“There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn, rise up shepherd and follow…” —-African-American spiritual
Preparation for worship
Sit in a relaxed position. Take a slow, deep breath (or 2 or 3 or as many as needed) until you feel your body, mind, and soul begin to relax and rest in the Spirit. Take time to reflect as you move through this time of worship…
Opening Sentences Luke 2:10-11
There is good news of great joy for all!
Our Savior is born: the Messiah, the Lord.
Prayer Book of Common Worship, PC(USA), 2018
Glory to you, almighty God,
for you sent your only-begotten Son,
that we might have new life.
Glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for you became flesh and lived among us
that we might become your people.
Glory to you, Holy Spirit,
for you direct and rule our lives.
Glory to you, almighty God,
and to your Son, Jesus Christ,
and to the holy Spirit,
now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day
"The Work of Christmas,” by Howard Thurman; music by Dan Forrest; sung by the Beckenhorst Singers. Listen and pray.
Here is the Howard Thurman poem this is based on:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
Reading of the Day Luke 2: 22-40, The Message
22-24 Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: “Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law.
25-32 In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.
33-35 Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,
This child marks both the failure and
the recovery of many in Israel,
A figure misunderstood and contradicted--
the pain of a sword-thrust through you--
But the rejection will force honesty,
as God reveals who they really are.
36-38 Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
39-40 When they finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth. There the child grew strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.
Prayers for self and others
Please pray today for those who are being affected by COVID-19 and by its side effects in our world. Pray for the thousands who are still being diagnosed positive in the U.S. each day, for Denie and her husband Francisco, who is home from the hospital after over a month; for Susan Smith’s brother-in-law John, who is still hospitalized with the virus after six weeks and in poor condition, and for Susan’s sister, who can’t visit him; for Delphine Zarsky’s niece’s family; for Becky’s friend Vanessa, whose husband died from the virus; for Gloria Thomas’s granddaughter Lauren and her friend Seth; for Brandon Jantzen and his family; for David Lewallen’s son-in-law; for Debbie Battisse-Kleinman, pastor of the Indian Presbyterian Church in Livingston, and her family; and for Rev. Scott Harbison, pastor of St. Luke’s Presbyterian; and for Lizzie Downs. As we hear of more friends who are directly affected, or who are working in high risk places, we will list them here. Pray today for those who have spent Christmas without a home— in a tent or shelter, in a hotel, under a bridge—that they would hear the song of Christmas and that it would inspire new hope for them. Use this time to lift your joys, concerns, and hopes to God.
May the love of the Creator
The joy of the Spirit
And the peace of the Christ-child
Be with you this Christmas, and evermore. Amen.
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Becky Downs, pastor of John Knox, started writing daily prayers for the congregation at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, to encourage the congregation in their faith during their time of separation from each other. The daily prayers were posted throughout the year. You might want to choose one a day to read, and modify the specific prayers for self and others to fit your life today.