Christmas Eve Service – a free resource

It’s hard to find ways to keep Christmas fresh and exciting when you have the same story and the same carols every year. At the same time, people like some of the tradition and familiarity, so I don’t think we need to always try to do something different.

But I know I always like to find new resources to see if there is something different or creative I can add in. So with that in mind, I’m going to share with you my Christmas Eve service. Feel free to use any of it that might be helpful for you next year. Just think, you could already have next year’s Christmas Eve service all figured out.

Here it is, exactly as we presented it:ChristmasEve3_Logo

CHRISTMAS EVE 2014

Brass Trio – 2 songs?

Video: Worthless Christmas

Welcome – introduction?

Welcome to our Christmas Eve service. Thank you for recognizing that Christmas without Christ is actually meaningless. And so you have come tonight to remember and celebrate the Christ of Christmas with others.

We are celebrating the coming of God to earth. In Matthew 1: 23 we read: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us”.

This was something that was promised long before it happened. It was prophesied in a number of different places in the Old Testament. One prophet who spoke about the coming of this special child was Isaiah.

Listen as I read from Isaiah 9: 2-7. This was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. (read)

Let’s sing together…

Carol:         –Come thou Long Expected Jesus (v. 1,2)

John 3:16

Probably one of the most familiar verses of the Bible is John 3: 16.

Here it is. (on screen)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God – This verse begins with God. The Bible is very clear – there is a God. This God was the Creator of the world. And he created the whole world in order to have a place for people who he could be in relationship with.

The World –Then we are told that God loved “the World”.

This is not referring to the earth, but to the people who live on earth. God loves people. They are created by him because he wanted a relationship with them.

But very shortly after the description of creation we get the description of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, disobeying God.

Genesis 3 describes how God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden because their relationship with God was now broken. Before this, God would come and spend time with Adam and Even in the Garden. Now that was over.

But do you know why they were kicked out of the Garden?

We might assume it was because God was mad at them, but that’s not the reason given in the Bible. It wasn’t because God is a mean God. In fact it was because he loves us. He kicked mankind out of the garden because they had sinned – they had disobeyed. And now we follow in that same pattern, we sin. We disobey God and what he has taught in the Bible.

Loved – John 3: 16 tells us God “loved” the world. He loved the people. He loves us! God doesn’t delight in making life difficult for people. God doesn’t delight in the fact that many people are separated from a friendship with him.

But God removed them from the garden for their own Good. For our good!

Here’s Genesis 3: 22. (pp)

Genesis 3:22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

Because God loved them, loves us, he removed mankind from the garden of Eden before they had an opportunity to eat from the tree of life that would enable them to live forever. Because then they would live forever in their sin. If God had not removed Adam and Eve from the garden, we would be separated from God forever.

Look at the rest of John 3: 16. (pp)

He gave his one and only Son – God loved the world so much that he sent Jesus – that is what we are celebrating. The birth of Jesus Christ.

But why did God do this? What did sending his Son accomplish?

That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God loved mankind enough to remove them from the Garden of Eden after they sinned so that they wouldn’t eat from the tree of life and live in their sin forever.

Now, centuries later, Jesus finally comes, and he takes our penalty of death by dying on the cross for our sin. As we then “BELIEVE” in him he offers us eternal life. Jesus forgives our sins and makes us right with God – so now when we are offered eternal life it is eternal life in relationship with God. We don’t need to live eternally in our sin separated from God and heaven.

God loved us enough to make sure we did not need to continue in sin forever separated from God.

Listen to the next two verses: John 3: 17-18. (read)(pp)

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Christmas is the birth of the one who would set things right so that we could come into a relationship with God, through faith in this one – Jesus, and then have eternal life.

My prayer is that each one here tonight would put their faith in Jesus so that you would leave her tonight with a confidence that you have received his forgiveness and the eternal life he offers to all who believe.

This was the one who was prophesied about in the Old Testament. The people of God knew that a Messiah, a Christ, was to come.

And so tonight we celebrate. Let’s sing Joy to the World.

Carol:         –Joy to the World  (1,2,3,4)

Scripture:    Matthew 1: 18-25 (Angel to Joseph)

Luke 1: 26-38 (Angel to Mary)

Carol:         Hark the Herald Angels Sing  (1,2,3)

Scripture:    Luke 2: 1-7 (Jesus’ Birth)

MANGER:

The reading we just had told us that Jesus was placed in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

Bethlehem was full of travelers as they had to come to their home towns to register for the census that Caesar Augustus had called for. It was so full that there was no bed available for Mary and Joseph, even though she was pregnant.

Because of the manger, some have assumed that they were in a stable, but there is no mention of a stable. Quite likely they were in a place that was used by travelers as a place to leave their horses or donkeys, or whatever they were travelling on. And so these animals would have needed to be fed, so a manger would have been used.

Jesus, the Son of God, was then placed in one of these feeding troughs.

Can you imagine, the Son of God, left the glory of heaven to confine himself in the body of a human baby. And then he was placed in a manger, not even in a bed or a cradle.

God came to earth in the most humble of ways.

Let’s sing together… Away in a Manger.

Carol:         –Away in a Manger        (1,2,3)

O Little Town of Bethlehem    (1,2,3,5)

Scripture:    Luke 2: 8-20 (Shepherds and Angels)

SWADDLING CLOTHES:

The shepherds found Jesus in a Manger. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. What is the significance of this?

It doesn’t tell us why Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes so people have made all kinds of assumptions.

I think the reason the swaddling clothes or the cloths he was wrapped in is mentioned is because that is what a newborn was usually wrapped in. This was to make clear to the shepherds that they were looking for a newborn. They were not looking for a toddler but for a child who had just been born that night.

Video: What Child is this- Song video

Carol:         -It Came Upon  A Midnight Clear     (1,4)

O Come all Ye Faithful (1,2,3)

Video: A Christmas Response

RESPONSE:

Tonight we have heard a number of scriptures read. We have sung a number of songs about that first Christmas. As the video invited you, “what is your response?”

Will you just go home and check Christmas Eve Service off your list? Been there, done that.

Or this a moment where you stop and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. And not just Lord – but Your Lord??

Jesus came to forgive us our sins. All we need to do is put our faith in him and live our life in obedience to Him.

Why not put your faith in him right now!?

In a moment we are going to sing our last carol. Silent Night.

We have a fun twist to add to it.

Instead of everyone holding a candle as we sing, we are going to hand out glow sticks. We’ll sing Silent Night with the glow sticks.

So as soon as you get yours, go ahead –bend, snap, and shake them to light them up.

>>>Hand out Glow Sticks ?

Carol:         –Silent Night                             (determine which pp to use) (1,2,3)

Closing Prayer                                           

Brass Trio: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

A Rural Remembrance Day Service

Rural communities like their community gatherings and ceremonies. I reminded of this again this week as we had our community Remembrance Day Service. We had a couple of hundred people show up at our community hall on one of the coldest Remembrance Days “in the last 29 years” according to the news. People come to show their respects. One of the highlights is the wreath laying. All the children present are invited to take part in carrying up and placing the wreaths which individuals and companies and clubs have sponsored. And then the children are invited to lead in the reciting of In Flanders Fields. It’s a real community event. And I got to play my trumpet along with another trumpet and trombone as we played for a few of the hymns.10277900_10152779181402279_4259368773732011211_n

I’m also attaching my “Meditation”. It’s hard to know what to say at these services so I thought I’d let you know what I said. Feel free to use any or all of it next year if you need ideas.

“We Want Our Life to Matter”.

We all want our life to matter. We want our life to count in some way.

Maybe we wish we could be a famous inventor or build a more fuel efficient car. Maybe we want to make a difference in our community by volunteering and helping with the normal activities of our town. We want a relationship with someone, maybe a spouse, or a friend, – where they care about us and love us. We want to make a difference in our world somehow.

Young men and women dream of starting their own business or getting a Degree in Science and discovering the cure to cancer. High School grads leave home looking to make their way in life and to make a difference to someone in our world.

When a loved one dies, we grieve. We are sad. If they are older we are sad because they are gone – we miss them. If they are younger we grieve the fact that they were “taken too young – they were taken too soon.”

We understand that our life has an expiration date, but we expect and want that it should be when we get into our 90’s and older. Not when we are young.

Job 14:1-3 describes the shortness of human life.

 “How frail is humanity!
How short is life, how full of trouble!
 We blossom like a flower and then wither.
Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.

Most flowers have very short lives. The plant itself may last a little longer than the blossom, or might bloom again each year, yet the flower itself doesn’t often last very long. The Bible reminds us that our life is short.

When we come to Remembrance Day and we remember those who served and who died fighting for their country, we are reminded again of the frailty of life and how quickly it can end. And we should remember how young many of those were who gave their lives for our freedom.

Many, if not most of those who served and died in the early years would have been young. They wouldn’t have had a chance to get a University degree or start their own business. Most of those who served were single. They may have left girlfriends behind but most wouldn’t even have had a chance to start a family to pass their name onto.

Today, more and more soldiers who serve and lose their lives are family men, a little older, with children at home. So not only is that soldier gone – that family’s husband and father or wife and mother are gone.

In some ways, we might say that those who fought in the World Wars weren’t even old enough to make a difference in the world. Yet they did.

We tend to measure the success of one’s life based on how much money they made or how famous they were or if there are songs written about them. We might think the average 19 or 20 year old is just starting out on life and hasn’t really made a difference yet – but when we remember those who have died in the battlefield, we remind ourselves that it didn’t matter how young or how old they were – these men and women made a difference.

In John 15:13 Jesus says…

 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Those who have served and fought for Canada over the years have made a huge difference by giving their lives – for their families, their friends, and their country.

Jesus is talking about sacrificial love – and he knew what he was talking about as shortly after making these comments, Jesus was crucified on a cross.

He wasn’t killed for anything he had done wrong but because he was willing to pay the penalty – the death penalty – for the sin of all mankind. Those who died for their country – even in the last few weeks – stood in between the enemy and their country. They loved their country enough to give their lives.

It was a sacrifice – no doubt!

Many gave up the chance to get married or to have a family. Instead, they did what they could to stand in the way between the enemy and their loved ones back home.

Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross, standing between mankind and sin and the penalty of death that came with sin.

Jesus was willing to die so that we might enjoy life – eternal life. He was willing to die so that we could live. Those who have given their lives on the battlefield out of sacrificial love have done so so that we who are left behind can enjoy our life. They were willing to die so that we could live.

And isn’t it fitting that many of these graves of soldiers are marked with crosses. This reminds us that just as Jesus died on the cross for our life, these soldiers gave their lives for our life.

So today is a day to remember

  • -to remember young lives lost
  • -to remember sacrificial love
  • -and to remember that our continued freedom comes at the cost of other’s lives.

Today, we remember.

A Memorial Service on the Bow

Well I had another one of those unusual experiences. I had a memorial service outside, along the edge of the Bow River. A nice display had been set up on the river’s edge. There was a picture of the man who had passed away, along with a few other items. Most people stood around a few chairs where some of the family sat. On the edge of the river was Bill’s canoe, looking as if it was ready to launch. He had built a special platform for his two dogs to ride on so they sat there through much of the service, as if just waiting for him to take them down the river.DSCN0244

We had the service. It consisted of a few tributes, a lot of tears, some scriptures and prayers, and then the spreading of the ashes. Bill’s brothers grabbed the urn and walked out into the water to spread his remains. As I left, the family was still taking their time, crying together and encouraging each other. What an interesting experience!

 

Can’t Wait For You to Get Induced!

Some years ago, a fellow pastor was joking with me about his upcoming Induction Service. In their church, when a new pastor came to the church, they would have the denominational leadership come to lead the service. His church knew that the date had been set and they were looking forward to it. One lady came up to him and said: “I can’t wait for you to get induced!”

Some churches have Installation Services when a new leader steps into his role. This pastor’s denomination called it an Induction service. Sometimes Christian leaders are Commissioned as they step into their role.

I think we should be doing this for our leaders in our church, not just the pastoral staff. We need to celebrate that we have godly individuals willing to give of their time and energy to serve. In our smaller rural congregations we know that we often don’t have many people willing and qualified to take on a leadership role, so we value those who do it year after year.

How do you celebrate your leaders? One of the ways I’m planning on doing this is by having a specific Commissioning Service for our church’s new Elders on Sunday as part of our Worship Service. I’m attaching a copy below. If it is helpful, feel free to use it.

COMMISSIONING OF ELDERS CEREMONY

Pastor’s Statement

 Our church functions under the leadership of an Elders Board. That Elders Board consists of a Pastor – who is hired – and some Elders – men who are prayerfully nominated and elected. These men are just that – men. That’s not a bad thing… What I mean is this: they are not super human and super spiritual men. At the same time we have asked God to lead and guide our process to determine the right men to lead us in this next year. Part of that process does include expecting that the men who we elect are men who love God with their whole hearts and who desire to be led by the Holy Spirit as they give leadership under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

 Our ceremony today will include a couple of statements to our new Elders. It will include a statement to you, our church family. And then we will invite the past elders to come and to pray for our new elders, laying hands on them as they do so.

 No, we don’t think there is anything magical about laying on of hands, yet at the same time there is a symbolism of passing on the torch, passing on the gift of the Holy Spirit to these new leaders. There are a number of times that this symbolism was practiced in scripture and so we will continue that this morning.

 Charge to Elders

Will you make it your priority to live in daily communion with God through regular time in Scripture and in prayer? Will you live in daily obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit? And will you lead this congregation as its servants, striving to be examples of Christ in the midst of those whom He has set you as leaders?

Response: “I Will”.

 Charge to Congregation (please stand)

Church family, will you pray for these men, will you follow their leadership, and cooperate with them in the direction they believe God is leading us?

Response: “I will”.

 Prayer by Past Elders (lay hands on and pray for)

Come to the Table

I was overwhelmed as I saw them come forward. They weren’t coming forward because of me. They weren’t coming forward to meet with the elders who were serving communion at the front of the sanctuary. As I sat to the side, watching our congregation – our church family come forward to receive the bread and the juice, I started tearing up.

Recieving Communion #2Usually I hand the trays off to our elders who them serve people by passing the trays of bread and juice down the aisles. While they are doing this, I usually sit down. I don’t see the congregation as they receive communion. I don’t see any emotions from them. But this time I had a view from the side as they came up

I watched them come and thought about what I know about that person and that person. I know one who came forward for communion who keeps telling me he doesn’t really believe all that stuff about Jesus. One older gentleman came up and as he received the communion elements, he winked at the elder serving him. And I thought of the pain he goes through every day. I watched as one of the young pregnant moms came forward. She came up to be served by her husband. What a privilege to serve communion to your wife. As one older lady came up I thought about her. Her husband has not attended church with her for many years. Not too long ago he was supposed to die from cancer, but he’s still hanging on.

As they came I thought about how Jesus welcomes all of us. We have doubts about Jesus and whether God is still answering prayer, but we are welcome at Jesus’ table. We have difficulties in our life that we struggle with every day, but we are welcome at Jesus’ table. Jesus says to the one struggling with pain and health issues – come. Jesus says to the one dealing with conflict – come

And he says to me – come! Wow!

Come to receive forgiveness. Come to be reminded of your salvation Jesus purchased for you. Come and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you again.

Come to the table.

How Can You Walk Away from Your Ordination?

I just had the privilege of meeting the pastor I will be mentoring in his ordination over the next 2 years. I enjoyed meeting him and am excited to walk with him in his journey. In the process I looked through our denominational paperwork regarding the whole issue of ordination and the requirements pastors have to complete.

As I was going through this material, I began to think of the many pastors I know, who were ordained and now are doing anything but pastoring a church or working in a specific mission or ministry. And I wondered: “How do you walk away from your ordination?”

I understand Ordination to be a recognition by a local congregation and the denomination they are part of, that the person being ordained has been called and gifted by God to serve as a spiritual leader – a pastor. This is a process determined over some time and affirmed through the person’s ministry over that period. God has called you and gifted you for this role. You have acquired the necessary skills and developed spiritually. Your congregation and Elders agree that you are called by God to be a pastor. You have passed the rigorous testing and requirements of the ordination process.ordination

And so I know of pastors who served one church, two churches, or even more. And then they decide to drive a bus or become a carpenter. How do you walk away from God’s calling? How do you walk away from who God called you to be and what He called you to do? Isn’t that what is happening? Maybe I’m seeing this incorrectly?

While ordination is a “human process”, I really believe that God has put a special calling on those who are ordained as pastors. How do we walk away?

How do you Deal With Suicide?

It was my day off. I don’t usually answer the phone on Mondays, but my wife did. It was Victim Services, requesting that I go across town to a certain address. They mentioned a name but got it wrong, so I didn’t know whose house I was going to. I just had an address. As I neared the right address, I realized that it was the home of a couple where the wife faithfully attends our church but not the husband.

I knocked on the door and entered, not quite sure of what to make of things. As this was a couple of years ago, I don’t recall if I knew it was a suicide before I got there or not. All I remember is feeling helpless. How do you help someone who has just lost her husband, and then specifically by suicide?

There were a number of family members and some friends in the house already. This had happened in the morning and it was already early afternoon. I slowly got the story of how her husband had helped her get the leash on the dog for her walk and then hung himself in the basement as she was out walking the dog.

People like to be helpful. Throughout that day and the next people were trying to make all kinds of comforting statements about how this happened and why and how God was involved. Most of those comments didn’t help. I think one of the biggest helps was just to try to get her to talk and for me to listen. And I just showed my love by being there. I didn’t know her family but tried to just be there to even allow my presence to show I cared.

I spent a number of days with her and her family as we prepared for the funeral. There were some things I tried to get across.

1. It was not any of their fault. They hadn’t made their dad and husband do this. They shouldn’t feel guilty for not noticing the signs. They shouldn’t feel responsible for not being there enough. This lady and her husband had a good relationship. He had a good relationship with his boys and their families. It was only after the fact that they could have seen any signs pointing to this final act.

2. Suicide is not the sin that will keep us out of heaven. While suicide is a terrible thing and a very selfish thing, what keeps us out of heaven is our unbelief. We do not end up in hell because we commit suicide but because we ignored Jesus. Supposedly he had prayed to surrender his life to Jesus with another pastor before I came to town. But again, the final judgement belongs to God, not to me. At the funeral I made sure not to declare that this man was in heaven. I also didn’t downplay the word “suicide”. Everyone knew it was a suicide so we might as well address it. And I wanted to address it so that others in the room would be reminded that there is always help. Sometimes it seems that when someone hears about another suicide it gives them boldness to do the same. I didn’t want anyone thinking that was the case.

3. I helped the family – especially the wife – recognize that dealing with suicide is harder than dealing with death. Not that she needed anyone to tell her that. But suicide is harder on those left behind because there are no answers. The lady is still – now two years later – fighting with reoccurring feelings of anger. We talked about the Stages of Grief, recognizing that it would take time and effort to move on.

This lady is still struggling with the results of this, as is her family. And in her loneliness has even made some moral decisions that she would never have made before.

As a pastor, we must deal with suicide honestly and scripturally. I know I don’t have any scriptures in here, but we need to answer questions as they come up with scripture and not just our opinioins. People have some very misguided opinions about suicide.

We must allow the family to grieve again and again. We can’t just tell them to move on. It is not the same as a natural death.

May you never have to face this, but if you do, may the grace of God lead and guide you.