December 24, 2022
PRELUDE “Noel, Noel” L.N. Daquin
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
5:00 pm Christmas Eve
We have watched; we have waited in hope.
Light the first candle.
for peace. Light the second candle.
in joy! Light the third (pink, if used) candle.
with love. Light the fourth candle.
Now our redemption draws near!
The Christ candle (the center white candle) is lit.
Hear the Word of the Lord from Isaiah 9:2-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son is given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! Amen!
INTROIT “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” arr. Wilcocks
CALL TO WORSHIP
Let us go, in heart and mind, to see what has come to pass.
Let us go with the shepherds:
Let us go to find the Savior!
Let us go with the wise ones:
Let us go to find God’s promise, born for us!
Let us go with the poor and humble:
Let us go to find our King, born in a lowly manger.
Let us go with all the world, with all the peoples of the nations.
Come, let us worship; come, let us adore him:
Christ the Lord!
*HYMN No. 119 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
1 Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king.
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful all ye nations, rise;
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”
2 Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate deity,
pleased in flesh with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”
3 Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn king!”
Gracious LORD, be the God of our Christmas celebration. We rejoice with the shepherds over the good news of Jesus’ birth. We join in the praises of the angelic choir, saying: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors!” Almighty God, you have favored us with the greatest gift ever given–your only begotten Son, light of true light, God of rue God. May we never take this your gift for granted; may our songs of praise never fade, and may we treasure it in our hearts always and forever. Bless all of us here gathered in worship as well as our loved ones at home. May peace and joy ring in our hearts and reverberate through our communities tonight in the name of Jesus the new-born King. Amen.
*HYMN No. 115 “Away in a Manger” vs. 1 & 2
1 Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
2 The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
and stay by my side until morning is nigh.
PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
God of light, you have revealed your very self to us in your son Jesus Christ, your one Word made flesh, who lived among us, full of grace and truth. Open us to your revelation once again, that in the words of your holy scripture we might know your presence and follow in your light always. Amen.
“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” Praetorius
SCRIPTURE Luke 2:1-7 Kim Hill
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 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. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6<s/up> While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 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 in the guest room.[a]
SCRIPTURE Luke 2:8-14 Ben Oehler
8 Now in that same 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,[b] 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,[c] praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
SCRIPTURE Luke 2:15-20 David Platt
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. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them, 19 and Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.
HYMN No. 121 “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
1 O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.
2 For Christ is born of Mary
and, gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the king,
and peace to all on earth.
3 How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.
4 O holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us; abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
A CHRISTMAS STORY
The Professor and the Birds
adaptation by RL Williams
2017 Christmas Story
Based on The Man and the Birds
Editor’s Note: The Professor and the Birds short story is based on the classic Christmas story titled The Man and the Birds. The origin and author of The Man and the Birds is unknown. The late Chicago based news broadcaster Paul Harvey retold this story for decades on his Christmas radio broadcast.
According to Mr. Harvey, “the story was originally published by United Press International by Louis Cassels, a longtime friend of mine and colleague. He and I tried for many years to trace the author of these words. We never could and it occurs to me that maybe some things are supposed to be written without credit to any particular individual …”
For 2017, the 20-year anniversary of the Holiday Short Story project, I wanted to do something different and special. Instead of a new story, I decided to do a contemporary adaptation of The Man and the Birds. It is my hope that The Man and the Birds, a powerful yet simple Christmas story, will continue to be told for many years to come and will not be forgotten.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, tells the true story of what Christmas is all about. It’s a fable, a fictional story, a myth based on false beliefs,” Professor Rey stated.
“The story of a higher power, or ‘God’, coming to earth as a man can’t happen, didn’t happen, and makes no sense. Why would a powerful ‘God’ need to do that? Those that believe it expect you to believe it based on faith alone, not facts,” he explained.
“I prefer the factual, the concrete, the observable universe instead of the fictional faith based storytellers,” he said in summation.
“I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight, Christmas Eve, for my ‘Truth About Christmas’ lecture,” he added.
“I’ll end it tonight, not with a ‘Merry Christmas’ but rather with a more appropriate ‘Happy Holidays’. Good Evening,” he concluded.
The twenty or so people in attendance quickly exited the small auditorium.
Soon after, Professor Rey locked the doors and left. As he walked to his car, the wind picked up and snow flurries began to fall.
The drive home was uneventful except for the traffic jam caused by parishioners waiting to enter a church parking lot for a Christmas Eve service.
“If these people only knew the truth,” he though out loud as he slowly passed the church.
Minutes later, he pulled into his driveway, opened the garage door, parked his car, and went inside to the warmer confines of his house.
After a light dinner, Professor Rey went over to the large living room window and noticed that the snowfall was getting heavier.
He settled into his easy chair in the living room next to the fireplace.
“Time to catch up on some of my science journals,” he decided, as he opened up one of the magazines to an article titled ‘Rewriting the Axioms of Quantum Theory’.
After a few pages of reading, he glanced up at the living room window and noticed the snowfall was now the heaviest it had been all evening.
Not long after he returned to his journal, he was startled by a loud popping sound in the direction of the window.
Then another pop, a thud, and yet another muddled pop.
He quickly got up and went to the window to investigate.
At first, he thought that maybe someone was throwing snowballs at his window.
Turning on the outside lights and looking around he saw something unexpected.
A flock of birds was huddled miserably in the snow on the ground.
“They must have flown into the window during the snowstorm,” he figured.
“Well, I can’t let these poor birds freeze out there. Let me see what I can do for them,” he decided.
The professor put on his coat and boots and went outside.
He tried catching the birds but when he got too close, they would flutter away.
He tried approaching them very slowly but once again, when he got too close, they scattered.
“Hmmm,” he looked around, thinking about what he could do.
Noticing the garage, he had an idea.
After opening the garage door, he backed his car out and parked it in the driveway.
With the light on and a small portable heater now going in the garage, he figured that should provide a nice warm temporary place for the birds.
“That should do it. All I have to do is get the birds to go into the garage,” he smiled with confidence.
He went back to where the birds were and tried to coax them in the direction of the garage.
The birds just did not want to go in the direction he wanted.
He tried shooing them in. He tried walking around and waving his arms and gesturing to them.
The birds scattered in every direction, every direction except toward the open and safe garage.
“What else can I do?” he questioned. “Any move I make seems to frighten them away.”
“I think I know the answer, food will entice them in,” he reasoned.
He went back into the house and returned with a few slices of bread that he broke up into smaller pieces.
He sprinkled the pieces of bread in a line leading to the warm lighted wide-open garage.
But still, the birds did not go in. They ignored the bread trail.
“I don’t get it,” he thought out loud. “I’m not trying to hurt them; I’m trying to help them.”
“But I guess they don’t know that,” he sighed.
“They must be afraid of me,” he realized. “To them I probably seem like a giant and powerful and terrifying creature. Someone they don’t trust and someone they don’t understand.”
He spent a few moments pondering the situation.
“If only I could be a bird,” he thought, “I could walk among them, speak their language and tell them that they could trust me and if they would do what I suggested they would be safe and ok.”
“If I could tell them that I wanted to help them and that I was not going to hurt them,” he reasoned.
“But to do that,” he paused with a sigh, “to do that I would have to become one of them so that they could see and hear and understand …”
The snowfall had now stopped and Professor Rey stood there, silent, looking down at the birds.
Moments later, church bells began to ring in the distance.
He stood there listening to the bells, “Adeste Fideles,” O Come All Ye Faithful – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
As the bells continued to echo the true story of Christmas, he sank to his knees in the snow…
HYMN No. 145 “What Child Is This”
1 What child is this, who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary!
2 Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear; for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear, shall pierce him through;
the cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh,
the babe, the son of Mary!
3 So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh;
come, one and all, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise the song on high.
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
the babe, the son of Mary!
PRESENTATION OF OUR TITHES & OFFERINGS
Tonight, we come with our hopes and our dreams. We come as little children. We come because for some of us it is tradition for the whole family to go to church on Christmas Eve. Some have come out of curiosity. Some come because of loneliness. We are here in this place, waiting on tiptoes for something to happen. We come offering our lives and bringing our gifts. In the spirit of this night, let us receive our Christmas offering
ANTHEM “Nativity Carol” Rutter
*DOXOLOGY No. 609 “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God, all creatures high and low.
Praise God, in Jesus fully known:
Creator, Word, and Spirit one.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
PRAYER OF DEDICATION
Receive these gifts, Lord Jesus, which are offered in the same spirit that the wise men offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh, as we come before you in humble gratitude for your gift of life. Take them and us, we pray, for the building up of your kingdom. Amen.
*SHARING THE LIGHT
As the light is passed from person to person down the pews,
Please tilt the unlit candle to accept the light from the upright-lit candle.
2 [a]The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders,
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
*HYMN No. “Silent Night”
Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright,
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child! Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.
Silent night, holy night! Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born
Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Silent night, holy night! Wondrous star, lend they light;
With the angels let us sing, Alleluia to our King
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born.
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. Amen.
*HYMN OF CELEBRATION No. 134 “Joy to the World!”
Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ, While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sound joy
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love, And wonders and wonders of His love
The Presbyterian Church at Woodbury
67 South Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096