Worship for Christmas Day, by Peter Smith

This is the path that Jesus marked, cradled in Mary’s womb from Nazareth to Bethlehem on Caesar’s command,

Turned away from the inn that had no room, to be born in a manger where animals fed.

Rejected by leaders and rulers, yet greeted by outsiders and foreigners, shepherds and magi.

Heralded by angels, the Word made flesh,  Immanuel God with us.

Today we light our final candle.

The candle is lit

We have marked our Advent path with candle flames.

You have led us O Lord on our journey through Advent, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus,

May we know your presence with us.

May we remember why you came

To set the prisoners free and bind up the broken heated.

That all may have life

In all its fulness. Amen.

Opening music  Unto us a child is born

Call to worship

Glory to God in the highest

And peace to all people on earth

Hymn: StF 195 Christians awake, salute the happy morn

   1      Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
           whereon the Saviour of the world was born;
           rise to adore the mystery of love,
           which hosts of angels chanted from above;
           with them the joyful tidings first begun
           of God incarnate and the Virgin’s Son.

   2      Then to the watchful shepherds it was told,
           who heard the angelic herald’s voice, ‘Behold,
           I bring good tidings of a Saviour’s birth
           to you and all the nations upon earth;
           this day has God fulfilled his promised word,
           this day is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord.’

   3      He spoke; and straightway the celestial choir
           in hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire.
           The praises of redeeming love they sang,
           and heaven’s whole orb with alleluias rang;
           God’s highest glory was their anthem still,
           peace on the earth, in every heart goodwill.

   4      To Bethl’em straight the enlightened shepherds ran,
           to see, unfolding, God’s eternal plan;
           then to their flocks, still praising God, return,
           and their glad hearts with holy rapture burn;
           amazed, the wondrous tidings they proclaim,
           the first apostles of his infant fame.

   5      Like Mary, let us ponder in our mind
           God’s wondrous love in saving humankind;
           trace we the Babe, who has retrieved our loss,
           from his poor manger to his bitter cross;
           treading his steps, assisted by his grace,
           till our first heavenly state again takes place.

   6      Then may we hope, the angelic hosts among,
           to sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song;
           he who was born upon this joyful day
           around us all his glory shall display;
           saved by his love, incessant we shall sing
           eternal praise to heaven’s almighty King.

John Byrom (1692–1763)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 195 .


Prayer of approach and adoration (companion to RCL vol 10, adapted)

Gracious God, we come into your presence with joy and wonder to declare your glory and celebrate your marvellous works.

You are beyond our imaging, creator of all, yet in humility you have come to us in Jesus, born of Mary.  The Word made flesh, our God contracted to a span, in comprehensively made man.

In Jesus we see the reflection of your splendour and the imprint of your being. 

Born among us, helpless, dependent, being’s source began to be: and we have seen his glory full of grace and truth.

Glory to you O God in the highest.  Amen


Collect for the day

Almighty God,

you have given us your only-begotten Son

to take our nature upon him

and as at this time to be born of a young woman:

grant that we, who have been born again

and made your children by adoption and grace,

may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;

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.


Reading 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 given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, 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 onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Hymn: StF 202 Hark the herald angles sing          


   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 .

Gospel reading        John 1: 1 – 14

In 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.

Hymn: StF 208 Let earth and heaven combine

   1      Let earth and heaven combine,
           angels and all agree,
           to praise in songs divine
           the incarnate Deity,
           our God contracted to a span,
           incomprehensibly made man.

   2      He laid his glory by,
           he wrapped him in our clay;
           unmarked by human eye,
           the latent Godhead lay;
           infant of days he here became,
           and bore the mild Immanuel’s name.

   3      Unsearchable the love
           that has the Saviour brought;
           the grace is far above
           both earth’s and angels’ thought:
           suffice for us that God, we know,
           our God, is manifest below.

   4      He deigns in flesh to appear,
           widest extremes to join;
           to bring our vileness near,
           and make us all divine:
           and we the life of God shall know,
           for God is manifest below.

   5      Made perfect first in love,
           and sanctified by grace,
           we shall from earth remove,
           and see his glorious face:
           his love shall then be fully showed,
           and we shall all be lost in God.

Charles Wesley (1707–1788)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 208 .

Out of the mouths of ….    


When I look at the picture that I received of my great niece, Ella, just a few hours old, I am stuck not just by how cute she looks (you would expect that) but how, even at 9lbs 7oz, just how tiny and vulnerable she is, wholly dependent on her parents for everything.  Unable to fend for herself.

And in those first few hours, her mother would have struggled to look after her.  Afterall she was expected on the 23rd of October and finally, with some persuading made her appearance on bonfire night!  Perhaps Ella was hoping to hold out longer in order to avoid 2020 altogether.

I came across this image of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  Showing Mary completely exhausted.  A realistic depiction of the nativity devoid of sentimental animals and heavenly hosts.  There seems to be some honesty here. 

Birth fraught with danger and struggle, it still is even with our medical advances – at once both wonderful etc and potentially traumatic.  A risky prospect, for mother and child.  So much can and does go wrong. 

So here is God, taking an enormous risk to become incarnate. God’s self-exposed to the trials and tribulations of the process of human birth to enter our world fully human, and in less than ideal circumstances – after a long journey, no proper room, no state-of-the-art medical facilities.  Just two loving parents.

God trusts to humanity God’s very self.  Children have that wonderful ability to seek out adults and place their trust in them.  I can think of the times when it has happened to me – Richard tagging along with me to knock on doors as Manley Park Carol sang, or the twins of friends overcoming their shyness and crawling over me.  Or when as a child, I placed my trust in, Mr and Mrs Bowley in Chirk, who patiently put up with a 12 year lad invading their Saturdays looking for something as he grieved the loss of his Mother.  The trust of children is special, no wonder Jesus says “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Gentle Jesus, meek and mild?

But God places God’s trust in us and the Word is made flesh.  The one who spoke creation into being now wholly dependent on that creation for life.   We celebrate today the birth of a child.  And that child, just like Ella, in full of potential, hopes and dreams.  God trusts to Mary and Joseph the job, the labour of love, to raise God’s son.  To allow him to grow and develop and become … become what?

Well that was the question that Jesus had to answer for himself.  In what seems like no time at all we will be at Lent, the time in the wilderness, where Jesus works out exactly what in means for him to be the Son of God, the Word made flesh.

That he arrived at that point and made what to us are the right choices must be down to the way in which he was raised, his parents allowing him to find out for himself who he was to be. 

In Star Trek, the Next Generation, the crew and particularly Jon Luc Picard, the captain, encounter a being know as Q a member of the Continuum. A being, manifest in human form, with great powers to manipulate and change the lives of those around him. At one stage the Continuum make him human, but he retains all of his knowledge, he just can’t click his figures and change the world – he has no power.

This seems to me to be in complete contrast.  As we celebrate today the birth of Jesus, God with us, we do so knowing that God is not merely playing at being human.  There is complete commitment, here is God fully human.  One of us and yet, and yet still God!  John sets out in his gospel the mystery of the incarnation, as opposed to an explanation of the how.  Wesley sums it up with that great line “Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensively made man.”

It may have been tempting in this last year, in the midst of a global pandemic to ask where is God?  But as always God is in the midst of the suffering and the anxiety and the strangeness, alongside and within.  This is, in part what it means, to have an incarnate God.  One who shares our troubles as well as our joys.

We have been praying for an end to the pandemic and the suffering it is causing, physical and mental.  Some may have expected God to wave a magic wand and make it all better.  Instead God works as God always does, through the endless creativity of humanity.  We have the vaccines now because of scientists, researches, virologists and better treatments because of the commitment of doctors and nurses, and other health professionals.

We are reminded again this Christmas that at its best humanity has the ability to explore and create and plumb the depths of knowledge and new discoveries.  It is how we apply and share that knowledge that matters. 

The Word became flesh – and the Word was Love.

We dare to hope, to trust, to love, because God is with us.  Amen

Hymn: StF 210 Love came down at Christmas

   1      Love came down at Christmas,
           Love all lovely, Love divine;
           Love was born at Christmas,
           star and angels gave the sign.

   2      Worship we the Godhead,
           Love incarnate, Love divine;
           worship we our Jesus:
           but wherewith for sacred sign?

   3      Love shall be our token,
          love be yours and love be mine,
           love to God and all the world,
           love for plea and gift and sign.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894)

Reproduced from Singing the Faith Electronic Words Edition, number 210 .


Prayer of thanksgiving

Loving God, for gifts of friends and families

We give you, thanks and praise

For the joy of giving and receiving presents

We give you, thanks and praise

For the gift of yourself in Jesus

We give you, thanks and praise

For trusting humanity to care for and nurture your Son

We give you, thanks and praise.  Amen


Prayers of intercession

In the stillness and the silence we call to mind the people and places we want to pray for.


Today we have been asked to pray for…..

For Governments and all in authority, that in the laws and rules they make they may seek the common good.

The Lord hears our prayer

For those without houses or shelter that they may find places to call home

The Lord hears our prayer

For the marginalised and excluded, that they like the shepherds may find their place at the centre of our shared story.

The Lord hears our prayer

For children wholly vulnerable and dependent, that like Jesus they may know a loving family.

The Lord hears our prayer

For ourselves, that this year we may know that God is with us.

The Lord hears our prayer.  Amen


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


Prayer of dedication (Companion RCL vol10 – adapted)

Eternal God, your Son laid aside the glory of heaven, and was born in humble stable.  Accept the gifts we offer as tokens of our thankfulness and accept our lives dedicated to your service. 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 .

Blessing (MWB)

May he, who by his incarnation gathered into one things earthly and heavenly, fill our lives with his light and joy and peace.  And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon us all now and for ever. Amen

Closing music:  We wish you a merry Christmas