All Saints’ Church Renhold Bedfordshire, England

CHRISTMAS EVE

FIRST COMMUNION OF CHRISTMAS


Words of welcome or introduction may be said.

The Gathering

A carol is played as the Christ Child is taken to the crib.


Once in Royal David’s city

sung by St Martin’s Voices, with soloist Victoria Meteyard


1 Once in royal David's city

 stood a lowly cattle shed,

 where a mother laid her baby

 in a manger for his bed:

 Mary was that Mother mild,

 Jesus Christ her little child.


2 He came down to earth from heaven

 who is God and Lord of all,

 and his shelter was a stable,

 and his cradle was a stall;

 with the poor and mean and lowly

 lived on earth our Saviour holy.


Welcome all wonders in one sight!

Eternity shut in a span.

Summer in winter, day in night,

heaven in earth and God in man.

Great little one whose all-embracing birth

brings earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.


Grace, mercy and peace

from God our Father

and the Lord Jesus Christ

be with you

and also with you.


Blessing of the Crib


Dear friends, as we meet to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us pray that God will bless this crib, that all who worship his Son, born of the Virgin Mary, may come to share his life in glory.

God our Father, on this night your Son Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary for us and for our salvation:

bless this crib, which we have prepared to celebrate that holy birth;

may all who see it be strengthened in faith and receive the fullness of life he came to bring, who is alive and reigns for ever.

Amen.


Carol continues


3 And through all his wondrous childhood

 he would honour and obey,

 love and watch the lowly Maiden,

 in whose gentle arms he lay:

 Christian children all must be

 mild, obedient, good as he.


4 Not in that poor lowly stable,

 with the oxen standing by,

 we shall see him; but in heaven,

 set at God's right hand on high;

 where like stars his children crowned

 all in white shall wait around.


Cecil Frances Alexander (née Humphreys) (1818-1895)


PRAYER OF PREPARATION

Almighty God,

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

PRAYERS OF PENITENCE

The President introduces the confession:

Christ the light of the world has come

to dispel the darkness of our hearts.

Let us turn to the light and confess our sins.


God our Father,

you sent your Son full of grace and truth:

forgive our failure to receive him.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


Jesus our Saviour,

you were born in poverty and laid in a manger:

forgive our greed and rejection of your ways.

Christ, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.


Spirit of love,

your servant Mary responded joyfully to your call:

forgive the hardness of our hearts.

Lord, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.


May the God of all healing and forgiveness

draw you to himself and cleanse you from all your sins,

that you may behold the glory of his Son, the Word made flesh,

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


COLLECT

The prayer for the day is said:

Let us pray in the peace of this Christmas celebration

that our joy in the birth of Christ will last for ever.

Silence is kept.

Eternal God, who made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of your one true light:

bring us, who have known the revelation of that light on earth,

to see the radiance of your heavenly glory;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen

The Liturgy of the Word

READINGS


New Testament Reading:

Hebrews 1.1-4 [5-12]

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’?
Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’? 
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ 
Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’  But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom. 
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak you will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.’]


This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

A carol is played

O little town of Bethlehem

sung by St Martin’s Voices



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 O morning stars, together

proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary;
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.


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 to us today.

We hear the Christmas angels

the great glad tidings tell:

O come to us, abide with us,

our Lord Emmanuel.


Phillips Brooks (1835-1893)

Please stand

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION

The following acclamation or an alternative may be used.

Alleluia, alleluia.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

and we have seen his glory.                 cf John 1.14


Alleluia.

GOSPEL READING

When the Gospel is announced the reader says:

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John

Glory to you, O Lord.


John 1.1-14

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.


This is the Gospel of the Lord.

Praise to you, O Christ.


SERMON             John 1: 1-5


What a rich passage of scripture and literature we have just listened to; the prologue to John’s gospel, it is almost poetry that declares the deity of Jesus. This baby in the manger, whose birth we celebrate tonight is not just human but is God as well. John declares that He was with God in the very beginning, He was the word of God; He is the pure light that shines in the darkness and the light that cannot be overcome. After the retelling and acting out of the nativity story at our crib service on Christmas eve, you may think this is a strange reading for us to hear as we celebrate the moment of the birth of Jesus on this most holy night; but John’s perspective does not override or counter the well-known and well-loved accounts of Jesus nativity as told by Luke and Matthew; but enriches them when we understand that this is no ordinary baby – This child is called Emmanuel, he is  “God with us”.

The story of Mary & Joseph travelling to Bethlehem, their struggle to find shelter for the night, the hospitality of the Inn Keeper to strangers from out of town; the birth of the Christ child, the Joy of the angels and the eagerness of the shepherds to see this child, they are all important and relevant as they portray a fully human dimension to the events which unfurled that night; this narrative, this well-known story, stimulates our imaginations by describing the events that we can picture in our minds and relate to even in our world today.

John’s prologue that we heard, prompts us to explore God’s gift to the world he created and to the community that he wants to relate too, this is a gift of His Word, His light, His Son. It is a gift not just for that night, for those people, for that generation; but for all people and for all time, including us all here and now.

The gospel prologue proclaims that all who believe in the true light will become children of God; those who believe in Jesus will be reconciled with their heavenly Father, we too are blessed by this gift. But with this gift comes a responsibility, to follow the example and teachings of Jesus, to Live His love through our actions today.

Despite the COVID restrictions, the lockdowns, and the tier 4 situation we find ourselves in; I have found as we have travelled through Advent this year, an amazing sense of the generosity of the season. I have noticed the purchasing or making of gifts by children for their friends, peers and family being undertaken with thought and sincerity, there has been a genuine desire to show Love; although there has been a real lack of the usual parties and Christmas social events that normally would have been taking place across the area for senior citizens and for young families; I have witnessed individuals and communities coming together (metaphorically) to share their plenty with those who will find this Christmas a challenge due to social and financial pressures caused by the challenges of the last 9 months or so. People are supporting each other not just in practical ways but by sending cards as you may expect, but also picking up the telephone and checking those isolating are OK.

There has been an awareness of the needs of others around us, and once these have been identified and appreciated; then initiatives have been organized locally to support those in need – to me this is refreshing, inspiring and humbling.

The time of waiting for Christmas, of journeying towards the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, the Son of God, of our Emmanuel has been filled not only with the practical, physical, human preparations but been done with a generosity of Love to neighbours around us –to me it has been a blend of the shepherds and angels; with spiritual ethos of the light of the world, the gift that is for always.

Perhaps lessons can be learned here, and we can continue to engage with this “advent spirit of generosity” throughout the year, rather than let it subside as we tuck away the Christmas ornaments for another eleven months or so. Christmas is not only about the human story, it’s not only the giving and receiving of presents, the treats, the food, the glittering television (ok that is pushing it a bit.. but we do have strictly!!) – but when the pile of presents under the Christmas tree turn into the mountain of discarded wrapping paper in the middle of the floor in the lounge; and when the last sprout has been forced past the lips, what is left is the real meaning of Christmas, it is the child in the manger; the light in our lives – The Peace and goodwill that is shown towards all people is not for this season alone but should be a way of life, Remember that with this gift from God comes a responsibility; Jesus last commandment to us was to Love our neighbours as ourselves and with him the light that will lead us, that will comfort us, enrich us, inspire us, sustain us and warm us; we have the hope that we need to live our lives as he would have us live them… I guess what I am trying to say is that God is for life not just for Christmas!!      Amen


THE CREED

Stand

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is,

seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father;

through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven,

was incarnate from the Holy Spirit

and the Virgin Mary

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge

the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,

the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son,

who with the Father and the Son

is worshipped and glorified,

who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic

and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism

for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come.

Amen.


PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION


The President introduces the intercession.

Let us pray.

Good and gracious God, on this holy night you gave us your Son, the Lord of the universe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Saviour of all, lying in a manger. On this holy night draw us into the mystery of your love. Join our voices with the heavenly host, that we may sing your glory on high. Give us a place among the shepherds, that we may find the one for whom we have waited, Jesus Christ, your Word made flesh, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, in the splendour of eternal light, God forever and ever. Amen


On this holy night in which God joins heaven and earth, let us offer our prayers for the church, the world, and all those in need.

Let us pray for the Church around the world as it celebrates the birth of Christ. Bless all those who are entrusted with Christian ministry that your Word might be proclaimed with truth and courage across our world. Bestow your wisdom on all who govern, that in honouring the earth and its diverse races, cultures, and religions, we may celebrate the light of this holy night.

Grant reconciliation to those besought with conflict and violence, that they may live in the peace of this holy night.

Let us pray for all who are cold, hungry, alone or felling isolated this night. Embrace with your tender care all who wander alone or have no place to lay their head, that they may experience the hope of this holy night.

Let us pray for all who are anxious, depressed, or ill. Draw near to those who find this season a source of pain or grief, and to all who are suffering or sick, especially those we remember in our own hearts, that they may feel the comfort of this holy night.

Let us give thanks for all who are working on this holy night to look after the sick and keep us safe.

Let us pray for parents, families, and new-born infants. We pray for all our loved ones from whom we are parted this Christmas. Strengthen families in the bonds of love and commitment, that they may delight in the joy of this holy night.

Let us give thanks for all the faithful departed who have been bearers of the Word made flesh. Give us grace to follow your holy ones in lives of faith and commitment, that we may join with the hosts of heaven in singing the praises of this holy night.

Let us pray for ourselves and for the blessings of Christmas. Open our hearts to your presence, that we may be transformed by the new birth of this holy night.

May God grant unto us whatever we need that we might serve him in showing his love and compassion to our world, allowing the light of God to illuminate the dark places with grace and truth on this night, and forever, Amen.
 
 Acknowledgement: St Marks, Bedford (thisischurch.com)


The Liturgy of the Sacrament

THE PEACE

The President introduces the peace.

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,

and his name shall be called the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9.6

 

The peace of the Lord be always with you.

and also with you.

Let us offer one another a sign of peace.


A carol is played

It came upon the midnight clear

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 It came upon the midnight clear,

that glorious song of old,

from angels bending near the earth

to touch their harps of gold:

"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,

from heaven’s all gracious King!"

The world in solemn stillness lay

to hear the angels sing.


2 Still through the cloven skies they come,

with peaceful wings unfurled,
and still their heavenly music floats
o'er all the weary world;
above its sad and lowly plains,
they bend on hovering wing;
and ever o'er its Babel sounds
the blessed angels sing.


3 And ye beneath life's crushing load,

whose forms are bending low,

who toil along the climbing way

with painful steps and slow;

look now, for glad and golden hours

come swiftly on the wing;

oh rest beside the weary road

and hear the angels sing.


4 For lo! the days are hastening on,

by prophet bards foretold,
when with the ever-circling years
comes round the age of gold;
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendours fling,
and the whole world give back the song
which now the angels sing.



Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)


PREPARATION OF THE TABLE

The table is prepared and bread and wine placed upon it.


Word made flesh, life of the world,

in your incarnation you embraced our poverty:

by your Spirit may we share in your riches.

Amen.


Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:

through your goodness

we have this bread to set before you,

which earth has given and human hands have made.

It will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed be God for ever.


Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:

through your goodness

we have this wine to set before you,

fruit of the vine and work of human hands.

It will become for us the cup of salvation.

Blessed be God for ever.



EUCHARISTIC PRAYER (A)

The Lord be with you

and also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give thanks and praise.


All glory and honour be yours always and everywhere,

mighty creator, ever-living God.

We give you thanks and praise for your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ,

who for love of our fallen race humbled himself,

and [on this night] was born of the Virgin Mary

by the power of your Spirit,

and lived as one of us.

In this mystery of the Word made flesh

you have caused his light to shine in our hearts,

to give knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

In him we see our God made visible

and so are caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.

Therefore with all the angels of heaven

we lift our voices to proclaim the glory of your name

and sing our joyful hymn of praise:


Holy, holy, holy Lord,

God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.


Accept our praises, heavenly Father,

through your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,

and as we follow his example and obey his command,

grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit

these gifts of bread and wine

may be to us his body and his blood;

who, in the same night that he was betrayed,

took bread and gave you thanks;

he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying:

Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you;

do this in remembrance of me.

[All   To you be glory and praise for ever.]


In the same way, after supper

he took the cup and gave you thanks;

he gave it to them, saying:

Drink this, all of you;

this is my blood of the new covenant,

which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Do this, as often as you drink it,

in remembrance of me.

[All   To you be glory and praise for ever.]


Therefore, heavenly Father,

we remember his offering of himself

made once for all upon the cross;

we proclaim his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension;

we look for the coming of your kingdom,

and with this bread and this cup

we make the memorial of Christ your Son our Lord.


The President says

Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died:

Christ is risen:

Christ will come again.


Accept through him, our great high priest,

this our sacrifice of thanks and praise,

and as we eat and drink these holy gifts

in the presence of your divine majesty,

renew us by your Spirit,

inspire us with your love

and unite us in the body of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.

[All   To you be glory and praise for ever.]


Through him, and with him, and in him,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

with all who stand before you in earth and heaven,

we worship you, Father almighty,

in songs of everlasting praise:

All   Blessing and honour and glory and power

be yours for ever and ever.   Amen.


THE LORD’S PRAYER

The Lord’s Prayer is said.


Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,

let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught 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 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,

for ever and ever. Amen.


BREAKING OF THE BREAD

The president breaks the consecrated bread:

We break the bread of life,

and that life is the light of the world.

God here among us,

Light in the midst of us,

bring us to light and life.


The Agnus Dei is said or sung here or during the distribution.

Lamb of God, Or Jesus, Lamb of God

you take away have mercy on us.

the sin of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,  Jesus, bearer of our sins,

you take away have mercy on us.

the sin of the world,

have mercy on us.

Lamb of God,  Jesus, redeemer of the world

you take away grant us your peace.

the sin of the world,

grant us peace.


GIVING OF COMMUNION

God’s holy gifts

for God’s holy people.

Jesus Christ is holy,

Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.


The Prayer of Humble Access may be said by all present.

We do not presume

to come to this your table, merciful Lord,

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your manifold and great mercies.

We are not worthy

so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.

But you are the same Lord

whose nature is always to have mercy.

Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,

so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ

and to drink his blood,

that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body

and our souls washed through his most precious blood,

and that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.

Amen.


The president Declares

 The Body and Blood of ChristAmen


 Hymns music may be played during the distribution


O holy night

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,

it is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born;

O night divine, O night, O night divine!


2 Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

with glowing hearts by his cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

here came the wise men from the Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;

in all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness no stranger.

Behold your King! Before the lowly bend!

Behold your King, before the lowly bend!


3 Truly he taught us to love one another,

his law is love and his gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother,

and in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

with all our hearts we praise his holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,

his power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!


John Sullivan Dwight (1813-1893))
based on Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)


PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION

The post communion prayer of the day is said,

God our Father, in this night you have made known to us again

the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

confirm our faith and fix our eyes on him until the day dawns

and Christ the Morning Star rises in our hearts.

To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.


followed by:

Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us

with the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ.

Through him we offer you our souls and bodies

to be a living sacrifice.

Send us out in the power of your Spirit

to live and work to your praise and glory. Amen.


A carol is played – Please remain sitting


Hark! the herald angels sing

sung by St Martin’s Voices



1 Hark! the herald angels sing,

glory to the new-born 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 new-born 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 as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel:
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!


3 Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings;
mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth:
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the new-born King!"


Charles Wesley (1707-1788)


The Dismissal

BLESSING

May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds,

the perseverance of the wise men,

the obedience of Joseph and Mary,

and the peace of the Christ-child

be yours this Christmas;

and the blessing …

Amen.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In the name of Christ.  Amen.


The ministers and people depart.

Copyright Acknowledgements: - Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is included in this service, is copyright © The Archbishops Council, 2000 CW ORDER ONE – ORDINARY TIME AND HOLY DAYS.

CCLI number - 804157