Forgiving – Psalm 103: 1-8
Bless the Lord, O my
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Reflection for Psalm 103: 1-8
Compassion and Forgiveness are gifts from our Creator given to us so that we might grow to be what we are meant to be. Thus, when we ask God to forgive our debts let us also be willing to forgive our debtors. Else we are weighed down by our misery and angers. Find compassion in your hearts. Turn today into your hearts and let go of what troubles you and find forgiveness for you and with you to others around you. Forgiveness, a holy gift from God.
Fourth Lesson: Growing - Isaiah 11:1-4
A shoot shall come out from the
stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Reflection for Isaiah 11:1-4 Growing
Advent is growing, anticipation and expectation: a winter spring with hope, joy, peace, love, renewal and new growth. Christmas gives us that gift of life full of joyful wonder. This passage invokes the divine promise to grow. The question for this is what does growth mean for you? Growth is not just for youth but all God’s children. Our bodies may be broken, but our spirit gives us strength to soar and help those around us. Growth is a chance for us to be better than we were, even in our brokenness – even in a pandemic. How can we use this gift better in our own lives?
Hymn: O Little Town of Bethlehem (verse 1).
Fifth Lesson: Perseverance - Isaiah 42: 1-4
is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Reflection for Isaiah 42: 1-4 Perseverance
A pandemic has taught us a measure of perseverance as we have had to adjust and find strength. Remember that God is with you always and ready to lift you. Through perseverance, we find holy justice! Persevere through the tough times and let God guide you - another holy gift from God.
Hymn: It Came upon the Midnight Clear (verse 1).
Sixth Lesson: Birth - Matthew 1:18-23
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Reflection for Matthew 1:18-23 Birth
Birth is beautiful and messy. Whether an animal or human being, there is a tired mother, offspring, family - possibilities and worries. This is a beginning for some, and for some, this is renewal. Think of the journey across the Red Sea in Exodus, they left everything behind and witness the wreckage of pursuing pasts on the shore now as survivors. As survivors, we begin something new, and we learn that we cannot go back to the past. That story happens in our lives as we consider where we are, where we have been and where we go from here. That is anxious, scary, breathtaking and exhilarating joyfulness. How can we renew and embrace the joy of birth?
Hymn: The First Noel (verse 1-2).
Seventh Lesson: Shepherds Visit – Luke 2:8-16
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, 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, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
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.
Reflection for Luke 2:8-16 Angels around Us.
We like to challenge angels as Jacob did in Genesis, but sometimes, angels bring us great news even when we don’t yet understand just how great as Gabriel did with Mary. So why do shepherds hear the angels. A shepherd tends a flock to protect, to nurture and to sustain them. A shepherd knows that a flock needs steward. Our Shepherd, Jesus, was born this day to teach us and lead us, and God invites us with angels. Question for you is, “would you have heard them?” Angels are here with us as gifts from God; are you willing to see them? Are you ready to hear the angels this day?
Hymn: Hark the Herald Angels Sing (verse 1-2).
Eighth Lesson: Wise Visit – Matthew 2:1-11
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise ones from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the
land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise ones and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Hymn: Silent Night (verse 1-2).
Ninth Lesson: New Beginnings - John 1:1-5 (Inclusive)
In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. 2 The Word was present to God from the beginning. 3 Through the Word, all things came into being, and apart from the Word, nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In the Word was life, and the life was our light-- 5 Light that shines in the darkness, Light that the darkness did not overcome.
Reflection for John 1:1-5 New Beginnings
This Gospel passage opens us to a beginning just like we started with Genesis. Yet, John opens with the mystic notion of God being present everywhere and in everything. This is a profound statement of God being encompassing while also being intimate to each of us as being within us. That with the breath and love of God, we are brought into being into this world and as a part of the world. Therefore, all creatures and things reveal the work of God: from the trees, the creatures, the rocks, the waters, the vast cosmos and all humanity.
These are the gifts we have been given, and we have been handed the task of stewardship over these gifts. We can marvel and awe at this wonderful sight, even when a pandemic makes us weary and skeptical. We can look into the future with hope because God has given a place to start, again and again. So what do we do with these gifts?
Remember that we are formed in darkness to meet the new day. We might worry because we may fail, but we live in this moment- even during a pandemic.
Tomorrow is a new morning. Open your ears, hear the wisdom of God speaking. Open your eyes to let angels help guide you. Then, we can embrace all that we have been given: covenant that sustains, growth to learn, perseverance in our challenges, forgiveness to let go, the birth into new life with Christ and the wisdom to serve. Then, we transcend division and be one with the Spirit!
That is the Christmas promise: that we can be one with the Spirit. Let go and renew in this season. Find your hope and promise right there for you in the light of Christ.
Hymn 132: O Come All Ye Faithful (verse 1-2).
From 2 Thessalonians.
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father and Mother, who loves us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.
Go with love and light of Christ in your hearts this Christmas season and into the New Year!