Worship for Christmas Day 2021, by Rev. Ken Stokes

A prayer to bring us to worship

God has come to us,
he has visited and saved his people.
Emmanuel, God with us.

O Lord, prepare our hearts to receive you.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Let us celebrate this Christmas and worship Jesus.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Hymn: StF202 “Hark the herald angels”

    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 a virgin’s womb.
             Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
             Hail, the incarnate Deity!
             Pleased as man with men to dwell,
             Jesus, our Immanuel:

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 man no more may die,
             born to raise the sons of earth,
             born to give them second birth:

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith

Electronic Words Edition, number 202


Prayer of adoration

Before the world began, you were there.
Before time, before space, before anything existed, you were there.
The sun, the moon, the stars and every planet
came into being through you.
Our world – the seas, the deserts, the mountains, the rivers,
the countless life forms in the water, the air and the land –
came into being through you.
It was you who gave us life:
our very breath, our power to move and think and love.
You, Lord, are our beginning,
the Word of God, the Light of God,
who took our humanity,
who became like us.
Jesus, Lord of all, we worship you. Amen.

A prayer of confession

Dear Lord and light of the world,
shine on us in your love and grace.
Show us the darkness of our selfishness:
our lack of love for other people,
our lack of love for you.
In your mercy, forgive us,
in your love, draw us closer to you,
so that we may become the people you made us to be.

Collect of the Day

Ever-living God, whose glory was revealed in the Word made flesh: may we, who have seen such splendour in the coming of your Son, be true witnesses to your self-giving love in the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, no and for ever. Amen.

Light a candle
(If you have your own Advent wreath light the four red candles
then the white Christ candle).

Hymn: “Longing for light”, verse 5 and chorus

– you get the whole hymn so you will have to select the verse or just listen to it all!

  1. Many the gifts, many the people,
    Many the hearts that yearn to belong.
    Let us be servants to one another,
    making your kingdom come

Christ be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ be our light!
Shine in your Church gathered today.


Jesus Christ, we welcome you as we arrive at the end of our Advent journey. Your gifts to your people are beyond our wildest dreams. Make your home among us and teach us to be servants to each other, to the homeless and to all in need of your hospitality.
Your kingdom come today and for ever.

Reading Isaiah 52:7-10

(7)  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  (8)  Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the LORD to Zion.  (9)  Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.  (10)  The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Hymn: StF 213 “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     O morning stars, together
        proclaim the holy birth,
        and praises sing to God the King,
        and peace to all the 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 in us today!
        We hear the Christmas angels
        the great glad tidings tell;
        O come to us, abide with us,
        our Lord Immanuel!

Phillips Brooks (1835–1893)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 213


Reading John 1.1-14

(1)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  He was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  (4)  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  (5)  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  (6)  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  (7)  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  (8)  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  (9)  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  (10)  He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  (11)  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  (12)  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  (13)  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.  (14)  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.


John does not begin his gospel like Luke or Matthew. There are no angels, no shepherds, no inn, no manger, no star, no magi, not even Mary and Joseph everything is stripped away. Instead, John speaks about the incarnation through some of the most amazing, majestic poetry ever written.

John speaks about the Word who is the fullest expression of God’s nature the one who called forth all things – an active personal divine spark of creation and redemption working like the Holy Spirit. The Word brings Light – the awakening of human understanding but also the dawning of hope that overcomes darkness. The Word brings Life not just an ordinary human life but that which makes any true life possible. John’s poetic expression of a deep and abiding truth reaches its climax in verse 14

And the Word became flesh. You can almost hear the drums rolling as these words are spoken. John says something that had seemed impossible. The Jews thought that God sometimes touched the lives of the great and the good – the prophets and the patriarchs all bore the mark of God’s Spirit at work in their lives to greater or lesser degree. They dreamed of a time when people might be completely possessed by the Spirit of God. Yet they were clear the people would still be people and not God. For God to become flesh – become fully human was unthinkable impossible yet John says that this is what has happened.

Then John says that not only did God become flesh, but God dwelt among us. Many years ago, now I was part of a group of people protesting homelessness in Salford. We decided the best way we could protest was to sleep outside one night. We unintentionally picked the coldest night of the year – it was minus 6. We were freezing and it took ages to get off to sleep. We woke early stiff and cold we checked everyone was okay. They were, except there was a strange thing when we counted the sleeping bags weren’t ten of us anymore there were eleven. We all did a sort of double take and then this guy’s head popped out of his sleeping bag. He said Hello and it turned out to be someone who was temporarily homeless who had decided to join us since he decided it was the safest place for him to spend the night. Which was the very last thing any of us was expecting. John says that what God does in Christ is even more surprising. In the Greek language in which he wrote John says that God pitched his tent amongst us.  It is as if the tent of the ark of the covenant in the Temple– the holy of holies has been taken out of the temple and now finds expression in the shadow and presence of one-man Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus presence we meet with God who has walked and lived amongst us.

Then John says and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son

People are attracted to glory. Apparently when he was a youngster Boris Johnson was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up and he famously said that he wanted to be world King. Incredibly Boris got to live his dream. Yet it became clear that this glory came with a price. When the going got tough and people began to question whether he was really as fit for glory as he had first appeared.

The glory of Christ is in many ways the absolute opposite of the glory Boris wanted and may still want. It is not glory for its own sake. It is a glory that is not built on glamour or human ideas about the nature of power. It is a glory that John will reveal in his gospel to be often a dark glory, a glory that is expressed in the suffering and self sacrifice that Christ shows to the world on the cross. A suffering love that in turn expresses the true nature of God’s love. This glory is finally fully revealed in the resurrection where the meaning of Jesus suffering and death is shown not to be a defeat or failure but the glorious triumph of God’s love.

God has chosen to reveal his glory through his word made flesh. To translate the Greek of John literally “the glory of his unique begotten child”.

Now John says God has chosen to show the fullness of his mercy and love in Jesus. John says this love is full of grace and truth. The Greek words grace and truth in this expression are not to be viewed as separate qualities. We are not meant to think say first about grace and then about truth. The words are meant to be understood as running together and modifying each other. The best expression that I can come up with in English is the phrase “authentic love”.  Jesus is the fullest expression of God’s authentic love.

So often in life what we call love is just a transaction. At Christmas time we often half unconsciously weigh up what we have been given in order to decide what to give back. They sent us just a little card last year so we will send them a little card back or they sent gave us a box of chocolates so we will give them back a pair of socks. We carefully calibrate our giving and our love according to what we think that we have received. Yet God does not weigh up our giving. God gives to us that we don’t deserve and what we haven’t earned and what we can never fully pay back. God’s love is most fully shown to us in Jesus who is born, lives and dies just for us.

This Christmas we can most truly celebrate and express our faith in Christ by doing what we can to show that same love. In our giving, in our caring in our reaching out to those in need. For when we do this, we will be showing that we understand the meaning of all that God gives to us in Jesus, the word made flesh. The one who has shown us the fullness of God’s authentic love.

Some questions to think about

  1. When in your life has someone shown you authentic love?
  2. When in your life have you shown someone authentic love?
  3. The message of the birth of Jesus is that God loves you, just as you are, without reservation. Think about that. What does that mean for anything you feel guilty about, feel sad about or feel worried about today?

Hymn: StF 222 “Who would think that what was needed”

   1     Who would think that what was needed
         to transform and save the earth
         might not be a plan or army,
         proud in purpose, proved in worth?
         Who would think, despite derision,
         that a child might lead the way?
         God surprises earth with heaven,
         coming here on Christmas Day.

   2    Shepherds watch and wise men wonder,
monarchs’ scorn and angels sing;
such a place as none would reckon hosts a holy helpless thing
Stable beasts and by-passed strangers
watch a baby laid in hay:
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.

   3    Centuries of skill and science
span the past from which we move
yet experience questions whether,
with such progress, we improve.
While the human lot we ponder,
lest our hopes and humour fray,
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.

John L. Bell (b. 1949) and Graham Maule (b. 1958)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 222
Words: From Heaven Shall Not Wait © 1987, WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow G2 3DH  Scotland.  

Prayer of thanksgiving

Lord Jesus, thank you for the excitement of Christmas:
thank you for the lights and the Christmas tree;
thank you for Santa and Christmas stockings;
thank you for secret presents to give and receive from our families and friends;
thank you for special food – turkey, puddings, cakes and crackers;
thank you that we can come to church to worship you;
thank you for Christmas hymns and carols;
thank you for Jesus, God with us;
thank you that we can know Christ now as the Lord of all.


Christ, because of your light, we are not left wandering in darkness.
Even in the darkest times, even in the midst of a pandemic and in all the political chaos and uncertainty affecting our country you come to us, we are not alone.
Lord, in your power, shine on each one of us this Christmas,
so that we see your glory,
and worship you, Lord Jesus.

Christ, we welcome you into our homes.
Shine the light of your love and peace on us all,
on our families and friends,
so that we see your glory,
and worship you, Lord Jesus.

We pray for everyone gathered here, and for all those they love.
May each draw nearer to you this Christmas,
so that we see your glory,
and worship you, Lord Jesus.

Bless those we know who are suffering now,
those who are ill, in hospital or at home….
Bring comfort and inner strength to those in pain,
hope to those who are depressed.
Whatever our struggles in life, may we take comfort in you,
so that we see your glory,
and worship you, Lord Jesus.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your Name,
your Kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen


 Hymn: StF 212 “O come all ye faithful”

  1. O come, all ye faithful,
    joyful and triumphant,
    O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
    come and behold him,
    born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!

   2      True God of true God,
Light of Light eternal,
lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father,
begotten, not created:

   3      See how the shepherds,
            summoned to his cradle,
            leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
            we too will thither
            bend our joyful footsteps:

   4      Lo, star-led chieftains,
            Magi, Christ adoring,
            offer him incense, gold, and myrrh;
            we to the Christ-child
            bring our hearts’ oblations:

   5      Sing, choirs of angels,
            sing in exultation,
            sing, all ye citizens of heaven above:
            ‘Glory to God
            in the highest:’

 6        Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
            born this happy morning,
            Jesus, to thee be glory given:
            Word of the Father,
            now in flesh appearing:

Latin, 18th century, possibly by
John Francis Wade (c. 1711–1786) and others

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 212


Go into the coming day, and the coming year
 to celebrate God-with-us.
Go to share God’s mercy with all people.
Go in peace to live in God’s joy.