This is the audio for the whole service. The bulletin is below as well as the sermon text. We played a video that you can watch on the video link.
The texts were from the second century, Infancy Gospel of James, the medieval text, The Book About the Origin of the Blessed Mary and the Childhood of the Savior (the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew), and the Qur’an.
The best way to shorten winter
is to prolong Christmas.
–G. K. Chesterton
PRELUDE Matt Thompson-Aue
*CALL TO WORSHIP The Book About the Origin of the
Blessed Mary and the Childhood of the Savior (Chapter 13)
*CAROL Angels, from the Realms of Glory
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
MUSIC Gaudete Bell Choir
— Traditional Chant arr. Carl Wiltse
POETRY Toward the Light Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE The Infancy Gospel of James 17:1-18:2
MUSIC Image Jeffrey Chapman
POETRY In December Darkness Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE The Infancy Gospel of James 18:3-11
CAROL O Little Town of Bethlehem
POETRY The Child is Born Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE The Infancy Gospel of James 19:1-16
CAROL Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
POETRY Sitting on the Hillsides Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE Luke 2:8-16
MUSIC One Small Child Combined Choirs
David Meece, arr. Lloyd Larson
POETRY Not Celebrate? Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE The Book About the Origin of the Blessed Mary
and the Childhood of the Savior (Chapter 14)
CAROL Good Christian Folk Rejoice
POETRY What Do I Want for Christmas? Ann Weems
SCRIPTURE Infancy Gospel of James 21:1-12
MUSIC Kai and Kelly Talim
Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 8 in G Major, III. Allegro vivace
SCRIPTURE Another Telling Qur’an 19:15-34
MEDITATION The Gift John Shuck
Christmas is about the Gift.
Not gifts so much or presents but the Gift. I feel the need to capitalize the word. It is a mystical, magical celebration of grace, gratia, gift of life symbolized by a newborn child. Says the angel:
Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
This is “night language” the language of poetry, imagination, and parable. It swells the chest and causes our eyes to brim with tears. We breathe, we sigh; it is Christmas. No matter what forces the world with its Herods and its ruthless one-percenters unleash upon us, the babe in swaddling clothes among the poor is the sign of the human spirit: a goodness, an innocence, a generosity, a laughter of pure joy rings in the voice of an angel and baby’s cry for her mother.
Life is precious. Life carries on. Life is good. A Gift.
Tonight’s service is filled with night language. It is poetry and story to be sure. But it was created in the midst of conflict and war. Not aside from that, not as an escape from that, but in response to that as a reminder lest we forget that, life is originally, primally, creative, a blessing. Light.
I want to share with you a music video by a group from the UK. The group is Ooberfuse and the song is Hidden Light.
(Music Video Hidden Light Ooberfuse)
Christmas is the time of the year in which the membrane in between the holy and the mundane is thin. We come back to Christmas each year because we need a Gift. Nothing we have to do except receive that gift. We receive it through our doubts, through our grief, through the violence, through our despair of what might be. At Christmas we dare to believe that Light shines in the darkness, in our darkness.
That Light shows us that we matter. That all creation matters. The fact that we feel the suffering is the sign that the Light shines. Once we stop feeling, then we are in trouble. But as long as we feel the pain of the refugee then there is hope.
The Christmas story tells of the Holy Family needing to escape violence and become refugees, people without a home. The story’s promise is that God is a refugee. God on the cross suffered unjustly. There is nothing ultimately that can separate us from the love of God.
That is the hope of Christmas. That is the gift of Christmas.
In that moment of the greatest darkness, when we cannot see the light, when the light is hidden, that is when light is the strongest.
As you come to this Christmas with whatever anxieties you bring, with whatever mortality you have witnessed, with whatever fears you have for our future on a national or global scale, Christmas reminds us that we have been to places like this before.
The light keeps shining.
It will shine in you.
It will shine in Southminster.
It will shine in Beaverton.
It will shine in the Northwest.
It will shine across the country,
Around the globe.
Look for the Light.
Lean toward the Light.
Receive the Gift of Light. Be the Light.
MUSIC Christmas Lullaby (Away in a Manger) Choir
arr James Q. Mulholland
POEM What Is All the Noise About? Ann Weems
OFFERTORY O Holy Night Matt Thompson-Aue and Jason Sabino
POETRY I Will Light Candles This Christmas
CAROL “Silent Night”
BENEDICTION The Work of Christmas Howard Thurman
POSTLUDE Matt Thompson-Aue