Christmas Eve 2016

OOS Christmas Eve 2016
Welcome- Good evening everyone and Merry Christmas! I’m Karen Andersen, minister to this congregation, and I welcome you to the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford. We are a congregation of spiritual seekers who come together to support each other on our paths with love and compassion. We value diversity here, and everyone is welcome in this sanctuary.
There is child care available in the green room tonight if you need it, and we’d be glad if you’d join us for coffee and conversation after the service in the parish hall, right through that door there. Now, if you would please put your electronic devices into worship mode, we will begin by lighting our chalice, the symbol of our Unitarian heritage.
Chalice Lighting – Karen
Just as those who looked to a star
So too do we look to this flame
That even in the darkest nights of our souls
Hope for peace and joy burns bright. (Rev. Sarah Richards)

Opening Reading: By Mary Wellemeyer
(Laurie Waclawik)
Like those shepherds who were on the hillsides
with their flocks,
like those wise ones in their observatories
with their telescopes and astronomical charts,
we find our daily work interrupted by these holidays.

Like them, we can’t keep on working,
we have to listen to singing angels,
we have to deal with the call of that special star.
The little town of Bethlehem is thronged
with people who have come to be taxed,
crowding streets and shops,
and we have to find our way to an unknown place
where a wonderful new beginning awaits.

What precious new beginning are you seeking this night?
For what do you push through crowds?
What have the angels told you?
What is the call of the star?

Carol: O Come, O Come Emmanuel
#617- Luke 2:1-19
Cora Perice

The Moment of Magic By Victoria E Safford (Read by Sherry Hamel)
Now is the moment of magic,
when the whole, round earth turns again toward the sun,

and here’s a blessing:
the days will be longer and brighter now,
even before the winter settles in to chill us.

Now is the moment of magic,
when people beaten down and broken,
with nothing left but misery and candles and their own clear voices,
kindle tiny lights and whisper secret music,

and here’s a blessing:
the dark universe is suddenly illuminated by the lights of the menorah,
suddenly ablaze with the lights of the kinara,
and the whole world is glad and loud with winter singing.

Now is the moment of magic,
when an eastern star beckons the ignorant toward an unknown goal,

and here’s a blessing:
they find nothing in the end but an ordinary baby,
born at midnight, born in poverty, and the baby’s cry, like bells ringing,
makes people wonder as they wander through their lives,
what human love might really look like,
sound like,
feel like.

Now is the moment of magic,

and here’s a blessing:
we already possess all the gifts we need;
we’ve already received our presents:
ears to hear music,
eyes to behold lights,
hands to build true peace on earth
and to hold each other tight in love

Centering Music:

#618- In This Night (read by Ron White)

RR: #664- Give Us The Spirit of The Child
Yasmin Flefleh Vincent

Carol- It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

Prayer: Christmas Meditation by Christine C. Robinson
Karen Andersen
Let us join our hearts and minds together in the spirit of meditation and prayer.
May these moments of quiet lead us to the heart of the season, which is peace.
May we breathe deeply of peace in this quiet place, relax into its warmth,
know we are safe here, and let us open our hearts to the evening’s story.
Like the wandering couple, may we find that our greatest trials issue forth
from our greatest joys.
Like the harried innkeeper, may we find ways to be of help to others.
Like the lumbering beasts, may we be silent witnesses to the unfathomable glory of life.
Like the shepherds on the hill, may we know that we need never be afraid.
Like the journeying wise, may we always have the courage to follow our stars.
Like the angels, may we cry peace to a troubled world.
Holy one, to these prayers for our own transformation we add our prayers for
all of those who suffer and grieve this evening. May they find comfort. And we
add our prayers for all those involved in war; may they be safe. And may this
season of peace and goodwill nudge our world towards its ideals, for then will
Christmas truly dawn.

Moment of Silence

Music for Meditation-

Homily- Christmas Comes-Karen Andersen
I want to read you something that struck me as timely and perfect for this year’s Christmas Eve homily.
Christmas Comes Whether You’re Ready or Not
By Cynthia Frado
I am always in a bit of a shock when December 1st arrives on the calendar. I always feel like there should be at least another week beyond Thanksgiving before I can even contemplate the next holiday. I think, however, that beyond the incredible demands of the season, the hardest part to reconcile is that the heart is not always in sync with angels, presents, babes in a manger and the ho, ho, ho that is Christmas. Sometimes it feels like you just go through the motions because that’s what is expected. Sometimes I wish Christmas would take a vacation and return mid-winter…next year.
Yet, there is something compelling about the fact that Christmas comes, no matter what. The celebration of the birth of Jesus comes, no matter the season of your heart. The Prince of Peace, the baby that would bring a message of universal equality, compassion, forgiveness, and love is reborn again and again and again, no matter our state-of-mind or being…indeed, in spite of it. Perhaps that is the real miracle of the season, that hope and possibility cannot be denied.
As I contemplate the state of the world at this moment in time, I cannot think of anything more needed than a reminder of our potential to bring peace and healing and possibility into our lives. We don’t always feel it or see it or think it is there. But then there comes Christmas, even when we aren’t ready to receive it. A reminder that no matter what season of the heart that we are in, no matter what struggles or grief are consuming us, Christmas will not let us forget the light that was born in us…even on the darkest night of our souls.
So, even if you can’t deal with all the razzle, dazzle, and expense of this holiday, at the very least open the Inn door and prepare the manger of your heart for the gentle but powerful message that is seeking to be reborn in you. Never forget that you are a child of the Universe, and where there is life, there is light and love and hope waiting to be reborn, again and again and again. So turn on some twinkling lights, pour yourself a glass of eggnog (or not), and wait for that angel chorus to announce your heart’s rebirth.”
I really like that. Because this year I’ve been hyper-aware of the two sides of Christmas. The Yuletide season brings joy and hope and light to a large swath of humanity at this time of year. But I’ve also come to understand how this season can be so lonely for some people, such a kick in the stomach when you’re down. The pressure of Christmas: to spend money, to be Merry, to light your lights, is stressful, let’s face it. And I have also realized this season that if you have the money to buy gifts for others, and light lights, and have reason to be Merry, you should be so grateful for that.
Let us not forget the spiritual gifts we get from this season, the lessons we learn from this time of darkness into light: No matter how bleak the world seems, somewhere there is a child being born, there is a family fighting for freedom, there is a miracle waiting to happen. And you can’t put miracles on your own timeclock, you have to let them unfold as they will, and trust in the process, and hope.
I think one of the most compelling parts of “the greatest story ever told” is that it features a couple who are struggling, who are forced to stay in a manger because no one would take them in, and despite their difficulties…their child must be inevitably be born. And when he is, when that hope for peace enters the world under a guiding star, nothing else matters. Not where they are or who they are, only this new life and the potential that it holds. Where there is life there is hope, and that hope inevitably brings joy to the world.
So ask yourselves, as Laurie asked of us in the opening words,
“What precious new beginning are you seeking this night?
For what do you push through crowds?
What have the angels told you?
What is the call of the star?” ( Mary Wellemeyer…Laurie read)
So…Where is your star leading you? Where does your own light lead you, and how can you share your light where it’s needed? Tonight think about the gifts you have to give, not the ones that you have to shop for, but the ones that are already inside you. May we all give of our light freely and joyfully this year. Amen

Offertory Words- we will now take an offering to put toward the good works of this church, and we are grateful for your kind donations.

Offertory music-

Candle Lighting: After the offertory, everyone will come to the front, get a candle, and proceed to make a circle around the sanctuary (please let those who might have trouble standing get a good spot near a pew entrance). All lights will be extinguished except the chalice. Yasmin and Karen will light candles from the chalice and hand off in both directions, and the flame is passed from person to person. Silent Night will be sung, I will say the closing words, the doors will be thrown open, and we’ll extinguish our candles as the lights come up and sing from within the sanctuary, facing the open doors to send out Joy our into the world where it belongs.
Candle Lighting- by Lisa Rubin
Karen Andersen
Let us be still in the darkness of our sacred space,
And listen to the quiet around us.
For even in the quiet, there is the gentle being with others.
(begin lighting candles…Yas & I will each light a candle from the chalice and light the person next to us, so the flame is passed in both directions.)
Let us feel the warmth of our community,
Knowing we are not alone.
For in the quiet shadow is the glow of life within all.

Let us know in the darkness the gift each candle bears,
A small flame, a diminutive light –
Yet the wondrous gift to kindle another’s glow.

Let us be in awe at this moment as we each take up the flame
And the light envelopes this room,
As hope for peace and goodwill fill this night.
So may it be.

Carol- Silent Night

Closing Words #615- The Work of Christmas-Howard Thurman
When the song of 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 flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among the brothers,
To make music in the heart.

Carol- Joy To the World
(The front doors will be opened and the congregation will turn to sing in that direction.)